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Three Habits to Help You Win at Anything

Recently I met with a guy who knows a ton about winning and success.

He’s one of those guys whose wins and losses got tracked for everyone to see – and he won a lot. He also minted a lot of other uber-successful people in his day.

When we were done with the business-y part of our meeting, I asked him: What do you think are the habits that make someone successful?

Here’s what he said:

Do what you say you’re going to do.

Expand your rolodex.

Show up early and stay late.

As you build your business or your cause or your family, would it benefit from this approach?


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Five things effective leaders always get right

I grabbed lunch with my friend Keith Glover the other day.

Keith is the director of leadership programs at Northeast State Technical Community College. He’s also on the board of Abba Fund, a group that provides interest-free loans and grants to families adopting kids. When he’s not doing all that, he has a ministry called Pastor2Pastors, which he uses to provide spiritual support and encouragement to pastors.

He’s one of the good ones.

Keith told me about a leadership program he runs for select students at the college.

Keith ran through the main points of the leadership program and I thought they were too good to let slip away. Can I share them with you?

Based on years of research covering thousands of leaders, James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner have found that when leaders are doing their most effective work, they do these five things:

  • model the way
  • inspire a shared vision
  • challenge the process
  • enable others to act
  • encourage the heart

Think about someone you know who you would call a great leader. Does he/she do those five things?

I’m guessing the answer is yes.

Now think about someone you know whose leadership needs improvement. Are one or two or five of those things missing?

I’m guessing the answer is yes.

What I love about having these notes now is that I have a quick reference for the times I’m inclined to drift as a leader.

Times pop up when I think, “What am I supposed to be doing?” or “How do I handle this?” Now I’ve got a few ideas to use that have worked for thousands of other people.

I hope that’s helpful to you, too.

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How to Live Intentionally

A few days ago I got to hang out with my friend Alan Bracken at his half-day leadership seminar called Extraordinary Success.

Alan is a fascinating guy. Here’s the short story:

A few years ago, Alan sold his massively successful paving company (their big yellow trucks are everywhere) to devote his life to training leaders.

Now he’s a speaker, coach and all-around great guy to know.

The seminar was powerful. Alan and companion presenters J.D. Kyle and Dr. Don Cameron packed a ton of content into the morning.

But there was one part in particular I wanted to share with you.

During the event, Alan shared the floor with his wife Amanda Bracken. Amanda shared her insights on a topic we’ve talked about on this blog in the past: living intentionally.

Amanda’s comments on how to live an intentional life really resonated, so I thought I’d share them here.

Four steps to live intentionally:

  1. define your preferred future – what do you want your life to look like at this time next year?
  2. assess reality – you have to know where you are before you can make a plan for getting where you want to go
  3. take action – if you never move, it’s never going to happen (and get help! – work with a mentor or coach to move farther faster)
  4. be accountable – we seldom do what we’re not held accountable to

The great thing is, as Amanda shared in her comments, these steps can be applied in almost any area of our lives. Business. Marriage. Parenting. Friendships. You name it.

Helpful, high-quality stuff.

I’ve got more to share from the seminar. I’ll put it in the next Ambitious Parenting newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up.

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The Best of Catalyst Day Two: Andy Stanley, Cory Booker and Uncle Si

I couldn’t make to this year’s Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, so I surfed the #catalyst hashtag and relied on a few quality bloggers to bring the experience to me this year.

I pulled together the highlights from Day Two here:

Thanks again to Justin Wise and Brian Dodd for these recaps.

If you missed the notes from Day One, you can grab all of those by clicking here.

And while you’re here, take a look at these posts. They’ve been popular lately:

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The Best of Catalyst Day One: Stanley, Gladwell, Piper and More

One of the highlights of the year for me and Mary Craig is the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta.

It’s a great chance for us to park the kids with the grandparents for a couple of days and have some just-the-two-of-us time while we soak up big, loud music and hear from some of the sharpest minds in church and business.

We’re not at the conference this year, so I’m following along through social media.

The beauty is, some really sharp bloggers have taken great notes and written recaps for us. I thought I’d pull together some highlights from the first part of the conference.

Here you go:

Thanks to Justin Wise, Brian Dodd and The Rocket Company for these collections.

I followed the #Catalyst hashtag on Twitter all day and it looked like the speakers were bringing big messages. But the simple message that is sticking in my head for some reason is a two word quote from Jason Russell, the founder of Invisible Children. The quote was:

“Just live.”

Good words.

There’s more to come from the conference on Friday.

In the meantime, check out these posts from conferences we’ve attended in the past:

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Why you win if you make things simple

When we take a look at all the commitments, responsibilities and relationships we have, life can start to look pretty complex.

If you’re not completely sold on that idea, just grab last year’s tax return. A tax return is just one small slice of life, but it’s a tricky and complex document in itself.

In that context, life always seems to be getting more complicated. As we move through seasons, we earn all new joys, opportunities, rewards, issues, frustrations and challenges.

On its own, life will always revert to the complex. That’s our nature. We put stuff on our plates without taking other things off. We keep saying yes without working hard at saying not now.

What that creates is an incredible untapped opportunity for people who make life simple.

Here’s why you’ll win if you can make life simple for other people:

1. You’ll be the contrarian.

As I’ve said, the current flows toward complexity; toward mess. The easy thing to do is plant another bush in a garden that’s already growing out of control. It’s another thing altogether to be the gardener who gets into the tangled mess and prunes, divides and removes.

2. You won’t have to fight to show your value.

While the other guys beat each other up over price, you get to sell something completely different. You sell peace. You sell a person’s time back to them. You make problems go away.

3. You’ll always be in demand.

To go back to the gardening metaphor, complexity is like weeds that grow in a garden. It’s rare to find a once-and-for-all solution. If you’re someone who makes selling a house easier, handling investments more understandable or fixing a car less of a hassle, you will earn repeat business. And people will talk about you to their friends, unless they hate their friends and like seeing them stressed out and overwhelmed.

The trick that we usually have to learn the hard way is that life gets better not as we cram more stuff into it, but as we learn to take everything but the most important stuff out of it.

What’s one thing in your life that could stand to be a little more simple than it is now?

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How to be different

This one’s for me. A note to myself.

Don’t hide out being like everyone else. Be a breath of fresh air to the people closest to you and the world around you.

Be a giver. Give these things:

Encouragement. No one gets in bed at the end of the day and says, “People were way too nice to me today.” Encouragment, for some reason, is in short supply in our culture. For that reason, a nice word goes a long way.

Inspiration. People want to be a part of a big story. Help them see and connect to something bigger than themselves.

Accountability. People need to know that they matter, and that their actions have consequences. Accountability demonstrates commitment. Commitment communicates value.

Connection. People want to feel known. They feel safe when they’re linked to other familiar people.

Memories. Make scenes with people and for people that they will remember.

Grace. People expect an eye for an eye. They expect harm to be repaid with harm. Mess it all up by turning the other cheek. Give them grace.

Mistakes. The person who never screws anything up is the person who never tries anything. Show the world around you that it’s okay to try.

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Three benefits of being more authentic

I’ve had several conversations with people lately about the idea of being more authentic.

I’m drawn to authenticity in other people. Even if I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with other people, as long as they own who they are, they get a lot of credit in my book.

I value authenticity and I’m drawn to it, but it’s something at which I have to work. It’s not natural for me. My tendency is to be a chameleon and be different people in different environments. But I’m working hard at it, and thanks to God’s sanctifying grace, I’m getting there.

In the context of relationships, here are three benefits of authenticity:

Being authentic sets realistic expectations. Here’s what happens if I’m not being the real me. Intentionally or not, I wind up communicating to you that I have skills, gifts, inclinations, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, compassion, you name it, that I don’t actually possess. Somewhere along the way, the fact that I don’t truly have whatever the thing you thought I had is going to get exposed. Give it enough time and it’s just going to happen.

When that moment comes and you discover that reality isn’t what you thought it was, you’re going to be disappointed, because here’s the crash course on expectations:

  • What I received was better than what I expected = Great!
  • What I received was the same as what I expected = Okay
  • What I received was not as good as what I expected = Boo!
It will be hard to surprise people or shockingly disappoint them if you’re always the real you.

Being authentic gives other people permission to follow. It takes a few degrees of vulnerability to move from where most of us live toward a more authentic day-to-day life. But when you start being more authentic – showing people more of who you really are – they’ll follow. They’re just waiting on someone to go first. No one wants to be first. Be a leader and go first.

Being authentic lets more work get done. I knew something was bugging MC the other night so I asked her what was wrong. She explained the issue and then said:

“That’s what’s bothering me and I have no clue why it bothers me so much.

I loved that statement. We were able to talk through the why, which wound up being more helpful than trying to analyze the original issue. We got more done because we both knew what was really going on.

Does authenticity come naturally for you? 

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Wednesday wisdom

How is it Wednesday already?

Even though the past week has flown by, I’ve still had a few minutes to read some good stuff. Here are a few of my favorite posts from the week:

Five plus yes by Shaun Groves. This is a very cool story about what happens when “your ability meets someone else’s need,” to borrow a line from the post.

Abandon crap by Kent Shaffer. My little daughter the artist gets so frustrated when her work doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time. I tell her that she gets closer to the work she wants every time she “messes up” but she doesn’t believe me. When she’s old enough for the word “crap” I’ll certainly share this post from Kent and the embedded clip featuring Ira Glass from This American Life.

Reverse judgmentalism by Pete Wilson. To whom do you find it most difficult to extend grace?

Who is one blogger who has made you think this week?

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What’s your sentence?

At Catalyst, Daniel Pink told the story of someone telling President Kennedy that he was trying to get too many things done. In this conversation with Kennedy, this person finally said:

“A great man is a sentence.”

The implication being that an effective person is one who is focused on one big idea, cause or passion.

I think I’m a series of paragraphs. I try to do so many things that none of them gets with the excellence it deserves.

Are you a sentence? If so, what is your sentence?

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