“Houston, we have a problem.”

So many people wish life was easier, with less challenges and obstacles but without challenges, life becomes stagnant and we stop growing.  Challenges help us uncover who we are and it allows us to become better people.

Let’s examine a very simple 4-step method to overcoming challenges.

First, state the problem clearly.  When we are faced with challenges, we tend to avoid the issue and run the other way burying our heads in the sand hoping it goes away.  Or we may say – ok, there is an obstacle, instead of heading right to it and plowing through, I am going to look for another path and even though that is not the way I want to go – it looks easier… less headache… but rarely does that work out.  When we avoid or go out of our way, we cause more headache in the end.  It takes more of our time, it takes more of our energy and we don’t get the end result we are looking for.  So take this time to understand what the challenge is.  Ask yourself what is the question, what is asked of me, what is the main goal? Write this down on paper.

Second, identify what you have at your disposal – what resources are available to you to work through this challenge? List all of these resources out.  These should include things such as tangible assets – money, computer, books, etc.  And then what skills you have, what are your strengths to work through this?  Don’t forget others – what access do you have to others that can help?

Third, design the strategy to overcome this challenge.  Utilize all your assets to create a plan of action.  You may find this plan will need to be tweaked as you execute and that is ok.  Keep at it.

Lastly, execute the strategy with effort and determination.  Do your very best with all you have to overcome your challenge.

If you find that you still cannot overcome a challenge, then re-evaluate.  If your strategy just won’t work because it isn’t viable or effective then change it. If your strategy doesn’t work because you didn’t execute it well enough, be persistent and tweak your efforts, giving it more.

Practice this method on small challenges and see how easy it is to overcome.  Then try it on the big rocks!

Don’t Just Exist

Don’t just exist – excel!

Exist: to live.

Excel: To be exceptionally good.

Just looking at the two definitions which you would prefer? The definition of exist just sounds boring. Plain. Every day. But when you read the definition of excel, it just feels different. You can actually feel the difference between the two words.

So you might be sitting there reading this thinking “okay, yes, you’re right. I don’t want to just live and go through the motions. I want to create experiences and truly live the life I was destined to live…but how? What’s the key that separates that from what I’m doing now?”

You.

We are consistently our own biggest obstacle, and we must learn to get out of our own way. You wouldn’t start on a road trip without knowing where you were going or how you were going to get there, right? But in our daily lives – we do it every single day. The sad part about that is we’re not talking about a weekend road trip to Branson, we’re talking about our livelihoods, our futures, our ENTIRE lives! Why do we leave the most important things in our lives to chance?

Okay, so now what?

Evaluate where you are, determine where you want to go, and map out a plan to get there.

  • Step 1. Establish your goals. Be specific. Don’t just say “I want to be a better person.” or “I want to make more money.” Instead, say “I want to be an executive in my field, making at least $XXX per year, living in X city, by X (date).”  Be realistic, but aggressive. Most people don’t achieve great success NOT because they aim too high and miss…but because they aim too low and hit!
  • Step 2. Once you’ve established your long-term goals, break them down into smaller short term goals. If your long term goal deadline is 5 years from now…where do you need to be 4 years from now? 3 years? 1 year? 6 months from now? Once you’ve established those milestones, you’ll have a way of tracking your progress along the way. This will also give you the opportunity to celebrate victories along the way as well. (Celebrating your wins on the way to your goals is EXTREMELY important!)
  • Step 3. Don’t quit. You’re going to get discouraged. People are going to tell you that you’re crazy. You’re going to have doubt and fear. All of those are indicators of change! If you’re not feeling those from time to time, you’re not outside of your comfort zone and you’re not growing. These aren’t negative emotions! Channel that energy into your drive and your mission!
  • Step 4. Assign yourself an accountability partner. This goes hand in hand with Step 3. Your AP is someone that you trust and will keep you focused. One of the most effective ways to ensure your success in achieving a goal is to make it known publicly what you’re trying to accomplish. Once people know what you’re trying to do…they’ll be watching to see if you can do it…and this will serve as an additional motivator for you. (You don’t want people to see you quit…especially after they said you were crazy for attempting it to begin with!)
  • Step 5. Ask for help when you need it. Not one successful person ever achieved great success alone. Surround yourself with great people, and great things will happen for you! I guarantee it.

From now on…don’t just live. Excel!

As my mentor, Les Brown, says…”You have GREATNESS within you!”

 

You’re Doing It Wrong

One of the reasons that I chose to work with The John Maxwell Team is John’s fundamental view on leadership. John will tell you that EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership. Our leadership ability determines our level of effectiveness in everything we do. We will only ever be as successful as our ability to lead. (Law of the Lid, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership)

So what is leadership? I love John’s definition: Simply put, leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There’s an old saying, “it’s lonely at the top.” If you get to the top of your business or organization and you’re alone – you’ve done it wrong…and I wouldn’t get too comfortable because you’re probably not long for that world.

Effective leaders have followers. There’s a difference in subordinates and true followers. Followers have leaders. Subordinates have managers. A follower is behind their leader because they believe in their leader’s mission, vision, and truly want to see everyone succeed. Subordinates follow because they have to, and there will always be a part of them that wants to see their “leader” fail. If the people on your team secretly want to see you fail – you’re doomed. Period.

So how do you turn subordinates into followers? Your influence. So how do you increase your level of influence? Your ability to influence people is a result of adding value to people. People will never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

If you find yourself alone at the top – you’re not a leader…you’re a hiker.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in – a company’s most appreciable asset (100% of the time) is its people. Love your people and they will love YOU! Support your people and they will support YOU! Believe in your people and they will believe in YOU!

There’s a reason that every time a professional or college sports team starts doing poorly they fire the coach; underperforming restaurants fire the general manager; radio stations fire the program director; etc. If your business is struggling…the FIRST thing to work on is your leadership. Improve your leadership and your business will follow. Every time.

 

It’s Not Always Easy, But It’s Worth It

Being negative is automatic. Every where you turn, there’s bad news. Negativity requires no energy or effort because it’s rooted in apathy, but ositivity is rooted in self-confidence. Being positive takes effort, and it’s not easy – but it’s worth it. 

This always brings to mind one of my favorite poems that deals with this topic directly. It’s something I’ve read over and over for years.

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you don’t; 

If you like to win, but think you can’t, 

it is almost certain you won’t. 

 

If you think you’ll lose you’ve lost, 

For out of the world we find

Success begins with a fellow’s will – 

It’s all in the state of mind. 

 

If you think you are outclassed, you are – 

You’ve got to think high to rise.

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

 

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man;

But sooner or later the man who wins

Is the man who thinks he can.

-Author Unknown

 

I posted on Facebook the other day this quote and I think it’s appropriate here as well: 

“Don’t allow someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.” 

If you’re not believing in yourself – why should anyone else?

 

 

Laying On A Nail

The other day I heard a story about a man visiting a farmer. As they sat on the farmer’s back porch, the man couldn’t help but notice the farmer’s dog was whining and moaning.

The man asked the farmer, “what’s wrong with your dog?”

“He’s laying on a nail,” replied the farmer.

Confused, the man asked, “well, why doesn’t he get up?”

Without skipping a beat, the farmer said “it doesn’t hurt bad enough for him to move.”

I think there a lot of us laying on nails, right now. We’re unhappy, but not miserable so we just accept it. I’m here to tell you – It doesn’t have to be this way, and you deserve better!

What nails are you laying on?

Often, it doesn’t require a huge change to make a huge difference.

Get off that nail TODAY!

You Have More Control Than You Think…

One of my passions is coaching. I make it part of my leadership practices, but this goes beyond management styles. Truly effective coaching can really have an incredible impact on people’s everyday lives…not just when they’re at work.

With this being such a passion and priority of mine, I’m constantly learning and growing – to not only be a better coach, but to be able to be an example of what I teach.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned recently is that we truly have more control than we think we do. In those moments when everything seems like it’s an uncontrollable tailspin – we really do have the power and ability to pull out of it.

We are responsible for our own experiences. No one can make us feel a certain way, unless we give them that power. The fact is, we experience what we are doing. If a person says, “I feel sad,” they are actually doing sadness. In other words, they are using their body (their breathing, their facial muscles, their voice, their language, and their belief structures) in a way that causes them to feel sad in that moment. Consequently, this feeling can be changed in a moment if a person has a compelling reason to do so and enough alternatives.

Ultimately, individuals always have the power to choose what they think, believe and feel, regardless of past conditioning. All change happens in a moment. The moment we change what things mean to us, we create a lifelong transformation in our experience.

I think that last line is the most powerful. The moment we change what things mean to us, we create a lifelong transformation in our experience.

Really think about that for a moment. If we’re able to change what a bad experience means to us, we would have total control of how we’d feel about it…wouldn’t we? Once the experience happens, if we can train ourselves to take a step back and truly evaluate what happened to make us feel sad (angry, frustrated, insignificant, etc), we’re then able to take that and turn it around through a positive reaction.

For example: If the experience makes us feel hurt or betrayed – that is a direct violation of our basic human need to feel love and connection. The automatic response is sadness or depression because in that situation we’re focusing on ourselves. We’re giving ourselves the attention we feel we need by turning inward and feeling sorry for ourselves.

My challenge to you is…instead, once we’ve established what has happened – we can then take back control and do something that reestablishes that need in a positive way. Maybe you take the kids to the park, reconnect with an old friend, or give a family member a call. Whatever it may be…you know the things in your life that fulfill that need – so turn to those. In an instant, you’ll be reestablishing that connection and fulfilling that need…but in a positive way that YOU are in control of.

Pain by itself is not a long-term reinforcement; only pleasure is. Find the things that give you the most pleasure in all the difference aspects of your life and make a list if you need to. Keep it handy! When we experience pain in our lives, it creates a hole inside of us. It’s up to us to decide what we fill it with. Will you fill it with sadness, anger, frustration, and depression? Or will you fill it with love, passion, and gratitude?

Remember: pain is an inevitable part of life…suffering is a choice.

 

Pain and Suffering

With everything that has happened, both in my life and in the world, over the past couple of weeks – I felt it was important to share this with you. The title of this blog can seem daunting and negative, but the truth is…this is reality for so many people. 

Here are two truths: 

1. Pain is inevitable. I know what you’re thinking…”Gee, JR, thanks for the motivation.” But hear me out. Throughout life, we’re going to experience pain. There’s no way around it. People are going to say mean things, we’re going to lose our job, our family members will die, friends will die, sickness will occur…these things are going to happen. What I’m here to tell you is: 

2. Suffering is optional. 

I’ll share with you what I believe to be the difference. 

Pain is when your life conditions don’t match your model of the world, but suffering comes when your life conditions don’t match your model of the world AND you feel powerless against it.

The most important thing to remember is we are NOT powerless! We absolutely have the ability to adjust our circumstances and prevent (or eliminate) suffering. We can ALWAYS do something to change the pain. If we can’t change our environment or circumstances – we can adjust our model of the world. We don’t have to accept the limiting belief that we have no control over our lives!

One of the greatest gifts we’ve all got is the ability to truly step out of our pain. I’m not saying “not feel it” but make the conscious decision to not stay in pain. We have the ability to actually USE that pain as a motivator…use it as drive…to get back on our feet and into the model of our world that we control! 

Are you experiencing pain or suffering? What are the real reasons behind it? What do you need to do use the power you’ve already got within you to change your situation? 

You are not powerless against your situation! As my mentor, Tony Robbins, would say: “Unleash the power within!” 

God bless! 

~J.R.