It’s not you, it’s me.

The third edition or tool in this blog series is understanding nearly all our interactions are not personal, meaning it’s not about US, it’s usually about the other person.

This practice can help you reframe context in the moment and shift your perspective instantly. Practicing this can elevate your communication skills at home, work and your social life.

There are a few things to consider as a baseline for this tool. Firstly, if you look at a road map it can give you a good idea of where you are, or where you want to go from a routing standpoint, which streets to take and direction to go. A map though will not tell you where the pot-holes are, or stop signs, or “no left turn”, or “one-way” roads.

A map will give you guidance, but the terrain is a much different animal. Our perspectives on life are very much the same. Many of us have heard the axiom “perception is reality”. This is true as far as the individual who is doing the perceiving.

When we are communicating with others, our thoughts and perceptions are very different from theirs, even with friends and loved ones. We may see eye to eye on most things, but you’ll notice a few areas where you an even your closest relation have differing opinions.

Understanding people have very different perceptions than our own, and that “perception is reality”, we can see how a simple mis-understanding, or saying something a certain way can trigger us or the other party.

When we trigger somebody in this way, it has nothing to do with us and is a chance for us to learn a touch point, and gain further insight into the reaction. More on this on another day.

If we are triggered by something, then we have an opportunity to learn a touch point about ourselves, and we get to work on healing it. We get to see where we can grow mentally in these areas as they are highlighted to us.

Another baseline concept is that people are always making the best choices available to them, at that moment. People want to be good, and often they do what is perceived to be the best thing for them even when it’s at the expense of someone/something else.

Ever wonder why that co-worker threw you under the bus with the boss? It wasn’t about you, it was about them advancing their own agenda.

Lastly, the mirror effect is a well known concept which can be a tough one to accept for many. Essentially, what we see in this world is a mirror of what we are giving, putting out into the world. Imagine if all you see is sickness, misery and a world falling apart? That’s a hard pill to swallow and accept it’s not the world who’s crumbling, but you.

The mirror effect though is a real thing. This isn’t to say it’s fair, nice, considerate or compassionate to your circumstances. It can be magical, it can also be brutal. The good news is we have a choice in the matter.

What we experience from other people is a mirror of what we are displaying. It’s never about how we’re being treated as much as it is how we are treating others. It’s not personal FROM others to us, though it is entirely personal from us TO others. This brings us back to perspective. A nice clean circle.

When we are being treated, or experiencing things we don’t like we have to look inward to ourselves first.

The world we live in, the perspective we have, the live we create is entirely up to us and only us to adapt as we choose. When we allow ourselves to be persecuted, attacked, and get down on ourselves and our surroundings we will simply have more of this.

When we realize the world is doing what the world does, and people are doing what people do, and it will all happen whether we are here to experience it or not.

If you’ve ever missed an event you were invited to, a birthday, a recital, a wedding, a baseball game, you name it. The even still happened even if you didn’t show up. That is the world we live in. It’s not personal unless we take it personally, which all to often many of us do.

Creating power in your life means taking ownership of everything you experience. If you don’t like it, find a way to change it. It’s not easy, but it is simple by design.

When you start to use these tools together inside of your daily life you will begin to see shifts in how things transpire. It doesn’t happen overnight, and this is a practice which will take time to learn, hone and improve upon.

Choosing to shift our thoughts is one thing. Consistently practicing over the long term to create lasting change in us, and therefore around us is another thing. The good news is the choices are ours, and when we regress we can always shift back on track again.

Stay tuned for part 4 of this series of tools to upgrade your thoughts.

A dose of simplicity

If 2021 was a bit nuts, what I can tell so far of 2022 things are going to get even more interesting. From my own experience things are moving at lighting speed, and everyone I speak with can relate to this hyper-speed pace.

I’m not sure where the first three months of this year went, though I do know one thing. A major lesson I’ve learned through the fire is this; Be in the moment, focused and intuitive in action.

We’re all familiar with the terminology of “living in the now”, “being present” and the importance of such things. I’d like you to think about how often you truly apply these concepts to your life. I am all about living in the ‘now’, being in the moment. I can also tell you I stress about the bills, how to cover payroll, overhead, where I’ll find business to keep my staff sustained and active in the coming months.

If you’ll notice I’m quite contrary in my thinking. If I’m all living in the “now”, how can I also stress about the upcoming expenses and challenges? I imagine this conundrum sounds familiar.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and it can translate universally. Get your shit done in the moment it happens.

From the mundane to the mountains, tackling the challenges which arise on a daily basis, as they arise, has a funny way of creating results which roll over. For me it all starts with a theme I’ve implemented in my life a few months ago. “with love in my heart…”

“With love in my heart I talk to this upset customer.”

“With love in my heart I take the garbage out.”

“With love in my heart I have the difficult conversation with a loved one.”

“With love in my heart I cook for my family.”

I have practiced (and still am practicing) being in each moment, experiencing each moment, with love in my heart. In those instances I don’t feel the love, or cannot conjure it within me I step back and evaluate why I am doing it.

I have made a choice to do/be those things which I can do with love. Those things I cannot, I am shifting out of my life in some way. Through delegation or outright removal. By using this simple filter in my life, I can be in each moment, present and focused.

The past is unchangeable, the future depends on what we do in this moment.

If we are unfocused and thinking stressing about the future, we will experience uncertainty and stress. When we drill down and focus on those things we love, in the moment, actively and passionately, the future takes care of itself.

If you’re thinking to yourself, this is great for you, “but I have all these chores to do and nobody helps me”, “that’s great but I have kids and they’re a handful”, “my boss is a jerk, I wish I could like my job”.

Perhaps you should evaluate your perspective. At least you have a home, and clothes, and dishes to maintain. Many people don’t. You’re kids can be a lot of things, and they take you as an example. Are you being a good example for them?

What is your bosses motivation for being a jerk? Getting the job done or simply to feed their ego? Being pushed by a boss can be a great thing, while also being very uncomfortable in the moment. Perhaps it’s time to start looking for a new job while you still have one. You do have a choice, as long as you give yourself the choice.

Living in the moment is something we all understand, yet few of us actually practice it. And it is a practice, which we can (and do) fail at often times. The more we practice enjoying, loving the thing we are doing in each moment the easier it gets. When things seem like they’re spinning out of control, take a moment to breath, and be grateful for the opportunity to be stretched by a new challenge.

Life really is simple, yet often the simplicity is the hardest thing to practice.

Self: Accepted

Most of us are familiar with terms and phrases such as: “you have to love yourself, before somebody else”; “take care of yourself first”; “Be true to yourself”; “Express yourself”; “Be yourself” and so countless variations of this. While all very important and true I almost never hear the continuation of this same thought pattern. We get to be true to ourselves, embracing our passions and desires as we figure out exactly who we are in the first place. The natural next step is the world we live in, the world we experience while we do our thing.

We’ve all also heard the phrase “the world is a mirror of who we are” (or a similar variation of it). When put together it creates a very interesting dynamic and one we can utilize truly in our favor.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several scenarios play out in my life where I’m certain I want or need a certain thing, it could be a job, promotion, material item, relationship, anything… And often times I get this thing and it isn’t at all what I thought it would be. Just as often I don’t get the “thing”, and later “out of nowhere” comes something much better.

The human mind has a miraculous ability to lie to itself, to “protect” itself from perceived harm and conflict. While I have gotten much better and continue to practice noticing when I am working on something I really shouldn’t be, I too still get sidetracked on things or ideas which seem great at first but ultimately aren’t good fits for me.

Going back to self love and acceptance; If the world is a mirror and we are totally secure and loving with ourselves, then the world we experience would be full of love and acceptance of things just as they are. Just like 2+2=4, complete interior love = complete exterior love. I’m not sure about you, but these last few years have seemed anything but loving if you’ve turned your TV on for more than a few minutes.

My mirror is telling me something.

The “issues” I see and frustration, anger, confusion and sometimes hopelessness I feel at our state of society are all reflections of inner conflict I am having at some level. What frustration I experience today is monumentally less than only a few years ago and I imagine I’ll be able to say the same thing in a few years time again. I have learned, and am still very much learning and practicing acceptance of myself and the world around me, as it is, not as I would have it.

“We must bear up against them and make the best of mankind as they are, since cannot have them as we wish” A quote from George Washington from November of 1776 after being repeatedly discouraged by his armies performance against the British in the early stages of the revolutionary war. This mentality of acceptance of what is, is purported to have bolstered his immense resolve to keep fighting and eventually win the birth of a new nation.

As I have resolved years ago to realize my highest and best self, the world I experience has also shifted. These last two years, while challenging and full of unknowns and unprecedented events have also been two of the most rewarding and fulfilling of my life. In my last blog post I gave my own personal definition of leadership and success. If we want to be leaders in this world, we must lead our own internal charge for greatness before we can guide others to achieve external greatness.

Can you guide somebody to do great things while you are a hot-mess inside? Of course you can. And you can suffer the consequences of fighting such an inner conflict. These consequences often manifest as weight issues, health issues, depression, addiction, anger and so on. I know because I’ve been down this road, luckily I was able to change direction before I was too far down it.

When I mentioned earlier the dynamic we can use in our favor, here is what I mean. When we experience things in this world we don’t like, it directly means there is some part of us internally creating this experience. If we want to effect a positive change in the world, we must be clear in our intention of looking inward for the solution, never outwardly.

Bitching out politics or how the coach lost the game for your favorite sports team just took a twist didn’t it?

We have the opportunity to check ourselves each and every day, to see the progress we have made and if we are on the right track. All we have to do is pay attention to the world around us. If you find yourself extremely frustrated and mad at the state of the world, you get to do more work than some, but there is some “low hanging fruit” you can likely start with easily. Turning off the news for one, (all of it) is a great place to start for most.

Noticing when you are getting upset or frustrated at something is another big step. Simply noticing it and taking a breath will calm things down quickly. “I notice I’m getting pissed off right now…” breaks the thought pattern and allows you to recenter. Acceptance of “what is” is another step and not likely one of the first ones. We don’t have to understand the world in order to accept it. Acknowledging this is another step on the path.

There was a monk from Tibet being interviewed by an author about the power of prayer and spirituality. The interviewer delicately asked the monk a question about a concept which was the interviewer was struggling with. (I’m paraphrasing the quotations) “If the power of prayer is so great, and Tibet has a high number of dedicated monks, why is Tibet in such turmoil as a country? Why isn’t prayer working?” asked the reporter.

“We don’t pray for a peaceful Tibet, we pray for peace in the world. Because of the turmoil in Tibet some of our monasteries have had to relocate monks to other parts of the world. Because these monks are now in other parts of the world, their teachings are spreading in ways they never would have had they remained confined. Perhaps they will return once peace has spread and our prayers have been effected” replied the monk.

Each of us has such a limited view of the world at large, there is so much we are unaware of and no way we could understand all which is happening at all times. Accepting what is, as is, is a practice which will reflect back upon us and fulfill us anew. We can utilize a bi-directional love as we accept ourselves and express who we are. And receive our mirror back in kind as we accept the world as it is too.

As a dearly departed brother of mine used to say. Keep it 100(%).

Leader on Duty

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have noticed when most people talk of leadership it’s almost always referred to in the environment of a board room, the workplace or sports.

I say this with due humility, as I am a natural leader and have been in management/leadership roles professionally since I was about 19 years old. Now in my early 40’s I have more experience managing people than most people well over my age and based all of the feedback I receive I am a good leader. Feedback to me comes in the moral of my team, the results we deliver to the customers, the observations of customers, vendors and people in and around my company.

Leadership in my experience isn’t just something you do at the office. It’s not a role to play while in front of your employees and customers. Leadership to me is a lifestyle lived in each moment and applies as much to parenting and gardening as it does in our professional lives.

Gardening? I imagine you’re trying to connect the dots on this. Parenting is an easy connection though often not obvious, but gardening? Yes, in the sense of an example. As leaders, when we do a thing like gardening we tend to do it well, with intention of a quality outcome. It may or may not actually turn out well, but the effort and intention is on display as we do the thing we have set to do. This can be exercise, painting, washing the car, cooking, anything we choose to do, great leaders apply themselves to the experience.

This intent-full approach resonates to those around us often in a sub-conscious way. As leaders we don’t turn off this switch when we go home at the end of the day. We are wired to do things the best way possible, and to help others grow in a similar way.

We get to be the example we want to show to others. For me leadership flows effortlessly from the workplace to the home, to fitness and nutrition. Balancing the areas of our lives in a successful way provides the example for others to follow, and is what a new generation of leaders are doing more and more.

I for one treat my employees and my kids with the same level of appreciation and respect, and I expect from them much of the same things. While I certainly don’t believe employees are children or child-like, or that my kids are employees and have measurable expectations for performance, I do believe in treating people with one foundational starting point. I treat everyone as I would want to be treated. This simple and powerful starting point for my interactions in all aspects of my life allows for all my relationships and interactions to draw a clean and consistent pattern through them all.

My job as a father is to mentor and cultivate by kids own unique natural talents. I get to tend the garden of their little worlds, while they grow and eventually flourish in their own light. When we think of leadership in the workplace and employee development, is it really different? In scope certainly, but the concepts are the same thing. No two kids are the same, as no to employees are the same and each must be uniquely tended to.

The world is changing as it always has and will. This means everything gets to shift into focus anew. As we shift gears to the ever-changing world we can update a few definitions. Two stand out for me at the moment, which are the definitions of “Success” and “Leadership“. Leadership is no longer simply a professional capacity and success doesn’t have much to do with a bank account these days.

My definition of leadership is this: A leader is being the example of success in relationships, business, lifestyle, and mental and physical health.  Leadership is the state of being the result of how to balance all of these things with sustainable, healthy results for all persons directly involved with and around the leader.

My definition of success is this: A consistent state of being in harmony with oneself and the world we experience, while we experience it in real time.

To me being successful in leadership and in life is when you can remain calm and collected in the best of times, and the worst. Being the rock everyone else can cling to when the world (or the business, or the relationship, etc…) goes a bit crazy. By being the rock for ourselves, we can truly be there for others.

Practice, not perfection

Many years ago I was talking to a neighbor of mine and I was lamenting how tight my clothes had become. We had moved to Texas and after several months of eating at the myriad excellent restaurants around town, my waistline was showing the effects.

My neighbor suggested I simply get some “fat pants”, it’s what she does when things get too tight. I wasn’t familiar with the “fat pants” or where to get a pair, or how they worked. “What are fat pants?” I asked. “Bigger pants” was the deadpan response. I realized I was at a choice point in my life, choose to accept the enlarging waist and get some fat pant to accommodate my sloth. Or, I could choose to eat better and get my health back on track, saving me the painful concept of the bigger pants.

I chose to lose weight and work myself into my normal clothes again thankfully. This process I have since learned is applicable to many areas of life. The process of working towards a goal, an objective, an idea, a dream.

I have learned during my weight loss journey, I have learned again during my professional career, my marriage, fatherhood, entrepreneurship. I have experienced the same context in different formats. Like watching a movie where the family is in danger and the husband/father comes in and saves the day against all odds. This movie has been made a thousand times. The actors change, and script and scenery change, but it’s really just the same movie over again. These movies span all genres just like the important aspects of achieving a goal.

Progress on the road is infinitely more important than being perfect along the journey. I recall going on the Atkins diet (basically keto, before keto was cool!) and I dove in on a Monday morning. From beer and restaurants to zero carbs from one day to the next. Wasn’t really a great plan I admit, and the first two weeks were a nightmare, the third only slightly better. I did however steal peanut butter once a day during these first few weeks, and a beer at night a few times. These “indiscretions” are what gave me the willpower to keep going and not give up on the entire diet.

As I got better at eating a very minimal amount of carbs it became easier and I was able to adapt and adjust voluntarily when I felt ready to. I eventually gave up peanut butter and beer as I had progressed to a point. I had lost a lot of weight, and now was willing to sacrifice further to attain my goal.

There are times in life when we can be laser focused on a goal, AND we can deviate a bit to allow ourselves room to continue instead of crash. Countless people I’ve encountered give a 110%, (rise and grind bro!) only to burn out before getting what they were after. In my experience, getting three quarters of the way isn’t the same as crossing the finish line. Perhaps this is what the old “tortoise and the hare” fable is all about.

If you are going on a diet, starting a new business, beginning a fitness regime or changing fitness styles, (or one of so many other journeys) give yourself some leeway to have fun along the way. Sacrifices will need to be made, it will be difficult, and this is ok, this is part of the accomplishment. There’s no reason though to make it so difficult you can’t complete it. If you take a day off, eat that donut(s) at the office, miss a day of training don’t beat yourself up. It’s all good, simply continue where you left off and enjoy the progress you’ve made thus far.

Practice and persistence (consistency) will always win. Enjoy the journey and your much more likely to reach your destination.