...is to understand that your job or career or goal requires you to keep showing up regardless of how you feel. Putting in your best effort each and every day will build the grit required to to great work. There must have been days when Michelangelo wasn’t jazzed about chipping away marble for hours at a time. He did it though and now we have David.
If you find yourself making the type of excuses that prevent you from showing up, then you may need to rethink your job or career or goal.
Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is Canada’s version of the Navy Seals. They’re elite military operators whose skill sets range from training locals in the art of insurgent warfare to jumping out of planes behind enemy lines. They can fight in the desert, the arctic and under water. Unlike America’s special forces who can field highly specialized Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Green Berets, and Airforce Combat Controllers, the JTF2 are Canada’s only special force and need to be able to fight on land, sea and in the air, alone. Essentially, they’re the jack-of-all trades and they’re really good at what they do.
The challenge with being a one stop shop for national defence is that you can’t be an expert in everything. If you spend too much time training for underwater operations than you’re bound to miss out on important training for air insertion.
So how does JTF2 train to be an effective fighting unit that is coherent in all areas of the battle space without being an expert in every area?
Instead of being the best in one area, they learn to be really good in all areas. More importantly, they practice extreme flexibility. When they enter into dangerous combat zones, they’re acutely aware that they’re not experts in everything. They work together to minimize the risk and maximize success knowing that their skills may not be perfectly polished. This happens though detailed planning, having access to the best equipment possible and the understanding that failing to use their strengths is worse than overestimating their weaknesses.
Extreme flexibility is a differentiating asset in a world where specialization is the norm. Kids are taught to be the best at a sport, a subject in school or an art. Nobody today is willing to settle for above average. The issue is that being above average at sports, school AND arts makes you far more versatile in a world of change than someone who has placed all their eggs in one basket.
Understanding your strengths and embracing your weaknesses gives you the needed insight to perform in areas of unknown. The JTF2 prepare as best as possible but know that their strength lies in extreme flexibility.
The next time you have the opportunity to participate in something you’re not an expert in, dive in guns blazing and embrace your weaknesses. It will only serve to make you extremely flexible.
This is a photo of a young boy comforting his sister in her last moments of life. It's heart-wrenching to look at and even more difficult to discuss with someone. The father who published the photo didn't do it looking for some virtue singling. He wanted it to be a symbol of the fragility of life. The picture is meant to for us to reflect on what it means to exist. The photo is helps us to understand that we're finite and extremely vulnerable.
We all know this, yet it seems to be such a difficult task to spend time enjoying the small things in life: The first crest of sunlight on a warm spring morning, the laughter of children at play, a warm embrace from a loved one. Why is it that these moments seem to wash away quickly and are difficult to contemplate once they've disappeared?
Us humans are not designed to be deep reflectors in life. We've evolved in a hostile environment where food scarcity, predator danger and disease lurked around ever corner. In the modern world, none of these threats are a real danger to us anymore. One can forgive our inability to medicate effectively on the value of life when we've spent most of it just trying to survive.
When pictures like this roll through our social media feed, we need to recognize their value and take a moment to live in the present, to be thankful for whatever we have - big or small. Nobody really knows when this grand show will come to an end, but to live like it will last forever is perhaps the wrong approach.
@davidgroggins is a master motivator because he offers one simple message: You have to suffer. The difference between someone who is motivated and someone who is driven is suffering. The person who just attended Tony Robbins latest seminar is motivated. They become driven once they put their plan into action. Change is never easy and it often takes a tremendous amount of suffering before things start to turn in your favour.
The difficulty we have as human beings isn't that we can't or won't suffer. It's that we assume that if we do put ourselves into a position of pain we should be rewarded for it. Got up early this morning to go for a jog? Great. That doesn't give you a free pass to gorge on donuts at lunch or put a sweaty selfie on Instagram.
Suffering is an individual experience. Sure, you can suffer as a group or have someone feel sympathetic or even empathetic for you. At the end of the day, you're in control of your suffering. This is best demonstrated by Buddhist monks who live in a community, but meditate with their own thoughts. The meditating is done to aid the balance between joy and suffering so they can connect with it, experience it and ultimately be content with it.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. Embracing it, seeking it out and (yes) enjoying it will not take away from your life, only add to it.
Ask the average person what they know about World War 2 and they’ll likely tell you about D-Day. Ask them to tell you something about D-Day and they’ll mention Juno or Omaha beach or the massive airborne drop that preceded the beach. Ask them about Juno beach and they’ll explain the difficulties getting off the ships and the fierce fight that took place. Keep it going and you’ll likely get to individual stories about solider’s actions that morning. We can uncover layers of events that took place in WW2 by drilling deeper and deeper.
What’s rarely ever talked about is the development and execution allied grand strategy ultimately ended the 3rd Reich. The entire plan took years to develop and required the strategic thinking that well beyond the immediate landings, but also included the drive towards Germany, the liberation of France and the low countries and the ultimate plan once Hitler had been disposed.
Everything that happened from June 6th, 1944 onwards was the result of a massive strategic effort. All the battles, stories and hardships were directly related to the ability of the tactics to match the grand strategy of the war effort.
Had the airborne effort on the night of June 5th failed to seize the correct bridges, the landings would have stalled on the beaches. If a fuel line hadn’t been laid under the channel, the tanks would have run out of gas.
We can easily get caught up in the power of tactics over strategy in our daily lives. Rushing from to-do list time to to-do list item can make us feel productive. However, if paying your credit card off immediately after shopping at the mall doesn’t match with your grand strategy of saving money, it’s a fail. Same goes with work. If you can knock off every task your manager gives you, but you still feel unfulfilled, it’s a fail.
It’s important to spend time mapping out a grand strategy for your life. It doesn’t need to have a time limit (WW2 didn’t), but it should have a clear outcome.
Becoming a doctor, independently wealthy, owning a car or a house, getting in better shape and being more active in your community are all noble strategies. Write them down and every time you do something on your to-do list ask yourself if you’re moving towards or away from that goal.
The allied Normandy strategy took longer than expected. They did finished it though.
“Trust is difficult to gain and very easy to lose.”
There’s no better way to build your self-brand than by continuing to show up. Making promises and continuing to keep them will ALWAYS move the needle forward in any relationship.
If you raise your hand and say yes to something, be sure to follow through to the bitter end.
It is even better to do it without complaining or resentment or virtue signalling.
When things get tough, the person who always follows through is most likely going to get the tap on the shoulder to do something about it.
As a supplement to a blog post below, I have created slidecast that was given to the senior school . In the talk, you'll learn why fear and failure are keeping you from aiming high and being a better person.
Podcast version available here.
The walk down the hallway before a job interview is arguably the best moment of the entire job seeking process. Your resume has passed the test. You made it to the top 1% . Now is the moment before you get the chance to shine and show the company you're the best person for the job.
Those small precious moments before the big interview are what you should focus on. Latch on to. Dial in.
In those fleeting moments the world is pure potential. It's the moment before you leap. It's important because you get the chance to experience everything that might be and everything that might not - all at the same time. Once you open the door, the game begins. You can' t cut and run. You have to execute.
We need to learn to seek out opportunities where can experience the moment before the leap. That 's where real growth happens. The difference between a hero and a coward is action in that moment of uncertainty, of pure potential. Seek it out and you won't be disappointed.
Easter Island is the true story that Dr. Suess might have based the book 'The Lorax' on.
It was home to a successful community for many generations. Over time, the limited resources on this isolated island began to disappear until one day, 'chop!' the last tree went down.
Jared Diamond makes the story real in his brilliant article and book (thanks Seth Godin for linking this!).
The question we could ask is: Who were the people that warned everyone about the pending crisis?
Someone must have known about the potential danger, right?
It's possible that the entire community was suffering from co-pilot syndrome. It's the condition where the co-pilot doesn't mention any potential danger to the flight crew because he or she feels that speaking up might disrupt the deeply taught culture of chain of command. Experienced pilots never make mistakes, especially obvious ones. Speaking up against them could get you in big trouble. So the co-pilot says nothing and the result can be disastrous.
Perhaps the community on Easter Island was based on this premise. Of course the leaders have a plan for the disappearing resources. Speaking out against the plan could get you banished and that's not a good place to be on an isolated Island in crisis.
Where in our culture do you see this type of behaviour? Do you feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting if you're on of the junior team members? Do you automatically assume that experienced leaders will always have it right? It sounds silly to think that way, but watch out, you might already be doing it.
With a massive environmental catastrophe on the horizon, we can't wait to act. We need to speak up now.
Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rage is a negative emotion. It can cause physical harm to others. The perpetrator may miss social cues and have temporary memory loss. The raging individual may resort to barbaric decision making. They will put all physical and mental effort into the source of anger until exhausted. Rage is a dynamic moment-to-moment experience.
Taken from Wikipedia:
A person in a state of rage may also lose much of their capacity for rational thought and reasoning, and may act, usually violently, on their impulses to the point that they may attack until they themselves have been incapacitated or the source of their rage has been destroyed. A person in rage may also experience tunnel vision, muffled hearing, increased heart rate, and hyperventilation. Their vision may also become "rose-tinted" (hence "seeing red"). They often focus only on the source of their anger. The large amounts of adrenaline and oxygen in the bloodstream may cause a person's extremities to shake. Psychiatrists consider rage to be at one end of the spectrum of anger, and annoyance to be at the other side.
Toddlers often to explode into fits of rage when things don’t go their way. They’re still learning to control emotions effectively and their frontal cortex doesn’t have enough experience to convince the brainstem - or lizard part of our brain - to cease rage and negotiate. That comes with a better understanding of the world.
When someone talks about the perfect life, they often exclude rage. Every happy person would expect rage to disappear if given the choice. Nobody really looks forward to rage-induced anger. It’s unlikely anyone looks forward to rage.
Why then is it part of our emotional network? What value, if any, does it offer?
In a world of increasing safety, protection and shelter - especially with children - rage can offer some insight into the emotional connection one has to a situation. We often mistake the people who undertake mass shootings as angry rage-filled individuals. Unfortunately, in almost all of the recent US mass shootings, witnesses suggest that the killers exhibited a cold calculated approach to their evil deed. There was a focus, a purpose an anger associated with their actions, but it was not emotionally-induced rage (and certainly not what Dylan Thomas was talking about).
Instead rage is a result of a negative experience related to caring. People are often thrown into ‘fits of rage’ after something has been taken from them or someone they know or love has been hurt. Steve jobs famously broke into a ‘corporate’ rage when, after the first launch of the iPhone 1, the mail server didn’t work. He was angry because he knew the importance of launching a perfect iPhone. He knew what as stake. He cared.
Danger lurks when people show indifference to failure or misfortune. If you get into an argument with someone and they shrug it off as no big deal, it means they really don’t care (or doing an amazing job hiding it). If you don’t care, you’re not concerned about the outcome. Indifference can lead to stagnation.
When you fail, you should certainly feel something. The stronger that emotional experience, the more that it means to you. Pay attention to this. It can be a beacon that guides you on on your way to greater success.
Among the news of the Humbolt tragedy this weekend, something that didn’t get as much press was the passing of Jonathan Pitre. The butterfly boy. He was born with a rare genetic condition that caused his skin to blister randomly. Most of his body was covered in open wounds. He never spent a day without physical pain.
Can you imagine that?
Bath time was horrific.
Yet, after being adopted by the Ottawa Senators, he got in front of cameras and gave the middle finger to pain to show everyone that it’s possible to live a positive happy life no matter what. There isn’t a single person in this world who would have faulted Jonathan not flying close to the sun. How could you when you're in that much pain? But instead he aimed high and said look if I can survive this anyone can.
What’s your excuse?
Smoke jumpers - the people who fight forest fires - don’t have a universal saying to cut and run when a fire gets too hot. They don’t need one. They’re trained to never put themselves into a position of extreme danger. This, of course, is strange since their job is to fight some of the most ferocious fires around. All without water.
They’ve spent countless hours carefully studying the physics of forest fires so that they will be well equipped to analyze their safety at any point in an operation. If things start to change outside of the plan, they will analyze the potential risk and ‘cut and run’ well before any danger appears. Forest fires rarely get put out in a day and smoke jumpers know this very well so they work to control the fire. Holding their ground against terrible odds is not an effective way to manage a massive fire.
We often use small problem strategies to manage the larger problems in our life. Putting your diet off tomorrow is an ineffective way to manage your weight. Working on your resume later because you have other more pressing things to do is also a poor way to find a new job. Instead we need to take a page out of the smoke jumper strategies for the big problems we face. Work to control the situation. Need a new job? Spend time (more than you think) analyzing your goals - money, lifestyle, work hours - and tailor your resume to represent that. Set aside time each day to apply for positions or practice interviews. Never miss this time or the fire may get out of control. Same with your diet. Spend time each day reviewing your diet and analyzing the food you’re eating.
Even if you spend 30 mins a day, that’s 3.5 hour a week and 14 hours a month! After a while, you’ll gain control of the situation and begin to push back, eventually taking the attack to the problem. Forest fires never really go away. Same goes with your problems. However, good strategy can keep things under control.
In a recent blog post, Seth Godin asks us to ‘delight in the journey’ of accomplishment. He suggests that our reserve of grit gets eroded every time we in engage in an action that requires little to no sacrifice. To work towards a goal not only improves our ability to make sacrifices, it allows us a greater level of satisfaction when we achieve it. How many times have you saved up for a purchase and later revealed ’nah, it wasn’t worth it’? Probably hasn’t happened. Compare that to an impulse buy at the mall and I’m certain the opposite is true.
Fishing and hunting are activities that have almost no instant feedback (unless, you’re really, really lucky. Or Jesus himself). Both the hunter and fisherman don’t need to engage in these ancient rituals for survival. The fish market down the street has more exotic seafood than most lakes in North America. Yet, there’s plenty of people who will spend the entire day out on the water hoping for a big catch. The longer they wait, the more they’re determined to continue. They delight in the journey of fishing.
What if you went into a task in the image of a fisherman? Delighting in the opportunity to take on an adventure, hoping for the big catch. Whether it happens or not, you may find yourself enjoying the activity and who knows, maybe a story will be made.
“This one time, after waiting for 8 hours, I dropped my line in and…”
43% of new graduates are holding jobs that are outside of their post-secondary education. Even scarier is that these jobs are often low paying and hold very little opportunity for advancement. Everyone has heard about the Starbuck's barista who has 2 masters degrees in English Literature but can’t find a ‘real job’.
Why is this happening?
We’re stuck in this belief that education will always grant us opportunity. The more we have, the safer more secure we are. It’s dead wrong. Ask an MBA who can’t find a job in marketing and can barely make their rent how education is doing for them. Ask the Lawyer who’s passed the bar but swimming in debt all while working insane hours how that extra education is making feel comfortable.
It’s our job to build a culture of entrepreneurship in schools to help prepare students for a world with infinite opportunity and (paradoxically) zero guarantees.
The new year is now in full swing and resolutions are being broken everywhere. Somehow it’s easier to slip back into our regular routines than it is to form new ones. Why is this? Obviously, the answer is because it’s hard to change. Exactly how hard is it?
The last post talked about benchmarking yourself. This is an underrated activity. Writing down your goals is good, but actually writing a life plan is even better. In our short-sightedness we often assume that going to the gym for a few weeks will ultimately stick because we’ll feel better and see the benefits. That’s wrong. Often these goals of improved fitness, better diet, improved relationships, feeling happier arrive at the end of a very long marathon. Real lasting change occurs drip by drip and is almost unnoticeable. You’ll looking the mirror after six months and realize that where you came from is much different than where you are today. Lasting change.
So how do you make it happen?
Write down what your idea life would look like. Keep the dream anchored to reality. We all want that billion dollar lifestyle with personal jets and mansions, but unless it can be realistically achieved within 5 years, keep it off the table. A more appropriate vision would be to reduce/eliminate your current debt and have more financial stability.
Add in as much detail as possible. Use as many adjectives as you possibly can. This will help make the your dream the most vivid.
Here’s a small expert from my life plan:
…being financially stable enough to send my kids to private school and have the opportunity to travel with the family at least once a year.
…speaking in front of an audience at least 5 times a year on topics that interest me (motivation, education, fitness).
A life plan should be long enough that it reads like a detailed story, but short enough that you can quickly review it to ensure you’re still on the right path. Since the life plan is your creation, you can add as much or little information as you’d like. Just remember, murky details are the easiest ones to abandon. Make it SMART - or at the least the first two letters - specific and measurable.
Write down the worst case scenario. What if you did nothing? What if a few certainties in your life disappeared (ex your job)? What would your life look like? Don’t hold back - doom and gloom is the name of the game.
This is the bad life plan. This is what you don’t want your life to become. It’s just as important (perhaps more) than the life plan because it shows you where you’re going to end up if you DO NOTHING. Goals don’t fail because people do them incorrectly, they fail because they do nothing. They stop. Thinking of a life that has you in the dumps can help motivate you to do because doing is the name of the game.
More will be written in the coming weeks about life plans. In the meantime, the best thing to do is get started!
New Year’s resolutions. Good or bad? According to a Globe and Mail article, 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail. Well, lets be nice and put it more positively: 8% of all New Year’s resolutions succeed. Yikes, not a very motivating statistic, is it?
A New Year’s resolution is a Hallmark holiday that failed. It is supposed to be this time of year where you can wipe the misery of holiday’s and the entire away in one swoop by setting a goal and going for it.
I’m going to lose 10 pounds!
I’m going to be nice to people!
Shop less, save more!
Fail. Fail. Fail.
Why is that we’re so terrible at setting and attaining goals?
If you take a naturalistic view, we’re the only animals that actually attempt to set goals. All animals in nature live in the present, spending their time seeking food, mates and not dying. That’s a bit of a cop-out explanation though. We’re clearly more sophisticated than other creatures and are the only animals that can understand the concept of the future. Naturally, we’re going to want to improve ourselves over time. So it’s not too difficult to recognize the connection between setting goals and bettering ourselves.
The challenge is that we have a difficult time constructing a pathway between the present and some future where our goals are realized. You see this all the time at the gyms in January where new people show up in flocks and work themselves to exhaustion. They’ll do it for a week, maybe two and they’re gone.
Real change requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. People want to lose weight quickly but fail to realize that they didn’t gain weight quickly. There’s this illusion that if and when you do reach your goal, you’ll get the green light to live like you want forever.
Instead of setting goals, we need to first imagine the life we’d like to live. What would you look like? How would you act? What would you wear? How would you know you’re happy?
Once you imagine this vision, write it down in as much detail as possible. This is your benchmark. Set your goals based on this benchmark.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. Look for more in part 2 of New Year’s Resolutions coming soon!
What value is there hard work? Why sacrifice and commit to something beyond yourself? Why do anything where the reward might not equal the effort?
Watch the video above.
Think of how much effort the rabbit puts into creating the girl rabbit only to have but a fleeting moment of satisfaction.
Was it all worth it?
Would you do it?
It’s easy to reflect back and say that you wouldn’t given that you know the result. All that work for a momentary reward.
Here’s the thing: you should do the work anyway.
We’re often head-faked by this idea that effort should always be rewarded. Children are taught from a very young age that if they help they will get a prize. Work should be done because putting the in the time and effort make it right, good and just. Even though each of the rabbits tasks didn’t lead to a reward, in the end, the entire effort resulted in the creation of something new. And, that tiny moment made it all worth it.
How do I feel?
Am I interested?
Can I do this?
The answers to these 3 questions determine our effort, motivation and commitment when facing new challenges. People often let their subconscious answer the questions which can lead to excuses avoidance and, in a worse case scenario, lies.
The next time you’re faced with a new challenge or experience, consciously make the effort to ask yourself these important questions. You may be shocked by how much your answer differs from your subconscious!
Discipline = Freedom
Says Jocko Wilnick a former Navy Seal commander. His photographs of a Timex watch reading 4:40 am have become legendary. He’s not waking up to take the picture, that’s the time he begins his daily workout.
“I like to get it done before the sun rises.” says Wilnick.
Why on God’s green Earth would someone get up that early to workout?
Discipline = Freedom is why.
Not only does waking early give you an opportunity to get the most difficult part of your day (well for most of us) out of the way early, it forces you to remained disciplined. It takes commitment to follow such a tough and well, early schedule.
By conditioning yourself to follow such a regime, it will inedibly spill over to other parts of your life. You may find the grit needed to finish that last email before the day’s done much easier once you’ve adapted to an early morning workout.
You’ll also find yourself reinvigorated knowing that you’ve seized the day. Invitations and opportunities will now be easier to accept knowing that you’re one step ahead of the rest of the working world.
For me, it’s been an emmesly positive experience. Don’t get me wrong, when my alarm goes at 5 am there is nothing but pain. Once I’m able to bury those emotions, stepping on the treadmill becomes a piece of cake. I find that simply ignoring my thoughts and getting to it makes it much easier to endure. Speed is important too. The faster I can get on the treadmill, the more likely I’ll have any second thoughts. I’m simply a robot doing what robots do best - follow instructions. After about 5 - 10 minutes of sweating, my body and mind can’t tell if it’s 5 am or 5 pm. The rest is a piece of cake.
The best part of the morning workout is the time it frees up in the afternoon and evenings. I get more Freedom to spend time with my kids. I’m open to more activities after work. I’m finding that I can get lots more done.
Yes discipline = freedom. Try it out for a month and see what happens.
The slide-cast version (with slides) of a chapel talk I did on November 20, 2017. Approximately 700 students from K-12 were in attendance to hear the importance of setting goals and making sacrifices to achieve them.