3 things happen when you “do it because you told you to”

Sometimes I wish I had done what I told myself to do.

One of the things that makes successful people different from less successful people is the small decision-making that goes on throughout the day. In fact, highly successful people do things they don’t want to do – sometimes just because they told themselves they would and should.

Certainly, I’m not the only one who ever heard one of my parents respond with “Because I’m the parent, and I told you to – that’s why!” whenever I objected to an assigned task with a whiny “Why do I have to do it?” And, even though it’s one of those “I’ll never do that to MY children” items, I’ve said the same thing to each of my children at least once.

At some point, of course, we have other voices that speak to us about things we should and shouldn’t do, and often those are the voices inside: The voice of reason, the voice of compassion, the voice of intuition, and the voice of the Spirit, that still small voice that is often drowned out by the noise of the world and the din of our own incessant mental dialog.

As I was riding my bicycle this morning along one of the paths here in Phoenix, I was talking to a friend on the phone about the value of exercise. “Even getting on the bicycle and riding it around the block each day is valuable,” I said, “if only because I am breaking habits by doing something I don’t want to do.”

I was pontificating, of course, and continued “Someone wise and dead said that the difference between highly successful people and less successful people is that highly successful ones do things they don’t want to do…I just can’t remember exactly who said that.” Of course, I was saying all that in the context of encouraging my friend to get on their bicycle that day, even if for a short while.

At just that moment, as I went up the short grade from the path to the adjacent street, I saw a cyclist by the side of the street. Their bike was on its side and they were scooping something off the pavement and putting it back into a bag. “Uh-oh, I said to my friend through the Bluetooth headset nestled beneath my helmet. “Looks like someone spilled their backpack onto the pavement.”

As I went past the cyclist on the other side of the street, my inner voice interrupted me: “You should stop and offer help.”

“Yeah, I don’t really want to,” was my instant mental reply.


As I turned the bike around I said to my friend. “Hang on a sec. The hypocrisy of what I just decided in light of what I just told you is quite obvious. I’m turning around to see if the person needs help.”

As I approached the cyclist, who by now was pretty much done picking things up, I said “Hey, everything ok? Can I help?” They looked up, thanked me for offering, but no, and went back to zipping their backpack and righting their bike.

3 things happen

That felt like a failure, but it really was the first step in an increasingly intentional effort to pay attention to “the voices.” The results so far and the results to come are worth it. Here are three:

1. I become better at listening to the inner voices

We all have experienced (and practiced) “selective hearing,” with which we tune out certain sounds and tune in others. That’s how we heard and understood the lyrics to songs our parents couldn’t figure out. That happened with lots of practice. The same is true when listening to inner voices: we simply get better at it the more we set out to do it and … do it, even if our doing is delayed, as mine was.

It’s important to listen to the inner voices because they are the heralds of inspiration, conscience and creativity. Not everything the inner voices say is worthy of action — but all of it is worthy of reflection. The question “Why did I think that?” leads to insight even when the question is not definitively answered.

2. I am more aware of the “other” around me.

Funny how that works — by going and listening inside I actually am better connected with those outside. Perhaps that is because the “inside” is where I find my greatest commonality with others. Differences are primarily external.

When I listen to the inner voices, I’m also increasing my active listening to those around me and THAT’s how I discover what they value. Only then can I begin to creatively step into the third benefit.

The inner voices are the mouthpieces for the creative energies that drive entrepreneurial, corporate and even philanthropic success. They are the birth-mothers of the 'next big thing,' the 'killer app' and the genius humanitarian solution.Click To Tweet

3. I am able to step into adding value to others

As part of The John Maxwell Team, I’ve absorbed the vocabulary of my mentor, John C. Maxwell, who has made “adding value” a cornerstone of his philosophy. But John is admittedly not unique in this. Public corporation executives have a fairly clear definition of their duty to “shareholder value” — because the shareholders have made it clear.

When I was directing the branding at what is now CDK Global, the CMO had all of marketing and product marketing focused on a cycle of value discovery, creation and delivery.

The inner voices are the mouthpieces for the creative energies that drive entrepreneurial, corporate and even philanthropic success. They are the birth-mothers of the “next big thing,” the “killer app” and the genius humanitarian solution.

They’re also the “holy nudge” that prompts me to contemplation and action.

As John often tells us, adding value to others in this way takes us way beyond success to significance…and that’s where I want to head.

So, yah. I’m hoping I’m going to hear voices more often. And…I’m going to start paying attention to what they say.

What are the voices in your head saying?

Oranges, Tangerines, Grapefruit and…Sardines: Pick Your “Coach” Smartly

A coach is not a coach? Coaching definitions are as different as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and...sardines

You do it. I do it. We all do it. And just the other day, I did it again. I shopped the competition.

I went browsing around at various websites, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles of people who – like me – refer to themselves as coaches. As I did so I felt sorry for me, and for you.

I felt sorry for me, because I realized just how much front-end education and confusion-clearing effort is ahead of me as I market my services. Sorry for you, because I realized that you – if you’re like most of my network of friends and business contacts – aren’t prepared to know how to choose a coach if you ever get to the point of thinking you might benefit from one (you will, by the way…).

I started with a simple Bing search: Coach in Arizona.

I got various college, high school, and athletic coaches. I got a tour bus company. And I got a directory site that listed:

Life Coach
Career Coach
Resume Coach
Business Coach
Retirement Coach
Health Coach
Christian Coach
Vibrational Healing Coach
Performance Coach
Weight-loss Coach
Relationship Coach
Divorce Coach
Divorce Recovery Coach
Energy Transformation Coach
and on

And on.

Then I read some of the descriptions of what these various coaches do, and there are some oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, limes, lemons… and some sardines. Let me explain my citrus analogy by temporarily leaving it behind.

When is a Coach not a Coach?

I know why there are so many “kinds” of coaching labels. It’s market segmentation, mostly. These labels are probably intended to help potential clients pick a coach that relates to a felt need. Unfortunately, that just plays into a less-than-best idea of what coaching is.

The ICF (International Coaching Federation) describes coaching in this way: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Now, the ICF has firmly established themselves as the de facto standard for coaching and all things coach related, and they’ve been accepted as the standard-setter. Their definition (which I embrace and use, too) is founded on some pre-suppositions:

  1. Every individual has infinite potential and the creative faculties to grow toward their potential.
  2. Individual may or may not have skill deficits they need to address to achieve their goals, but…
  3. Every individual has a way of thinking that has brought them to their current state in life – and if that individual wants to achieve a different state in life, their thinking must change – regardless of “skills”.
  4. The coach’s role (and this idea is rooted in Timothy Gallwey’s famous book, The Inner Game of Tennis) is to help the individual achieve that new, desired state by helping them change their thinking.

So (back to citrus), to the extent that a person calling themselves Life Coach, a Performance Coach, etc. is focused on doing that – they are oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemon, lime – all citrus. The moment they start telling you what to do or get involved in skill-building…or showing you how THEY did it, well that’s a whole other can of … sardines.

But What If I Need Skills or Instructions?

I see that hand! Great question.

If there is a skill gap or knowledge gap, then get TRAINING or MENTORING. And it is certainly legitimate, and somewhat common, for coaches to be involved in delivering training of some sort, as well. John Maxwell Team coaches certainly do … but we don’t call it coaching. Coaching has nothing to do with your skill – or the coach’s expertise in doing marketing, business development, sales, relationship building, weight loss, or whatever destination you’re trying to get to.

Training tells you what to do. Indeed, at some point, you need to KNOW. Knowledge is a good thing, but it’s not the primary thing. Just look at the highly successful people, like Bill Gates and other m/billionaire dropouts, who have arguably achieved far more by doing than they would have by simply seeking knowledge.

Mentoring shows you how the mentor has done that something before. That’s useful, but you’re not your mentor, and your circumstances are not your mentor’s. It’s highly valuable to learn from the experience of others, and there’s often no reason for you to reinvent a wheel — but it’s not the primary guarantor of your success.

Coaching helps you do that something successfully by removing the barriers that have kept you from doing it successfully thus far.Click To Tweet

Chances are, You Know What to Do

Hey I hate to bring “religion” into this, but here’s a relevant bit of trivia. Do you know what the Bible says is “sin’ (a word that literally means ‘missing the mark’)? It says, basically (in James 4), that if you know what to do and you don’t do it – you’re going to miss the mark (sin). If you know are HERE and want to be THERE in any area of your life, you need to change your thinking, for sure. And, yah, maybe you also need some skills. But the key to closing the performance gap is your thinking, and only a coach – a person who has the skills, training and mindset to listen actively, to ask curiosity based questions – only that kind of coaching can help bridge the gap.

I am going to mix my metaphors here. I have championship posters from each of the reigning years of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Those championships weren’t attained because the team were skilled professionals basketball players. There were DOZENS of equally skilled players on other teams. Those championships came because of mindset. Coach Jackson helped Jordan and his teammates change their thinking. He didn’t help them dribble and shoot better by teaching technique or by showing them how he pointed his fingers just so.

Want to get from HERE to THERE in business, in life, in relationships, in health. You know WHAT to do?

Get a coach who can unleash you to do it.

If you’d like more information about the Maxwell Method of coaching, or the proven team development and personal development curriculum used by John C. Maxwell to train millions of leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners and individual performers (a fancy word for commission-only or commission-mostly careers like Realtors, Mortgage Brokers, automobile sales people, etc.) leave a comment or send me a message.


3 Reasons We Have to “Put Down the Duckie”

Put down the duckie

One of my all-time favorite Sesame Street songs is “Put Down the Duckie.” Never heard of it?

Perhaps a little background is required to remind you (or bring you up to speed) of the history of the Rubber Duckie in Sesame Street. “Rubber Duckie” was, after all, Ernie’s signature song, debuting on the very first episode of Sesame Street. A few years later, in 1970, it actually hit #16 in the Billboard top 100. Fifteen years later, Ernie was still singing this tribute to his bath-time pal.

You’d think that after all that time, Ernie would have outgrown his self-indulgent obsession with Rubber Duckie. Obviously, someone on Sesame Street DID think so, and in 1986, Hoots the owl tries to help Ernie with the difficult and painful challenge of growing up – and growing beyond his Rubber Duckie. Ernie’s trouble is that he wants to do something new (play the saxophone), but finds that impossible to do with Rubber Duckie in his hand. The song explains it all. (Go ahead and take a few minutes to listen to it if you can’t remember it!)

[youtube id=”UiQsaEdJ1aI” marginbottom=”20″]

Amazingly, you and I have a whole plastic bucket load of Rubber Duckies – relationships, ideas, places, hurts, and hang-ups. Habits that gave us security in the past, but don’t serve us well now. As Hoots says, “you’ll never find the skill you seek till you pay your dues.” Putting down these duckies is essential to developing a meaningful and rewarding life.

Letting go lets us reframe our experience

Part of the security of things we know, of our habits, of our familiar hurts comes from the stories we tell ourselves and others. Have you ever noticed how just about every story you tell about yourself puts you in a good light? Even if I am relating a story about a tragedy, usually I am the innocent victim…the unwilling recipient of forces and actions being done TO me. I’ve often commented that I’ve never heard someone who got fired from a job tell how it was all their own fault. No, the reasons for the firing are usually about the character and actions of co-workers, a manager, or even the evil corporation in total.

We tell stories that way because we have a Rubber Duckie (or two or three) that shames us, embarrasses us, or in some way endangers our being accepted by others (if it were to be exposed). When we can let go of the fear of rejection, we can accept our shortcomings and take responsibility for our failures. Only then can we tell ourselves (and others) stories that frame our experience authentically.

You’ll never find the skill you seek until you pay your dues. Hoots the Owl, Sesame Street

Letting go helps us focus on the present

Even if we start to reframe our experience with more authentic stories, we can still have another lingering Rubber Duckie: we can be stuck in the past. The collective wisdom of sages, songwriters and psychologists is pretty unanimous on this: “Let bygones be bygones.” The past is useful in our stories, but we need to make sure we don’t continue to live in those stories. Letting go, and even forgetting, actually helps us meet the challenges of today more creatively.

Letting go gives us the capacity to receive

This is obvious, but for some reason I certainly need to be reminded. Nothing can get into a closed fist. I have only so much emotional bandwidth. If I’m consuming that nursing grudges, harboring hurts, or keeping the sting of rejection alive – I have no capacity to take in the next experience (whether it is pleasant or painful). I can’t start my dream job if I stay at the current “gets-the-bills-paid-but-I-hate-it-job.” I can’t build new, good habits without knocking down old, unproductive ones.

One notable sage put it this way: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, there won’t be any new wheat growing.” It’s a pattern of life in nature, and it’s a pattern in our lives too: Letting go – letting something die – is usually necessary for something new to come into our life.

So, go ahead. Put down the Duckie. Start by making an honest inventory of ideas, attitudes, fears and triggers that are rooted in the past. Then, begin to replace those with the best things from your present. Start to play something new.

[reminder preface=”What Duckie should you put down?”]

Take a few minutes and jot down some of the things that come to mind when you answer ‘What’s my Duckie?'[/reminder]

Three Reasons You Should Wander Around

To wander is defined, by Meriam-Webster and by most of us, as “characterised by  aimless, slow or pointless movement.”  We think of wandering as lonely poverty (think of “wandering minstrels” and itinerant preachers, or the activity of men in the mall who are waiting on others who shop.)  If we’re describing more purposeful movement, we use words like “migration” (because ducks and geese and human migrants have a purpose in their movement) or “exploring” (because Cousteau and Hillary and Lewis and Clark had destinations to conquer). Is it always pointless to wander?

How I Learned I Needed to Wander

I’m the kind of person who thinks a lot.  About everything. Constantly.

When friends tell me (as they often do) “Don’t think so much…”,  my reply is usually something like: “Don’t assume it took very much of my time to come up with that…”  (as if “a lot of thinking” really equals “a lot of time spent thinking”.  The truth is, a tremendous amount of brain activity goes on in just a few microseconds.

I doubt that time spent is the point of those making the comment.  Instead, I think they were referring to my “monkey mind” — incessant brain activity that jumps from branch to branch, constantly chattering away with internal (and sometimes external) commentary about how things are, how they should be, what they could be, what they aren’t.

It wasn’t until I was invited to participate in a “Day of Wandering” that I realized just how incessant my thinking activity is, and just how much that keeps me from actually experiencing people and situations around me. That day I spent about 6 hours by myself walking the Mogollon Rim.

During the first five hours, my mind was actively plotting, planning, evaluating, deciding — which way to go, what process to use to quiet my mind, how to measure my success…and on, and on, and on.  Finally, in the sixth hour, I sat and closed my eyes and just listened, and increasingly found myself not evaluating.

After that, I was able to walk in a way that I can confidently call wandering:  I did not choose a path or a destination; I simply walked.  The result?  I experienced the world around me with a new appreciation, a new depth and a new connection that felt vaguely familiar to me.

[callout]Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. –Anatole France[/callout]

Continue reading “Three Reasons You Should Wander Around”

Where Grace Always Shows

where grace showsI’ve got the mountains here around me
Like sentries about the sand
Guarding everything I can see
Across these lush desert lands

Not ever letting me forget you
Like stones stacked in the river bed
No matter what this all comes down to
The rocks live long after I’m dead

But it’s one thing to stand in the mountains
And look at the valley below
Another to live down there
Wandering tangled roads

But from where I’m standing now
I suspect what the mountain knows
About living down below the clouds
Where grace always shows

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

What Would Don Quixote Do?

They’re saying
I’m just some kind of fool
how I’ve been taken to school
Might be breaking
Some of the unwritten rules
what Don Quixote would

It doesn’t really matter
Doesn’t matter what they say
Doesn’t really phase me
If they’re thinking that way
I know what it’s gonna take
I know it — but I’m gonna wait

I’m trying
To keep it all under control
I’m dying
Yes I am dying to know
I hear you sighing
When the west wind blows
Just trying
What Don Quixote knows

It doesn’t really matter
Doesn’t matter what they say
Doesn’t really phase me
If they’re thinking that way
I know what it’s gonna take
I know it — and I can’t wait

I’m finding
What it takes to be loving you
Never minding
What everyone says I should do
Now it’s unwinding
and it all feels a bit unglued
I’ll be trying
What Don Quixote would do

What Don Quixote would do
What would DQ do?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License