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.


Three Reasons Why You Should Stop Being Responsive

Google declared being responsive as the Gold Standard for web design, so the responsive vs adaptive argument is over.   Responsive design usually refers to a website that adjusts it size to fit the dimensions of your device … resulting in just the right display size for your phone, tablet or large screen. Adaptive, on the other hand, refers to changing not only the format of the information, but changing WHAT is presented based upon your device and a number of other factors.


But this (repackaged content vs. highly customized content)  is the age-old challenge of not only marketing, but of all communication, including interpersonal communication. Do we simply fit what we have to say into a convenient package for each audience or person (respond)? Or do we adapt, and present what each audience or person perceives they need?  Google can’t answer that one for you. Continue reading “Three Reasons Why You Should Stop Being Responsive”

Mom Taught Me These 4 Ways to Transform Conflict

A mother’s wisdom is seldom appreciated when we’re children. It’s only after we get to be as OLLLLD as mom was that we begin to be as wise as she was. Growing up with three sisters (two older, one younger) gave me plenty of opportunity to be in the midst of conflict.

I know I started my fair share of these conflicts, although I’ll never admit that to my sisters! My mother, the peacemaker, always made sure that some timeless principle accompanied her immediate discipline.  Because of her faith, those principles were often in the form of quotations from the Bible — although I think Mark Twain was in there a couple of times.

In an age where hyper-contentious conversation seems to be the preferred way of communicating (via social media and even in person), Mom’s wisdom is more cogent, more relevant, and more needed than ever.

My mother’s approach to transforming conflict was rooted in a firm belief that everyone (sisters included!) has inherent value,  and a conviction that empathy, intelligence, and persistence are better resources for dealing with conflict than ego, strategic acumen, or deadly weapons.  These four foundational principles have value not only in resolving conflict, but also in creating a lifestyle that redeems conflict and brings transformation.

Listen Completely

Our language is holographic, and yet we often use it and hear it as though it is one-dimensional. we ignore or fail to perceive all that is meant by what we and others say. Listening must be an attempt to go beyond one dimensional processing of sounds, to a multidimensional exploration of the breadth and depth of context, emotion and thought that precedes each word, each sentence and each paragraph. To do that, we have to take ourselves out of the center of the universe, and give consideration to the totality of what others are saying, feeling and experiencing.

“Put yourself in her shoes” was one of my mother’s instructions. At the time, I usually thought (but never dared say) “they won’t fit!”  Holistic listening is first of all empathetic.

And this is exactly where our public and private discourse fails so epically.  Empathy is the antithesis of the kind of “I-win = you-lose” competition that is encouraged. Rather than recognize how others are similar to us, our dualistic nature focuses on differences, distinctions and contrasts.

I didn’t fully recognize my own connectedness with others until I regularly encountered people whose life situations were vastly different than mine. They were addicted, messed up, seemingly unsuccessful – and yet they weren’t really any different than me.  Their choices had created their circumstances.

As I listened to them, I realized that I too was capable of those decisions, and therefore capable of creating the same results.  Unless we deeply acknowledge that we “all bleed red,” we’ll separate ourselves from others with comparisons — and comparisons almost always put me in the category of “better” than the other guy.

U.S. Army Psychiatrist Captain Gustav Gilbert, at the Nuremburg trial of Nazi leaders, made this observation:  “Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

Let empathy be the beginning and end of listening.

Respect Humbly

Empathy should naturally flow into respect, which William Isaacs defined as looking “for the springs that feed the pool of their experiences.” My mother believed that when we acknowledged that others are what she called “significant,” then we will recognize their needs. By honoring the boundaries others set, by making ourselves available to them, and willing to be taught by them, we acknowledge their legitimacy. We grant them significance.

Respect not only gives legitimacy to the person, but also acknowledges their values.  The fastest way to alienate anyone is to not acknowledge their values, ideas and boundaries.

This was perhaps my mothers most often cited verse: “Respect what is right in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.”  She usually added “and ‘all people’ includes your sisters!”

Hold Your Position — Loosely

We’re often expected to watch movies with a  “willing suspension of disbelief,” in which we voluntarily set aside truths, assumptions and expectations,  and believe whatever premises the movie puts forth. It’s the only way we can thoroughly enjoy the movie.

In conflict, a “willing suspension of belief” means dangling our opinions openly in a way that lets both us and others examine them.  We mindfully acknowledge and observe our own thoughts and feelings as they arise without being compelled to act on them — or to convince others to adopt them. It’s not a matter of NOT having an opinion, and it’s not about devaluing your own opinion. Rather, simply examine your opinion without the normal cheerleading and superiority.

Be Honest…In Love

Listening is important, but it’s equally important to give voice to what is true for you. As Isaacs describes it, it “encourages us to learn to tell the truth about our own and other’s inconsistencies in a way that begins to enable us to transform them. It encourages us to reflect on our own responsibility and to build a culture where this is seen as a strength rather than as a weakness.” If we are speaking to ourselves in honesty, we gain influence even before others listen to us.

My mother put it this way:  “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects.”  My mother emphasized to us often that unless the truth was spoken in love, and unless we first spoke it to ourselves, we could not hope to uncover the weaknesses, deception and injustice around us. To speak the truth without the balance of love, she said, would only cause greater injustices.

But what can motivate us enough to enable us to pursue this when the going gets tough? My mother believed that transformation sprang from a realization that Someone Else had listened to our inner cries, respected our humanity, suspended judgment, and then spoke truth to us with unwavering love. Once this transformation takes place, we can turn toward others in a similar way. We can love, because we were first loved.

Conflict seems to stem from the notion that there is not enough (of anything) for both “them” and “us”, and because of our ultimate self-interest, we will go to any measure to ensure that we have captured enough for ourselves. The fundamental paradigm shift required to transform conflicts is more than simply finding shared values: it is finding a purpose for sharing. The purpose for sharing seemingly limited resources can only come from a spirituality that sees life as bigger than resources, others as more than competitors, and ourselves as less than infallibly right.

It can only come from the redemptive transformation of sacrificial love. It is then that we can follow Mom’s admonition to “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14.19 NASB)

[reminder preface=”Your turn:”] How do you transform conflict?[/reminder]