In June and July, I have had the honor of working with a group of extremely talented young people. A fantastic group of 17 management trainees. In June, they went through a 5 days program on self awareness. The program was designed to challenge them enabling them to learn more about themselves and their surroundings.
I have over the years worked with a lot of different groups, and I must admit that these 17 people are the most cohesive and overall best performing group that I have experienced so far. Yes, that is a big statement and it is true. Most of them left university last year to join this organization, so they are still very young and their attitudes and their abilities set them apart. Nothing appears to be impossible. They act like leaders.
“Leadership is not about the size of your office or the title on your business card. It’s about the depth of your commitment and your passion to get things done.” – Robin Sharma
All 17 have all graduated from well-known universities, and through a comprehensive process, they have been carefully selected and hired to be the future senior leaders of this company. They know that when they perform they will go far!
Despite their success, these trainees are humble people, who are willing to learn and be open to new ideas. They know that they have a lot to learn. We took them through exhausting 15-16 hour days full of physically challenging activities coupled with feedback and reflection. They all stayed positive and focused on performing and working as a team.
They worked on annihilating limiting beliefs and they got clear on their goals. They dare to dream and they dare to be unique. At the end of the program, they all left with clarity on their personal values, learning styles, strengths and specific ways to contribute at work. They are role models and lead by example.
These 17 individuals want to make a difference and they will. It is obvious that despite the doom and gloom in the news, there are young people, who are ready to take on the world, and that is really good news!
“You have a duty to shine and if you refuse to accept this responsibility, the world will be a lesser place as a result of this retreat in courage.” – Robin Sharma
Whatever the age, we all have the possibility to lead and shine. We can all be role models and lead by example. You might benefit from reflecting on a couple of questions to get back on track:
What would the child that you once were think of the adult that you have become?
What do you want your life to stand for?
What three things could you do over the next 30 days to raise your life to its next level of excellence?
We have a bit more than 5 months left of 2009, so what do you want this year to stand for?
We all have a choice… I know what the 17 young adults are doing this year but what about you?
“Life is too short to be little.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Last week, I had the pleasure of running another leadership development program for a longtime client in Shanghai. It was a great group of participants, who all came to participate and learn.
During the first day, we talked about personal and company values. At dinner, we discussed the company values, and a participant, Simon, said about passion: “You know, I used to have passion but now I am older and I somehow lost it…..”. I was admittedly a bit surprised as this young man was still young, and it turned out that he was 32 years old.
Based on his initial statement, I asked a couple of questions to get more clarity and it became clear that Simon was busy trying to get a lot done without any real focus or clarity of the end goal.
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vincent Lombardi
At that point, I asked one of my favorite questions:
Are you here to WIN, or are you here not to LOSE?
Simon considered the question, and made it clear that he is here to WIN. He just did not know how….
I gave Simon some homework, which he was supposed to do every evening. I asked him to write a list of 3 things that he appreciates about his life. He was also asked to write down the most important learning of the day.
The daily exercise would help Simon refocus and get grounded. He did his homework and on the last day, we reconnected and I asked Simon to answer this question:
What is ONE thing that YOU really really want to create in YOUR life right NOW?
Simon decided on one area, where he has since created a specific goal. For the next month, he will be focusing on this specific area to make as much progress as possible. Just ONE area! Simon will also continue to reflect on his life every evening and write down 3 things that are great about his life.
“No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined.” - Unknown
Why am I sharing this story? Because many of us get lost in your busy lives and we forget why we are really here and what is important to us. The exercise that Simon did is simple and straight forward yet very powerful. You can do it too!
You also have a choice. It often helps to step back, get grounded and refocus on just one priority. When we try to do many things we often get a lot less done. The key is focus.
“Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed. If you run your race, you'll win. Channel your energy. Focus.” – Carol Lewis
In addition to writing this entry, I have created two short videos, which address the topic in this entry. The videos are both on YouTube. The first video can be found here and the second video is here. It is the intention to make more videos, which will also be posted on this blog.
In the meantime, decide whether you are here to win or not to lose. The answer has a significant impact on how you will live your life.
It has been a while since the last blog entry. It has been a period with a lot of exciting stuff including work, university, teen camp in Denmark, lots of swim training and time with the family.
Many people have asked me how I get so many things done. In reality though, I have the same 168 hours every week that other people have. I just use them differently. It does require a strong focus and discipline to get it all done, and there are not really any shortcuts. It is a lot of work, and it also involves some sacrifices.
In this post, I will share two stories of people, who do not take any shortcuts either. Similar to the rest of us, they have 168 hours every week and look at what they have accomplished, and they keep going...
The first story is about Team Hoyt. Some of you have probably seen the YouTube videos being circulated, and it is indeed a very moving story. Team Hoyt consists of father Dick and his son, Rick. They compete in marathons, triathlons and other races. Now that might not sound that extraordinary was it not for the fact that Rick has cerebral palsy. Consequently, Dick has to pull Rick in a special boat as they swim, carries him in a special seat up front as they bike, and pushes him in a special wheelchair as they run.
They started in 1977, and by now, they have competed in close to 1,000 events. In 1992, the biked and ran across the USA. Apart from all the physical activity and against all odds, Rick has also acquired a college degree and now works at Boston College. You can see an inspiring documentary about Team Hoyt here.
The second story is about the mayor of Mississauga in Canada. Her name is Hazel McCallion, and she is 88 years old. She has been the mayor since 1977 and is still going strong. She was easily re-elected in November 2006 for her 11th consecutive term, holding a 92% majority of the votes.
She has no wish to retire, and she loves what she does. She used to be a professional ice hockey player, and she still gets on the ice to play. Hazel has humor and lots of energy despite her age. She lives a life full of meaning and purpose. You can see an interview with Hazel here.
When you watch these two stories, it is hard to come up with any reasons for not achieving what you want in your own life. Both the Hoyt's and Hazel have done whatever it takes to make it happen. They have had clear goals, strong focus, been persistent and had an unquestionable faith that it was all possible. Not to mention, they have all worked really hard. They are not quitters but live their full potential.
Through my work with adults and teens, I often come across people, who do not live their full potential. They have consciously or subconsciously decided that enough is enough, "I might not be happy but I am not entirely unhappy either. Being successful requires me to get out of the comfort zone and work harder, and it is a lot easier to stay on the couch."
If you believe in excuses, blaming the world and mastering misery, this last video is for you.
WARNING: It might make you laugh! You can see it here.
We all have a choice. and as it is rather obvious from Team Hoyt and Hazel: "Life is not a spectator sport."
Living in the city of Hong Kong, one of the attractions is the energy and the many sounds and sights. It is really a city that never sleeps.
What is also apparent is the fact that people are always busy! You call someone and ask “How are you?” and the usual response is, “I am busy”. It has become part of the culture and the identity. When you see people walking on the street most people seem to be on a mission. They are focused, walking straight and showing little emotion. Basically, if you are not busy, something must be wrong with you!
“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.” - Robert Frost
Busy is the standard, and sometimes you hear busy people saying: “Yeah, I know I work too much. My life really evolves around work but you know so and so, they work even more....”.
People turn into hamsters spinning the wheel, and few jump off to take a closer look at their lives. They basically run their lives like a Formula 1 race but one with no apparent finish line and one that has no pit-stops.
I have just finished reading a very inspiring book called ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ by Timothy Ferriss. The book has been on various bestseller lists, and Tim is out to challenge a lot of common beliefs. He shows people that it is possible to have a life, there they spend less time on work and make enough money to do what they really want to do.
Now, how cool is that?
Somebody once told me that the key to being successful is really not about having resources but about being resourceful. Tim is definitely resourceful, and I cannot recall the last time I read a book, which was full of so many good ideas and resources.
The book includes a story that addresses the ‘FOR WHAT?’ question. It is a story that has been around for while but the point is still relevant and powerful.
Here we go:
An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.
“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.
“But…What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Julia and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”
The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”
He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will all this take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”
“But what then, senor?”
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”
“Millions, senor? Then what?”
“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings, where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos…”
"Life is what happens to you, when you are busy making other plans." - John Lennon
Are you a hamster? Maybe it is time to get off the wheel, and reconsider your options.
We are well into 2009, and today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, which is a big event in many Asian communities. Welcome to the Year of the Ox.
Whenever we begin a new year, most people see it as a fresh start, and many people around the world do hope and wish that 2009 will be a better year. We are globally faced with many challenges, and while it can be overwhelming, it is never too late to start living the life that you really want. While there are many things, we don't control, there are indeed many things that we do control.
If we look beyond the doom and gloom in the news, there are great examples of people, who do take their lives in their own hands and live it like they want to make the most of it. I know from my own parents (67 and 68 years old), that it benefits to continue learning, growing and contributing while pursuing things that you really want.
“Planting your lazy butt on the couch watching the world go by will never make you a rock star” - Coach Bay
Being blessed with parents, who are role models, I came across this inspiring story, which illustrates that I want to convey. The story is called ‘Dreams’, and I hope you will find inspiration in the story to go beyond excuses and get moving towards your goal.
Dreams by author unknown
The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.
I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that that lit up her entire being.
She said, "Hi, handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?" I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.
"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.
She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."
"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.
"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.
After class we walked to the student union building and share a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."
As we laughed she cleared her throat and began: "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. "You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!"
"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change."
"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."
She concluded her speech by courageously singing The Rose. She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the years end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.
One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.
Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.
"Do you have a dream, a wish, then turn it into a goal today - break it down, take one step, then another and accomplish your dream." - Catherine Pulsifer
This is 2009 and the Year of the Ox. Despite the many challenges in the world, you can decide to make this the best year for you and your family. What is your choice?
"For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit... start whenever you want... you can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that stop you. I hope you feel things that you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again." - Benjamin Button
Happy New Year to all of you, and for our Chinese readers, Kung Hei Fat Choi! May the Year of the Ox provide you with more happiness, prosperity and better health.
In November, I attended a leadership forum in Xian, China. The last day, we had CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities. I went for the opportunity to work in a soup kitchen. Little did I know that I was about to meet one of the most authentic and inspiring people, that I have ever met; Tony Day.
Tony used to be a busy executive back in the UK working 16 hours a day, making lots of money, having a nice house, a great car and a sexy red motorbike. In 2002, he went on a retreat and did some soul searching. After 12 years of hectic corporate life, he decided to quit, sell all his belongings and leave the UK. It was something he just felt he had to do.
After traveling in Europe for 2 years, he went to China with a plan of continuing to India. During his stay in China, he looked for volunteer work but did not find any. In the end, he decided to start his own, and he opened the Yellow River Soup Kitchen in Xian. Apparently, the first ever soup kitchen in China. That was December 2005.
Three years later, the soup kitchen has come a long way despite many challenges during the initial years. Tony knows that this is what he is here to do, and he has faith that it will all work out. I asked him why he is doing all this? What is the drive? He looked at me and said “It is in my stomach. I simply got to do it. That is it”. In other words, Tony Day has found his calling, and it is obvious that he has absolute clarity, and is taking massive action.
In addition to serving 2,000 meals per month, Tony has started other initiatives to help the less fortunate. They distribute old clothing and shoes every week, provide basic medical care and operations when possible, Every few weeks visits are made to poor rural mountain villages typically visiting 5 villages at a time and distributing clothing and household goods to up to 1,000 people. They mobilized supplies to the victims of the Sizhuan Earthquake where they helped 2,000 people.
Tony is on a mission, and he has sponsored 90% of the initiatives so far, and he has turned down several potential sponsors, who have offered money. He wants to keep it pure.
When we visited the soup kitchen, we had an opportunity to serve the homeless together with Tony and his dedicated Chinese staff. It was an awesome day, where the homeless expressed a lot of gratitude for all us business people coming to serve them. They also received warm clothes and shoes for the winter.
The business people on the other hand were grateful for having the opportunity to serve the homeless. It was a humbling and touching experience. We saw smiles and sadness, we saw gratitude and we saw pain. Each face told a different story but it was obvious that they all genuinely appreciated what the Yellow River Soup Kitchen provides.
In the last blog entry, we talked about Bill Clinton, Jet Li and other famous people coming together in Hong Kong to discuss how we can make the global village a better place. Tony Day is not famous, and he did not attend the meeting. Instead he has made a commitment to helping less fortunate people in a place far from his home. He is leading by example.
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, we all have an opportunity to serve and make a difference. Few will do what Tony has done but less can still have a huge impact. Tony's charity logo is based on the principle of dropping a pebble in the water and watching as the ripples spread.
We are soon entering 2009, and the world is full of challenges. Whenever there is a problem or challenge, there is also an opportunity to make things better.
The question is: What can and will you do to make a difference?
We can all drop a pebble. Do you remember Jet Li's formula:
1 person x 1 dollar (yuan) per month = 1 big family
This is likely the last entry before Christmas, and I want to take this opportunity to wish the homeless, Tony Day, his staff and all of you readers, a wonderful Christmas. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
"Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?" - Jon Bon Jovi