Who Are You? And What Do You Want?

What’s one of the very first questions we ask when we meet a child for the first time?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

And kids know the answer to this question. They want to be doctors or firefighters or police officers or secret agents or astronauts.

When we’re growing up, most of us have a grand vision for our lives: We know what we want to do, who we want to be, where we want to live; we have exciting ideas about where we want to travel and adventure, and how our lives will unfold.

Our imaginations run wild. There are no limits to what might be possible.

Everything is possible.

Until we become ‘domesticated.”

We come out of school and we’re told that we need to settle down… and get a ‘real’ job… you know the one I’m talking about… the one with ‘benefits.’

We start accumulating some debt, we find a partner, a spouse; we buy a house (in a ‘good’ neighborhood… with ‘good’ schools), we get a good, ‘safe’ car like a mini-van or a Volvo;  we have 2.2 children; we join the ‘right’ clubs and organizations; and try our damnedest to live that ‘perfect’ life….

We work hard climbing the ladder. (Only we’re never really sure if the ladder is against the wall we really want to climb.)

One day starts looking like the next, the same bloody thing, day after day after day. And pretty soon we start feeling like we’re a “B” character in that old Bill Murray movie Ground Hog Day; or like the guy in that old Dunkin’ Donuts’ commercial who gets up every morning at 2:00 a.m…. you know the one I’m talking about: “Time to make the donuts.”

And eventually there comes that moment when we ask ourselves: Is that all there is? who_are_you

For many, sadly, that is all there is.  Because it requires boldness, courage, tenacity, and an audacious spirit to reclaim the grand vision for our lives that we once held; to answer anew those questions so fundamental to our full humanity:

Who am I? And what do I really want?

I shared some thoughts on this all-important mission recently with a group of business professionals.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Then follow this link to listen in:  Who Are You?

I would love to hear your thoughts and would be grateful if you’d leave a comment when you’re done!




Why You Want The Why

“I’ve hit a plateau with my sales.”

“Organizing the office space is just too overwhelming.”

“I can’t seem to get the grant proposal done.”

“I just don’t have enough time to finish the book.”

“The weight just won’t come off.”

All of us have places where we seem to hit a wall; where we get stymied; where it seems that we just can’t bust through.

It’s usually because we’re not clear about our “why.”

Angelo was frustrated. Try as he did to bring in more mortgage loan originations, none of his warm leads panned out. It was as if the midas touch he once had had turned to coal.

Angelo was one of my high performance clients. He knew all the success tools; all the strategies. And he knew how to execute; he was someone who took action.

But when I asked him ‘why’ it was that he wanted to boost his numbers, he faltered. He already made a fair amount of money; so it wasn’t just about the comp. He already had a lot of freedom and flexibility; so it wasn’t about the time. He already was pretty senior in the company; so it wasn’t about position or prestige.

So I dug a bit…. It turned out that Angelo had never been able to take his wife on a honeymoon; and despite the passage of nearly a dozen years of marriage and much success, Angelo still wanted to surprise his wife with a trip to Italy. As soon as he focused on this ‘why,’ his numbers soared.

Without the ‘why,’ a task is just a task… yet another item on an endless list of interminable “to dos.” to-do-list-400x260

Take the recyclables to the curb… Check.

Make the cold call… Check.

Stop for milk on the way home… Check.

One no more important than the next.

The list will wear us down. It is the ‘why’ that lights us up.

Our vision, our ‘why,’ is the North Star. It shines in the darkness; it guides us through our desert wastelands.

It is what excites us and sustains us; it is the fuel that drives us forward.

Author and coach Dan Sullivan writes, “Having a purpose that is greater than yourself will give you a constant impetus to strive.”

Simon Sinek says, “Start with why.” “Those who know their why are the ones who lead,” he says. “They are the ones who inspire.”

The most successful people on the planet have a vision of where they’re going… and why they want to get there. Even in the littlest of things.

So dig until you find your ‘why.”

Because when you know your ‘why,’ you will find the how.

And then you are unstoppable.

Book ‘Em, Danno

“Book it,” I said, like McGarrett on Hawaii Five-0. Bookem-300x197

I was working with a young woman who wanted to start speaking in order to promote her business. We had talked about her core message, about the structure of her talk, about her target audiences, and about the offer she would make from the stage.

I told her to email me her outline; that on our next call we would start to flesh out the substance of the talk.

But before she did any of that, I told her: Book the first gig; get it on the calendar.

“Say what?” she said.

You see, folks can learn to become pretty good at goal setting. If you’ve been down the personal and professional development road at all, you’ve probably done some vision boarding and mind-mapping. And most folks, when they stop long enough, can get clear on their outcomes.

So why are so many dreams left undone?

Because so many of us fail to ever start out toward them.

Getting going is the challenge.

You may not have reflected on this too deeply: But inertia is a horrible law. Immutable. Kinda like gravity. And like gravity, it can serve up some pretty harsh lessons.

If you don’t start, nothing happens.

One surefire strategy for overcoming inertia is this: Make it inevitable.

• If you want to start to speak, book a talk.

• If you want to go to Florence, buy the ticket.

• If you want to get in shape, hire the trainer.

• If you want to learn a language, sign up for the course.

Make an announcement. Send out the press release.

Pull the trigger. Get it on the calendar. Set it in concrete.

When I first got the idea of running an ultra-marathon, I found a race and registered for it. Then I told everyone I met on the street that I was running this way cool race. Then I bought a training manual. And then I started to train. (Wow, you’re thinking, that’s pretty upsetting…definitely want to avoid this dude as a coach.)

I remember thinking about the process of planning the outline for developing the overview in preparation for the drafting of the structure for my first public talk… yeah kinda like that… until my own coach made me make the call and book the gig. It scared me shitless. But there was nothing quite like that glaring, looming, ever approaching date to drive momentum.

Inertia no more.

So whatever it is you’ve been thinking about doing, wanting to do: Make it inevitable.

There is magic in the starting.

Are You All In?

Clarity is the key, we tell our coaching clients. You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

Action too is essential.  Without action, you get nowhere.

But while these principles are true, they’re not the whole story. You can be clear as a bell; you can take any number of steps toward your goal; and still not get the outcome you seek.

The goal will elude you.

Unless you’re all in.

I remember as a young associate at a big law firm being quite clear that I wanted my own business, my own practice. I can remember thinking about it (for a long time), talking with colleagues about it, buying books about it, reading about it, researching what it would take, even ordering business cards! But until I actually put the date on the calendar on which I was going to quit the big firm, until I announced to the partners that I was leaving, until I tendered my written resignation, it all stayed safely within the realm of fantasy.

I hadn’t been all in.

On a recent coaching call, a client shared with me his frustration over the lack of progress in his business’ development. Growth was flat, he said.  Turns out he was continuing to work on other projects… giving only intermittent attention to his real goal, his real love; still tentative… because he wasn’t yet… all in.

There was still uncertainty; still ambiguity and ambivalence. Still the possibility of turning back.  And it was showing up – unambiguously – in the bottom line.

Ann and I have the best gig on the planet.  We so value the depth of the relationship we share… and the fun…  What’s interesting though is that our relationship grew exponentially strong after we were married… when we finally knew in the depths of our hearts that we were all in. burn-your-boats

There’s that ancient military adage: If you want to take the island, burn the boats.

In business, finance, careers, start-ups, product launches, creative endeavors, relationships, fitness; whatever the goal… if it’s important enough:

Commit. Go all in.

Allow no means of escape.

I’m not suggesting this is easy. In fact it’s downright scary.  And sometimes it needs to be a process… not a moment… and that’s ok.

But here’s what’s true: when you’re all in, the magic happens.

As W. H. Murray wrote,  Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

So if there’s an area of your life that’s not quite clicking, ask yourself, “Have I burned the boats? Am I all in?”









Stop The Madness

We’re just back from three weeks in Ireland. photo(1)

We have a little place we go on a hillside overlooking the North Atlantic in County Cork. There is a rolling pasture. Some cows. A few farmers. A dog or two. There is no traffic, no hustle, no bustle; and other than a bit of birdsong and bee buzzing, there is no noise at all. In fact, it’s so quiet that you can hear your own ears ring.

We go to stop the madness.

You know what I’m talkin’ about.  Most of us live lives that are stuck in fast-forward: places to go, things to do, kids to run around, businesses to build, bosses to please, clients to serve, things to create. And, oh yes, the bills to pay and the emails to read and the voice messages to return and the errands that need doing and the yard work that piles up. All good stuff.  For the most part. And yet, even the onslaught of good stuff can feel like a deluge if we don’t, from time to time…

Stop the madness.

I was on the phone with a client of mine this week, a human resource manger.  She shared with me how “under water,” and completely “buried” she feels with her workload; how she can’t possibly balance all that she needs to do… and is expected to do.

She’s not alone.

The evidence is incontrovertible that stress and overwhelm are endemic. Employers and the world expect more and more for less and less.

And here’s the problem: chronic stress and overwhelm compromise our immune systems, drastically decrease our productivity, and negatively impact both corporate profits… and our own bottom lines.

There is a ray of hope: This week Ariana Huffington will be co-hosting CNBC’s Squawk Box, one of the network’s flagship financial programs, with Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, the country’s third largest health insurer. They’re going to discuss “the growing trend in corporate America of taking steps – meditation, yoga, mindfulness trainings – to reduce stress and improve health and creativity.”

TG. It’s about time!

Apparently there is – finally – an emerging recognition that these “soft” topics should no longer be relegated to the realm of “voodoo economics,” but rather treated as the serious risks to corporate, and yes individual, wellness that they are.

It has long been challenging for me as a leadership trainer and business coach to pitch to a group of professionals or execs – especially physicians and attorneys – the need to slow down; the necessity of going “off the grid,” the obligation we have to ourselves to be attentive and mindful. The professional world is hard-driving, achievement orientated; evaluated in terms of sales figures, hours billed, productivity… and dollars. Those who want (or need) a “break,” those who want (or need) to stand, even for a moment, beyond the fray, are perceived as weak. And in this model, the “weak” do not inherit the earth.

But the “cost-benefit” analysis has been done. And the verdict is in: We can’t keep running our tanks dry. We lose our resiliency. We diminish our creativity. We damage our health. (And profits suffer!)

Our emotional wellness is, in fact, a core component of who we are and how we relate to the world.

So people: yoga and meditation are mainstream; they’re “in.”  Those of you who have craved – and lobbied for – a saner way of life: you’re legit! You get to stop from time to time; you need to stop from time to time… Even (especially) if you wear a suit. And if you’re in a leadership position, it is essential that you see that your flock is getting “fed.”

As a closet practitioner of Vipassana for the last 18 years, I can finally come clean. As a trainer and coach, I have some hope.

And whatever it is you need to do for yourself, it’s time to stop the madness. (I can show you how!) It’s not a weakness. It’s your strength.