You Are Never Done

Success is not a destination. It’s not a place.

Success is a state of mind; it is a way of being in the world.

So many entrepreneurs and business professionals get frustrated because they feel as if they’re never “done.” There’s some product that needs to be developed, some program that’s running behind, some project that needs to be planned, some staff person that needs to be hired (or fired).

I have some bad news for you: You’re never done. There will always more to do. There will always be problems to solve. There will always be challenges to face. There will always be obstacles to overcome. There will always be a crisis, a glitch in a system, a crack in the infrastructure, a client or customer who needs special care.

But, I have some really good news to share with you: You’re never done! Every day is a new day, a new opportunity to create, a new opportunity to serve, and new opportunity to share your unique gifts and talents with the world. Every day you get to iterate anew, to re-imagine how these things that are your business and your life can shine brighter still.

In the movie, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny says: “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.”

To that, I respond with gratitude: “Thank you. I get the gift of a new day, a new week; I get the gift of being able to continue this great work.”

I rejoice that it’s not done.

Did you know that they paint the Golden Gate Bridge every day? Every day. Because when they come to the end, it’s time to start over. From the beginning. Never “done.”

The job of an entrepreneur and business professional is to show up every single day to solve problems and be in service. To do the work. Every. Single. Day.

It’s always a work in process.

The powerful poem, Ithaca, by Constantine Cavafy begins: “When you start on your journey to Ithaca, hope that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge.”

I pray that your journey is long. That you are never done.

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If you’re feeling challenged by the road, let’s connect. Email me: walt@walthampton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lie You Tell

I want to talk with you about that lie that you tell.

That one you tell all the time. ThatLieYouTell

To yourself; to anyone who will listen.

That soothing lie.

That seductive pernicious one.

The one that goes like this: There’s time.

That there will be time to go on that trip you want to take, that second honeymoon, that book you want to write, the degree you want to get, the art you want to make, that new job, the new career… .

That there will be time to heal the rift, sooth the hurt, fulfill the dream.

That there will be time to connect with your precious boy, your sweet girl, that beautiful grand child.

That there will be time to walk hand in hand on the beach; slow dance in the city square on a summer night; sip the coffee; savor the wine; and watch the sunset.

That there will be time after you get through this quarter, this year; after you’ve made partner; gotten the promotion; after you’ve lost the weight; after the kids are out of high school, or college; or their students loans are paid off; after you’ve finished with the mortgage; after your husband retires; or you retire… .

I want to talk with you about it because 2016 is a distant memory; because you said maybe you’d get to it after the holidays, and it’s the middle of January…. because this year will disappear in the rear view mirror as fast as the last.

I want to talk with you about it because tomorrow is promised to no one; because now is all there is; and now is all you have.

I want to talk with you about that lie you tell… because I tell it too.

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When the time is right, when you’re ready to switch up the game, let’s talk. Email me: walt@walthampton.com

Starting Out Matters Most

Starting out, even when things aren’t perfect, even when conditions aren’t quite right, is one of the most important of all success strategies. Because, the truth is, that for most endeavors, conditions are never really quite right.

I thought about this success principle as I stood high above the trees looking out on one of the most magnificent vistas imaginable.

The day hadn’t started out suggesting that such a moment might be possible.

Indeed, long before the alarm would go off, I could hear the rain beating against the roof of the motel: a cold, heavy February rain in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.

I pulled the blankets up and rolled over in the darkness, sure that it was way too snotty to even consider venturing out.

Two hours later, we sat at the Dunkin Donuts. Our climbing packs were packed; the gear was ready. And the rain continued to pour… just freezing as it hit the surface. Nothing suggested even remotely that it was a good idea to strap on snowshoes or crampons and disappear for a day into a range that routinely and indiscriminately likes to kill its visitors. Screenshot 2014-02-25 17.57.31

A half mile from the trailhead, the rain tapered to a light mist. The temperatures were mild. The wind light. And, before the day was out, the sun poked through the clouds. It was a glorious fun-filled satisfying day on one of my very favorite mountains in the world.

It would have been easy to stay in bed.

Now I am not suggesting that you should be reckless; or act without thinking; or start out unprepared; or not consider contingencies.

But that’s not the challenge that most people face.

Most folks when they’re thinking about starting out on a project – a new career or business, a book, a fitness program, a product launch, a new relationship – want to wait until everything is in place, until conditions are perfect, the set-up ideal. Life is not like that (in case you haven’t noticed). Conditions are never ideal; all of the pieces are never in place.

You’ve gotta start out… and see what happens.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Imperfect action is still action; imperfect progress is still progress. And sometimes when you start out – in fact more often than not – conditions turn in your favor. It’s as if the Universe recognizes your boldness and says, “Ah ha, she’s serious;” “Hmm, I guess he means it this time.”

You are rewarded for your audacity, for your courage; and for your faith: Faith in the abundance of a benevolent Universe; faith in the knowing that you will always find the path; faith in the power of your own inner strength.

Brené Brown writes, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” “Be brave with your life,” she says, “so that others can be brave with theirs.”

You have gifts that the world needs desperately. Conditions will never feel ‘right’ to venture out with them.

You need to start anyway.

Avoid The Shallows In 2017

I was jarred by his words.

I had stopped along the road to chat with my neighbor. Sean was building a stone wall across the front of his property. He had been at it for months; and it was quite beautiful to behold.

He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his dirty hands. “I’m building it to last for 400 years,” he said. “Maybe more.”

400 years? I find it challenging to think about a single day. And planning for the next quarter or just the year ahead? That involves (what I think of as real) heavy lifting.

But isn’t creating something that lasts what we all really crave?

There’s a reason that Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life has sold 32 million copies in more than 50 languages.

We seek purpose.

We want our efforts to have meaning and import.

We want to create a lasting impact in the world.

We want to be remembered.

We want to leave a legacy.

Yet, most of us live out our days reacting to other people’s emergencies, floating across the surface of things, dipping into social media, surfing the web, ticking off endless to-do lists, and using our email inboxes to drive us until we drop.

We’re interrupted or cause ourselves to be interrupted every 3 minutes of the day.

We’ve allowed ourselves to become addicted to the forward motion; we keep on going like hamsters on a wheel.

We’ve allowed ourselves to become addicted to the stimulation and outside input, checking and re-checking our smartphones and our tablets and our emails; responding incessantly to the phone calls and messages and notifications and alerts. Overwhelmed and inundated by the expectations and the deadlines and the demands, we endeavor to pay attention to everything. But succeed only at dwelling in a state of continuous partial attention.

We spend our days – we subsist – in the shallows.

We’ve lost the capacity to do deep work, legacy work, work that lasts.

So my challenge for you as you stand on the threshold of this New Year is to consider Sean’s wall. What work will you do that will last 400 years?

  • Perhaps it’s not about building a stone wall; but rather mending the wall that grown around a relationship.
  • Perhaps it’s the book that you’ve told yourself you’ll write. Someday. Or the art that you want to create; or that song that’s been waiting in your heart for decades to be sung.
  • Perhaps it’s about that experience – that magic moment – you’ve been meaning to create for your child or your partner or your spouse.
  • Perhaps it’s about finally taking the leap into that new career or job that you know will touch the lives of others for generations to come.
  • Perhaps it’s about committing to simple acts of kindness that, like pebbles dropped into a pond, ripple out to touch shores you cannot see.

Whatever it might be, commit this year to move beyond the shallows.

  • Get clear again about what you value most.
  • Connect with your heart (because your heart always knows).
  • Create a clear plan for yourself (understanding that your inbox is someone else’s plan).
  • Reclaim and protect your focus.
  • Abandon once and for all the myth of multi-tasking.
  • Set aside dedicated time to do your legacy work.
  • Have the courage to say “no” to what doesn’t serve what matters most.

The days may be long; but the years are short.

What will you create this year that will stand the test of time?

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When the time is right, when you’re ready to create intentionally the work and the life you absolutely love, let’s connect. Email me: walt@walthampton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Turn Again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice.

T.S. Eliot

It’s dark. Really dark. And cold.

The sun, even when it comes up here on the 52nd parallel, skitters across the southern horizon. And disappears.

Yet, this week, we celebrate the light.

It is the turning point.

From the very earliest of times, before tribe or tradition, we have confronted the darkness with trepidation – the darkness of the night, the darkness of our souls – and railed against it. Through liturgy and ritual and celebration, we connected with the ancient rhythms of the earth to welcome light – and hope – back into the world.

For a fraction of a moment this week, the earth stopped – and shifted on its axis – and turned again toward the sun.

It is the turning point.

In the busyness of our frantic, constantly connected and over-stimulated lives, we can miss this moment. It is easy to forget why we run around and string lights and light candles and wrap presents and gather together – and in the process end up empty and depleted and sad. It is easy to forget why we celebrate.

We celebrate the light. We celebrate in the deep knowing that the light always returns. We celebrate that the light always triumphs over the darkness.

Take a moment to stop this week. Reconnect with the ground – and with the Ground of All Being. Feel the earth turn back to the sun, back to the light.

It is the turning point.

Then decide.

What will you turn toward in the days and months ahead? What light will you discover in your life? What light will you shine in the lives of others?

Be that light.

And celebrate.

It is the turning point.

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Order your copy of Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters. Click HERE!

A Fork For You?

In the crazy busyness of the holiday season, it is easy to lose touch with the natural rhythm of things.

December 21 marks the Winter Solstice.

One of the most poignant moments in Paul Winter’s annual Consort, by which he celebrates the Solstice, is his soaring piece, The Turning Point Suite. Begun in a darkened cathedral with a solo clarinet in a far-removed loft, it culminates in a full symphonic cacophony of sound and light… marking that moment when the earth seemingly pauses, then turns once again toward the sun with its promise of renewal and new life. Screenshot 2015-10-31 08.03.53

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere stand on the threshold of that Solstice moment.

Will you mark it as your turning point? Your defining moment? The moment when you say “yes” to the full expression of your life? Are you ready to embrace a new standard for your career; for your business and your finances; for your relationships and your health and wellness? Are you ready to step up your game? Are you ready to commit to a life that is extraordinary? That leaves a legacy for generations?

Or will you let it slide by lost in the holiday noise?

We can make our lives soaring symphonies… or not.

We get to choose.

It is the turning point. Will it be yours?

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A Solstice invitation: Join a community of like-minded people who want more. Coaching, mentorship, resources to take you the distance. The Summit Mastermind. Check it out HERE!

Go Sit On The Stairs

That’s what we used to say to our kids when they were acting out. “You, go sit on the stairs and think about how you should behave.” It was our form of “time out.”

We all need some form of time out. Especially at this time of the year.

I’m just back from a time out. It was astoundingly restorative.

A colleague of mine invited me to join him as his guest for two days with his mastermind group, a small, elite collection of entrepreneurs and business professionals. Two days off the grid, away from emails and phone calls and text messages and alerts. Two days of real focus. Two days of brainstorming, troubleshooting, and collaborating. Two days generating powerful new ways of working in the world.

I railed against the invitation at first. I had so much on my plate. Appointments and conferences. Clients and a community to serve. A website nearly done. A launch I care about deeply. I couldn’t “afford” to take the time, I told myself.

Then I grabbed hold of my bad self. What would I tell you?

I’d tell you that working on your business is every bit as important as working in your business, if not more so. That stepping back from your work on a regular basis allows you to bring perspective to it; and enables you to come back to it renewed and revitalized. That nurturing yourself, allowing yourself some space, gives you the opportunity to re-charge and then return to serve in the world in a much more powerful and effective way.

I’d tell you that by stepping out of the fray and surrounding yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs and business professionals who want for you, who have your back, who cheer for your success re-invigorates you; that by tapping into the resources of a collective intelligence and wisdom is the most creative, visionary and dynamic way to take your own work to a whole new level.

I’d tell you that there is no better way to enter a New Year, no better way to honor yourself and the work you do, no better way to become more resourceful for the people you are meant to serve, than to take the time – the dedicated time – to rest, renew and re-create yourself; and from that place design with care and intent what the road ahead will be for you and for those you care for. screenshot-2016-12-07-12-02-19

I had gotten myself into a bad state: Frustrated by projects and caught in the weeds. I told my bad self: “You, go sit on the stairs. Think about how you want to behave!”

Two days. Energy, vision, creativity, resilience restored.

This can be such a manic time of year. A New Year awaits you. Your clients, your customers, and those you love need you. Your very best you.

Take a time out.

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We’ve doing a free webinar training next week: How To Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever Without Stress or Overwhelm and Without Losing Focus and Momentum. It’s a great opportunity to take the time to mindfully create what you most want in the year ahead. Please join us. Go HERE to register and reserve your spot.

 

The Vortex Is Here

It’s December. And we’re being pulled into the vortex of time. The maelstrom is all around us! Can you feel it?

Perhaps it’s just me. But after Halloween, the year just seems to accelerate. After Thanksgiving, the days move forward at warp speed. The commitments and the demands and the lists and the expectations and the projects that need to be done – have to get done – before the end of the year seem to mount logarithmically. And then there are the card lists and the gift lists and the shopping and the holiday parties… .

It’s enough to make one want to jump ship… .

What to do?

Wrong question.

The question is what not to do.

The way out of the vortex – the only way – is the simplest and the hardest thing of all (at least it is for me). The only way out is to say “no.”

Saying “no” is not news and it’s not rocket science. All of the leadership and success books tell us that it is fundamental to our sanity and, paradoxically, a key to achieving our goals.

There is an article in Success Magazine entitled Actively Do Nothing. “People could improve their mental and physical health as well as their relationships by carving out a portion of their day to do nothing,” the article states.

Jack Canfield in his book The Success Principals recommends creating a “stop-doing”or “don’t do” list.

Ann and I met a woman at the gym a few months ago. We invited her to one of our Denali slide show presentations. Her response: “Thank you. But I ‘don’t do’ evening commitments.” We were really impressed by that.

So why is saying “no” so hard? Certainly, we’re conditioned from very early on that “no” is not the right answer. As time goes on, we also begin to layer on our own assumptions – whether true or not – about what others expect of us. Sometimes, I suspect, saying “yes” is just a habit. (I said yes to a commitment recently without even stopping to realize I would be out of the country during the time I had committed!) And for me, there is a healthy dose of narcissistic self-importance that loves to believe that somehow my presence is essential or that I am the only one who can do something.

So as the vortex swirls, I’m working on saying “no” more often.

I’ve started by asking myself whether a project or an invitation is one that I “should” do or accept rather than one I “want” to do or accept. I’m working at eliminating the “shoulds.”

Saying no to the non-essential allows us to be more fully present to what is most important. By doing less, we can pay closer attention to what is essential. And as The Little Prince reminds us, “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” It takes time to see.

The Carmelite monk William McNamara writes,

“We are not really practical, and we shall get nowhere, we shall never find life, life will escape us, unless we learn not to always be bustling about – unless we learn to be still, to let things happen around us, to wait, listen, receive, contemplate.”

“One final word on the subject of time,” McNamara says: screenshot-2016-11-30-10-55-31

“I suggest that we stop doing half the work that presently consumes us. Then let us attend to the remaining half wholeheartedly, with contemplative vision and creative love. I stake the authenticity of our lives and the effectiveness of our work on this radical shift.”

I described the vortex to a friend today as a giant flushing toilet bowl.

Not a great place to end up.

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Go HERE for 7 simple practices that will make life a whole lot saner.

 

 

 

Maybe You Need A Good Excuse

Excuses are good; really good. Because, if you’ve got a plausible excuse, then you’re safe… you don’t need to do anything; you don’t need to risk anything.

If you want to do, be or have something more for yourself; if you’d like your life to be different; if you’d like your health to be better; or if you’d like a job that makes you happy; or a relationship that makes your heart soar; and you’ve got an excuse… well, then, nothing really is required of you. Screenshot 2014-09-17 09.48.06

You can just sit tight. Stay comfy. And let the clock run out.

Or not.

The Biggies

Here are the excuses I hear most frequently from clients:

  • It’s not the right time. “I’m too old, too young, too fat, too out of shape. I need to save up some more money; I need to wait for the promotion or partnership or bonus; I need to wait until the kids are out of school; I need to wait until my partner retires or I retire; or… .”

The truth is: It’s NEVER the right time. There are ALWAYS obstacles. There are ALWAYS hurdles to jump; there are ALWAYS challenges to overcome.

Now is the only time you have. Tomorrow is promised to do one. Goethe says, “What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

  • I could never do that. I’m not brave enough; fast enough; strong enough; fit enough; smart enough; wealthy enough; creative enough; ___________ enough.

I could never do that. I’m not enough.

It’s one of our core insecurities as human beings: That I’m not enough.

It’s why we strive. It’s why we have the Sistine Chapel and rocket ships and the computer and smartphones… because we achieve, we strive… because we forever strive… for more. But the worry that we’re not enough also stops us short; holds us back.

But we’re already enough. All we need is within us already.

Everyone starts from the same place. A Mozart, a Picasso, a Marconi; and some even start from hugely disadvantaged places: a Lincoln, a Mandela, an Oprah.

No matter where you start, you have enough – you are enough – to go the distance.

  • It will take too long. It will take 4 years for the degree; 7 years for the residency; 6 months to train for the race; a year to lose the weight; 3 to write the book; and who knows how long to find the ‘right one.’

So what? Who cares? The clock is ticking. The time will pass; whether you take the next step; or not.

It may well take you three years to launch your new business; but the three years will come and go even if you never launch.

Greatness takes time. The overnight success has spent many a sleepless overnight. And while maybe you won’t need 10,000 hours to sharpen your skills, you still need to put in the effort.

Opportunity often disguises itself as work; and work worth doing – legacy work, generational work, world-changing work – often takes a long time.

  • It’s too big; too hard. It’s complicated, confusing, overwhelming, I can’t figure it out. I don’t know where to research it; I don’t know who to talk to; I don’t know what to do next.

Even highly successful, highly accomplished professionals labor with this excuse. The more expert we become in a particular area, the more daunting it is to venture into a new one. We like the familiarity of our own turf.

And even highly successful folks have ‘blind spots.’ They may excel in the business life and struggle in their relationships; their finances might be stellar and their health in the toilet.

Too, we live in a culture of overwhelm. There’s so much flying at us all the time. We suffer from information overload. We resist wanting to take in more.

But what we need to remember is that every journey starts with a single step. Every ultra I’ve run, every mountain I’ve climbed… no matter how long or how big gets finished by taking one step… and then the next.

We want to see the entire way. But we don’t need to. “Take the first step in faith,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said. “You don’t need to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.”

In every endeavor, every business venture, every fitness goal, every financial objective, every marketing campaign, every piece of research, it’s just one step at a time.

And the hardest one is the first one. So just take it!

  • It’s too risky. I don’t want to fail; I don’t want to lose my job; I don’t want to lose money; I don’t want to get hurt in another relationship; I don’t want to get injured. It’s too dangerous.

This is the most pernicious excuse of all because it seems to make so much sense. Why take unnecessary risks… why put yourself in harm’s way?

Guess what? Life is dangerous. None of us gets out alive.

I have a buddy who has been on Mt. Everest twice; summitted once. He shattered his leg cleaning out the leaves from the gutters on his one-story house.

We like to believe in stability; in constancy. But the only thing that is constant, the only sure thing is that things will change.

Businesses collapse, partnerships fail, marriages come unraveled, layoffs happen, people get sick, markets crash. And as much as we like to maintain an illusion of control, we really don’t have very much at all.

Our comfort zones are called comfort zones because, well, they’re pretty damn comfy. But what’s true is that the magic happens just beyond. Our greatest breakthroughs… our very best lives… are just outside that place of comfort. Life rewards those who risk.

What’s Next?

So excuses are good; in fact, they’re great… if you want to stay stuck. Not so much if you want a big life. The stories we tell ourselves are just that: stories. It’s as easy to make up a small story as it is a grand one.

Grand is better.

What are your favorite go-to excuses? And what will you do now?

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When you’re ready to bust through, let’s connect. Email me: walt@walthampton.com

Why Expectations Don’t Work

He was so frustrated. “She should have known that I needed her here at noon.”

My client, a very successful attorney, was baffled by the fact her paralegal hadn’t shown up with the file she’d been sent out to get from another lawyer’s office.

“Did she agree to be here by noon?” I asked.

“What do you mean? She knows how important this case is.”

The classic trap that business leaders and professionals fall into.

You can manage by expectation. Or you can manage by agreement.

Agreement is better.

If my client had sent her para out on this mission, told her that he needed the file by noon, and then said, “So, can we agree that you’ll get it back here by noon?” then the paralegal’s lack of timeliness is on her. But there was no such conversation. My client’s exasperation was based purely on my client’s expectation of what someone else “should” know. expectations

(The para had stopped for lunch. She had no clue.)

We make this error often in our personal lives too.

If I come home after a long day at an event, and go straight to my office to return calls without stopping to connect with my wife, and she seethes because I should have stopped to have a conversation, that’s on her.

If, instead, she says, “Honey, you know, when you come in at the end of a day, I would so love to connect with you before you start returning your calls. Would that be ok? Could we agree to that?” and I do, then the next time I blow by forgetting about her is on me. I didn’t live up to the agreement.

People – paralegals, partners, teenagers – aren’t mind readers.

Expectations are the stories we create ourselves. And they’re unreliable.

Use agreements instead.

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When you’re ready to change up your leadership game, let’s talk. Email me: walt@walthampton.com