What is Leadership?

What is Leadership?

I recently heard Chip Ingram talk about Leadership.  Chip’s a well-respected Christian Pastor.  He said a Leader is simply someone who “makes stuff happen”.  I like this.  I think we tend to popify leadership these days.  We try to put some fancy words behind it.  You’re a leader if you simply make it happen.  It comes in many forms.  A parent, a spouse, a teach, a coach, a student, a child – it doesn’t matter.  Either you make things happen or you don’t.

I had the privilege of interviewing 25 plus high performers in my company recently.  My goal was to uncover the patterns behind achievement.  Some were high level leaders, including our CEO. Some were project managers without big titles.  What I learned from all of them was that the best of the best have a definitive plan on a daily basis to make things happen.  They plan, they take action, they review.  They plan, they take action, they review. They plan, they take action, they review.  I could keep going but I won’t : )

The best of the best….they make things happen.  They lead.

Leadership or making things happen isn’t always clean.  In fact, it’s messy most of the time.  The best leaders…the best performers, I found, simply embrace that messiness…and make things happen.

The next time you wonder what it takes to be a leader of if someone is a good leader – ask – do they make things happen? It’s easy to talk a big game but to get to the grind and get really intentional (and messy) – that’s where the magic is.

So, are you talking or are you making things happen?

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

A Sunday afternoon in early Spring.  Heads hung low.  One kid is crying…then another.  Like Dominoes.  Blaming each other.  Blaming the ref.  10-1.  Final Score.

I have the privilege of coaching my son’s soccer team.  They are 7 and 8 yr olds.  Young…very impressionable.  We walked off the field a few weeks ago as 10-1 losers.  Down early 2-0, we decided to pack it in.  Lots of pouting, lots of negativity.  2-0 quickly become 5-0 at halftime and I knew during the halftime talk that I lost them.

I don’t usually do this but I called a meeting after the game with both our players and parents. Look, I get that these kids are young, but this was about more than some sport.  This was life stuff.  This was an opportunity masked in adversity.  We wear a slogan on our shirts – “Become Better”.  We talked that day about responding to adversity.  We talked about stepping up when things don’t go our way.  We talked about not pouting and being resilient.  I wasn’t sure how it would resonate.

Fast forward two weeks.  We played the same team, different result.  4-3 loss.  We were in it. There were signs of resilience being born.  The seed was planted….or so I hoped.  One week later, playing the best team in our age group in Columbus – down 4-1….we decided to fight back…we ended up losing 5-3.  Progress…

Over the course of the next few weeks, more of the pouts and sulking turned into grit and focus.  Every game, every practice, it was a constant melody line.  Step up.  Respond.  Control what you can control.  I know – just 7 and 8 – you may be thinking I’m crazy….but, the opportunity to teach was staring me in the face.  These boys are like potter’s clay right now.  We continued to beat the drum.

Three weeks ago.  A sunny Sunday afternoon.  Our third Final in the last two seasons.  We were ready.  We just stepped up in our early morning semi-final and played our best game ever.  We were ready.  The game turned south quickly.  Parents were yelling, refs were yelling – it was, frankly, too much pressure on these young kids.  We were the better team that day in the first half but couldn’t put the ball in the net.  That frustration added on to the intensity of the game turned into a debacle in the second half.  We started to complain again.  We stopped controlling what we could.  The emotion of the game took over.  Result – 3-0 Loss.  The good news – we didn’t totally give up like we did a few weeks back.  Another teaching opportunity…

So, we continued to talk about stepping up….being resilient…our melody line.

Our final tournament was this past weekend.  This would be our last time together as soccer in the US is changing the way the age groups are laid out.  The team, these boys, will be splitting up this Fall.  So, the test was upon us.  How would we perform?

In our two early games, we found ourselves behind.  As I said earlier, our MO had been to pack it in when things weren’t going our way just a few weeks ago.  We found a way to win both of those.  I started to hear some of my players pick each other up.  I could see it in their faces.  Focus, resilience – a beautiful thing to watch.

So, we were on to our Final….and an opportunity to redeem our game from two weeks earlier – we were playing the same team.  Let’s just say the last game didn’t end well.  There were hard fouls and words between coaches and parents.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was actually everything that’s wrong with youth sports.  Thankfully, we were able to work with this team, the refs and the parents, to ensure the atmosphere would be a positive one for both teams.  It was intense, but much more palatable for these kids to have fun and compete.

Five minutes in….my boys our down 0-2.  Familiar territory.  This time, though….no quit.  I even heard one of my players yelling on the field to “keep fighting”.  I felt good about this one.  We indeed battled back…made it 2-1 by halftime.  Tied it up in the second half, then took the lead 3-2.  After conceding a late goal, we went to a Penalty Kick Shoot Out.  It’s a crap shoot in those things and I feel bad for anyone who’s on the losing end.  Our first player missed his, they made.  Not a good start.  Second player (my son, Gabe), makes, their kid misses, so we’re back in it.  Our third and final shooter has to make to send it to Sudden Death Penalty Kicks, where you go one for one. He makes.  Talk about pressure on these kids.  Our 4th and 5th players both scored….so did they. So, it came down player 6…our Goalie makes a save.  Now, it’s down to one of my little guys – I wasn’t even sure if he could get the ball to the goal.  He steps up and buries it.  We win.  The joy on these kids faces…

But…the result didn’t matter.  It really didn’t.  These kids already showed what they were made of.  2-0 down no longer became the cause for panic…the catalyst for blaming each other….for sulking.  2-0 down now becomes the rallying cry.  The opportunity.  The melody line.

I learned a lot of lessons coaching these kids.  It reaffirmed a lot for me on how to handle situations in life and in business.  We all have a choice.  Every day.  The cards may be stacked against us in many ways.  In fact, you should expect from time to time that the cards are indeed stacked against you.  The question though….what are you going to do about it?  Will you see it as an opportunity?

My hope is that these seeds are firmly planted inside these kids.  They see the fruits of their labor. They tasted what it was like to be resilient.  I pray that they will look back on this experience many years from now as they push through whatever it is they’re facing in life.

Success Habits

Success Habits

I had the opportunity recently to dive into the minds of over 35 business executives, entrepreneurs, business developers, key project leads, etc.  My findings were pretty fascinating and I thought I’d share some of this with you.

What started as a small project back in November as I reached out to a few colleagues around what makes them successful, turned into a full-blown research project, where I had the opportunity to spend many hours with very successful people in many lines of business (over 75 hours of research and deep conversation!).

First, for some background.  I work for a tech company, CCC Information Services, out of Chicago in a sales role.  I’m half way through my sixteenth year (I know, who works for anyone for sixteen years anymore??).  It’s a great company.  Very forward thinking, very high performance culture. We’ve averaged approximately 24% yr over yr Return on Equity during this time.  I tell you that not to brag, but to point out that many of the people I talked to work for CCC….and it’s definitely a high performance culture.  The results are there – but I can assure you that everyone goes about their work in a different way.  Some better than others….most have the good and the bad – things they do really well and things they can improve.  One of the objectives was to uncover both and help everyone get a little bit better.

I started the project because I knew I’d be able to learn something from some of my colleagues about what they do on a day to day basis that sets them apart.  I really believe no matter how much success you have or how “good” you are today, if you’re not looking to get better it’s a recipe for disaster.  I say that from experience.  Nine years ago I got a big promotion.  I was 30 yrs old and if I’m being honest – got a little complacent.  I stopped pushing the envelope and thought I had “made it”.  Thankfully, I got a wake up call a few years ago and my mindset is all about continuous growth. Hard lesson, but a great lesson.

Back to my research and some key findings.  I say it was fascinating because I was blown away by the candor and how different people approach things.  I liken the conversations to that picture of the iceberg where all you see is what’s above the water.  You know the one I’m talking about – where you can only see a small piece above and there’s this huge piece below the surface we never see.  This was such a big theme – everyone had so much they did on a day to day basis that they really never thought about.  I found that many never thought about their daily habits and what made them “successful”.  I put that in italics because success is certainly different for everyone.  I can definitely tell you that although important, financial success was rarely the primary factor. In fact, the idea of serving and adding value was a big theme for most.  The best of the best definitely had a contribution mindset that set them apart.  That was cool to see.

I thought I’d list out a few key learnings and the cool part is this has opened up a much larger conversation about how we can all learn from each other.

Three core themes stuck out and they are as follows:

  1. Theme #1 – Mindset – Everyone has challenges in their daily lives.  It was a pervasive theme.  The best of the best have a resiliency to them.  A grit factor, I’ll call it.  They know that things won’t always go their way but they’re focused on moving forward.  Carol Dweck, who wrote the book “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success” refers to two different types of approaches.  One is a Fixed Mindset and the other is a Growth Mindset.  Here’s what Dweck says about Fixed Mindsets – “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”  Here’s what she says about Growth Mindsets – “People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”  Make sense?  We can all get better.  Whatever cards you’re dealt today are simply the hand you are dealt.  You have a choice with how you play that hand.  This is crucial – without this foundation, I’m not sure anything else matters.
  2. Theme #2 – Planning – The best plan their work everyday.  They don’t let the urgency of others own what they do.  They utilize their calendars to schedule important tasks and meetings.  As Stephen Covey said in “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, the best definitely “Begin with the end in mind”.  Abraham Lincoln has a great quote, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Think about that…we often times want to dive into our email or daily grind….but are you really thinking about your work the right way.  The best focus on high impact work and plan their day around that.  Quick tip – Pick your top one-three most important projects for the day.  Write down 1-3 definitive outcomes you aim to achieve today for each….then set a timer for 90 minutes and get to work on those and those only.  Don’t check your phone, don’t go on social media, don’t get lost in email. Focus for 90 minutes on your top three projects.  I promise you that if you can do this on a continuous basis, you will build great momentum and will start to really get some high impact results.
  3. Theme #3 – Fuel – The best fuel for optimal performance.  This means they think like an athlete when they work.  Whether it’s what you put into your body (food/liquid) or how much you sleep, I can assure the best of the best are thinking about this.  In fact, I talked to a very successful CEO who chuckled about the notion of CEO’s pulling all nighters and working 80 hour weeks.  He counted sleep as one of the primary components to his success.  The average amount of sleep per night was about seven hours for these top performers.  There were some that operated on less but I can tell you that their stress level was a lot higher.  When it comes to what you put in your body, if you ever played a sport, did you perform well if you just at a Big Mac and Vanilla Shake before your game?  I think we both know the answer – so, why would you eat a bunch of junk during your work day?  To perform at an optimal level, you MUST think about what you’re fueling your body and mind with.

These are definitely the top three themes that came to the surface but there were a lot more that are important to the daily success.  I can tell you that most woke up early but not all.  I talked to some very successful folks who aren’t early risers…they still do high impact work.  The fun part is that the conversation continues to evolve.  I haven’t written much lately as my focus has been on other projects, but I plan on diving deeper on this topic.

Especially now, with so much coming at us on a moment to moment basis, the habits we build and focus we put into place is essential to achieving any type of result.

I’d love to hear from you.  What’s the one habit/ritual/thing that helps you achieve what you set out to on a daily basis?

Thanks for reading.

Jon

Sometimes you have to struggle…

Sometimes you have to struggle…

There is no Easter without Good Friday.  I read this last night…a blog I follow by a guy named Chet Scott who runs a coaching firm, Built to Lead, in Columbus.  He was talking about prayer and the fact that we typically pray for circumstances to change.  Chet cautions about this – he says that we are in “much deeper need of change” as individuals, not necessarily our circumstances.  The idea – that our struggles are many times a prerequisite to get us to where we want to go.

So, what are you struggling with?

Our pastor talked about the term Paradigm Shift yesterday and how it came into play.  By the way, if you’re wondering what a Paradigm Shift is – here’s the definition – a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.  It’s essentially a complete change in how we look at something.

Back to the struggle.  What if you could change your perspective from looking at your struggle as something that’s holding you back?  What if you could look at your struggle as an opportunity?  I’ve heard people say – use your Adversity to your Advantage.  Pretty solid advice, I believe.

Profound wisdom comes from some odd places and I never knew much about the Comedian Steve Harvey.  Yes, that Steve Harvey who recently botched the Miss America Pageant winner.  Steve’s a guy who struggled with a lot of things in life but he gives a great perspective in this talk about the power of adversity in your life.  Harvey talks about how a seed grows.  He said a seed goes into the ground and doesn’t grow right away.  No, a seed needs a bunch of dirt to be piled on top of it and around it.  At first, nothing happens, the seeds is just surrounded by dirt.  Eventually, though, the rains come and that dirt starts to turn into “soil” and begins to nourish that seed.  Over time, with continued watering and nourishment, that seed will eventually grow and come up out of the ground. Pretty soon, you’ll have a full fledged tree (or whatever seed was planted).  If you want to watch it – here’s the link (it’s about 30 minutes or so).  Harvey’s got a shorter video (about 5 mins) about taking a leap of faith and “jumping”, which talks a lot about the same principles.  Here it is – Jump.

Bottom line, most of the time there is no “success” (whatever that is for you), without some sort of struggle.

It’s almost been a year since one of my best buddies, TJ, passed away.  He was buried last year on Good Friday.  He used to talk about Jesus all the time and it used to make me uncomfortable when we were younger.  Over time, and with a lot of dirt, I began to listen more intently and soak in more of what he was saying.  We lost him too soon, but he left a great legacy….planted some great seeds in many people.  In the last year, I decided to venture in…to really learn about what being a Christian means.

I’ve found that the struggle is often times just the thing we need to move us closer to the promised land.

So, I’ll ask again….what are you struggling with?  Maybe your paradigm shift could be looking at this in a whole new light.

James 1:2-4  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

9 Ways to Leverage Adversity

9 Ways to Leverage Adversity

There I was….21 years later. Speaking to 25 18-22 year olds about some pretty important life lessons. I was speaking to me 21 years ago. Unfortunately, I never got this advice 21 years ago. My goal…my mission…was (and is) to make sure these 18-22 year olds didn’t make the same mistake I did.

The message – Own Your Story. Simple concept….yet so hard to live.

I had the honor of speaking to the Bowling Green Men’s Soccer Team a few weeks ago – my alma mater. I played at BG from 1994-97. We had a great team and for that I’m still really proud. Personally though, I had high expectations for being a key contributor. I let the challenges I was facing on a personal level take over my playing ability. It was a mindset shift – to one of fear. If I had a bad touch in a game, it would snowball. It led to be going from a starting player and key contributor to coming off the bench late in games. I failed at a very personal level. I look back and connect the dots and I see the value in the experience. It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me the ultimate lesson – the sooner we own our story, the better off we are.

I lost my confidence both as an athlete and as a person. I struggled with personal issues and never dealt with them. I buried them and continued to fight through the struggle. It eventually led to me living with chronic pain and severe anxiety. Simply b/c I didn’t deal with the issues at hand.

My wish for these guys (and for really everyone) is to embrace whatever adversity you face, be open about it, OWN IT and don’t get caught up in trying to put on a perfect face for everyone.

So, let’s get practical – how do you own your story? Here are 9 key things I believe will help you face any adversity – and, ultimately, overcome it.

9 WAYS TO LEVERAGE ADVERSITY

1. Declare ownership – there’s power in simply stating that it’s my story, my life, my challenges. Blaming others or situations or the way you were raised….not a recipe for success.
2. Be okay with being imperfect – I think most people have perfectionist qualities – we all want to a great job but being perfect – that’s just not a good way to go about life.
3. Surround yourself with the right influences – This goes for people and things (TV, Social Media, Books, etc.) – it’s like the saying, “If you hang around a barber shop all the time, you’re bound to get a haircut at some point.” Insert bad influence for barber shop…if you hang around people who bring you down – you’ll eventually become a downer. If you watch crappy tv shows all the time, you’ll eventually start to feel crappy.  My friend Scott always references this quote from Jim Rohn which I love – “You’re the avg of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”  Think about that.
4. Control what you can control – One of the things I talked about was The R Factor. There’s a formula – E + R = O – The E stands for Event…the R for Response and the O for outcome. The idea is the one thing you can always control is your R – the Response. No matter what happens, you can always control how you respond. The idea is that you respond “Above the Line” with intention and purpose. If you respond “Below the Line”, this is typically negative and many times our default mindset. Focus 3 is the company that developed this concept….they’ve been working with Ohio State’s football team for the last couple years on incorporating this into their culture. It seems to be working : ) – Read this article for more on how Ohio State is embracing this mindset….and, by the way, Urban Meyer’s (coach of the Buckeyes) book, Above the Line, comes out on 10/27/15.  Here’s a great quote from Brian Kight who is the CEO of Focus 3…

“You can’t stop challenges. The question is, ‘Are you strong enough to step up and respond?'”

5. Be authentic – Stop trying to impress everyone and be someone you’re not. It’s easy to fall into this trap in this era of quick social media posts and selfies. I’m not saying either are bad but be yourself. I heard a quote that goes something like this – “Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” It’s a struggle to “keep up with the Jones’s” when all you see is how great someone’s vacation was or how their family life is (or seems) perfect. I’m a big fan of things like Facebook and Twitter but let’s face it – for the most part people aren’t posting the garbage in their lives.  Keep that in mind the next time you start to feel bad that you’re not living up to your expectations. Speaking of garbage…
6. Take out the trash – I used this metaphor in my talk. We all deal with a lot of stuff and it’s important to “take out your trash” on a consistent basis. What happens if you miss trash day? Your trash can will begin to overflow, it’ll start to smell like some ungodly stuff, you’ll probably get some nasty bugs or something. You get the picture. The more you get stuff off your chest, the better you’ll be. Keep a journal…confide in a close friend if you’re going through something. Don’t internalize everything. Your insides will eventually start to stink : (
7. Make your adversity your advantage – Ever hear of the Hero’s Journey? It’s essentially the premise for every movie out there. Someone goes through life, they face a huge challenge, they overcome that challenge – and become a hero. Why can’t that be you? Everyday we face adversity in some regards. Why not be a hero everyday?
8. Pray – My friend TJ wrote about this in his 39 life lessons before he passed away earlier this year. When in doubt, pray. There’s power in this.
9. Get outside your comfort zone – Owning your story isn’t easy. Facing down fears and challenges is hard. It’ll make you really uncomfortable. There’s beauty in the discomfort though…that’s where growth takes place – on the fringes of comfort.

So, there I was. Speaking to my 18-year old self, but this time to the 25 players that make up the BG soccer team. I know it resonated b/c I know how authentic I was. In fact, my slides didn’t work. I had slides to help with the message, videos to show, etc. The old me, in that victim mindset, probably would’ve crumbled. Responding Above the Line was part of my message. I had no choice but to go with it – to just speak from the heart and tell my story and try to inspire them to live with this mindset. As I said to them, even if it helps one kid in that room, it’s a message worth giving. My goal was to plant a seed b/c I know many of them will face extreme adversity at some point in their lives.

Pain & adversity is inevitable.  The question always is….how are you going to Respond?

I’ve been staying in close touch with Coach Nichols (the BG Head Coach) and he shared with me that he had his players do some research on something that inspires them.  One of their key players sent a video that he watched online about Dreams.  It’s a really motivational 5 or so minute clip.  In that note to Coach Nichols, Alexis wrote about why it was important to him. He talked about struggling in Bowling Green last Spring, being away from family and dealing with pretty dreary weather conditions.  He said, “There are moments in my life where I had to face personal problems.  There are moments in my life where I failed. I could give up, suffer the consequences, or own it as a strength. Some people say “Forget your past, move on”. Now, thanks to my experience and things that I learned, I can definitely say this quote is wrong.  And the meeting with Jon Giganti supported my opinion.”  

I love this and this is why I’m sharing my journey.  If it helps a young up and coming guy like Alexis – if it simply validates his thinking and plants a seed – then I can live with the fear of putting myself out there.

Adversity truly could be your greatest Advantage!

All the best,

Jon

P.S. Here’s another quote from Alexis.  He’s making a decision to live and breathe “Above the Line”.  It’s not easy but it makes all the difference in the world.  I love the first line – “My History is My Strength.”  Profound stuff.

Alexis quote

 

 

Tribute to Scott Dinsmore – Gone but not Forgotten

Tribute to Scott Dinsmore – Gone but not Forgotten

 

Today, I write this with the heaviest of hearts.  Sunday night I was planning my week.  I went through a process that I learned from my friend Scott where I look back at the week before and made a list of my accomplishments.  Then, thought about where I fell short.  That led to planning the week ahead and picking out a few high impact commitments for the week.  To this day, I call this the Dinsmore Review when I’m writing up my task list.

Before I shut down my computer, I checked my email and saw the subject line – “News about Scott”.  It didn’t register at first and then I clicked it open.  It said something about “tragic” news.   I immediately checked Facebook to see if there was anything on there and that’s when the wind was knocked out of me.

Scott Dinsmore died from a tragic accident while climbing Mt Kilimanjaro over the weekend.

No…not Scott…the guy was untouchable.  He was THE ONE.  I mean, he was traveling all over the world the last 9 months to show people what was possible – that, they too, could live w/out regrets and impact the world in a tremendous way.

I mourn for his family and really for the world – it’s a profound loss.

With pain, there is still hope.  And as hard as it is write now, I celebrate his legacy – the world is truly a better place because of Scott Dinsmore.

Man, this is tough.  As many of you have seen over the years in my writing, I reference Scott all the time.  You see, I met Scott five years ago…not in person, but online.  I read a post he wrote on Zen Habits and it resonated with me so much that I reached out to him and hired him to work with me as I was getting started with making an impact via the online world (and beyond).  In fact, I think I may have even been his first “official” coaching client.  For about a year, I had the privilege of talking to Scott on an every other week basis for an hour at a time.  We hit it off right away.  And, I was blown away by his passion and his willingness to help.  He exuded humility and had a zest for life that was so contagious.  How could you be that cool, that good-looking, that intelligent and still have a way about you that was all about serving others?  It almost didn’t seem real – this dude was so All In on adding value to others that I would get off the phone and just be rearing to go trying to figure out my path.  I was fortunate to have many conversations with him as his old blog, Reading for your Success, was turning into his new REVOLUTION, Live Your Legend.  It wasn’t about money for him…it was about impact.

I’ll never forget we were having a drink at World Domination Summit a couple years ago and I was talking about how my blog subscriber growth had stagnated.  He looked me in the eye and said something to the extent of – “You’re looking at the wrong metric dude.  Look at the impact you’re making.”  You see, I had just partnered up with my friend Adam, which I’ve written about many times and we were in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign to raise money for his book launch.  It was a conversation I remember so vividly.  That was Scott.  He would build you up.  His primary driver was impact.   And, look what he’s done.

I’ve been at a loss of words the last few days and haven’t written anything but I’ve been reading a lot of tributes about Scott.  What blows my mind is the number of people who have never met him, yet, he’s changed their lives…changed the course of their lives!  Talk about impact.  That’s what he wanted…he wanted to see the best in others….to pull out the greatness that’s inside every person in this world.  He really believed everyone has something – some special ability that they can share with the entire world.  And….that’s the truth.  What if everyone single person in the world found out what their unique greatness is…and went all in….ALL IN!  Could you imagine?

Scott always referenced a quote by Jim Rohn – “You’re the avg of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”  I heard it from him….and I use it all the time when I talk to groups or in one on one conversations.  Scott always said “Environment is everything.”   Surround yourself with game-changers…world-changers…and magic happens.  Live Your Legend happens.  I remember him returning from a fishing trip to Patagonia with his dad and he talked about reading The Alchemist again.  He was going to name his movement something like Epic Life….and coming back from that trip he had the name – Live Your Legend.   The Alchemist talks about Living your own personal legend….it talks about every single person having a personal legend – that’s it – that’s our unique greatness…that’s the one thing that makes you different….and special.

Every week for the last 5 years, I’ve looked forward to reading his articles.  Talk about commitment to the cause – I’m not sure if he ever missed a week.  And, he was all about adding value….he wanted his writing to stand the test of time.  I know it will.  I used to ask him about when he was going to write his best-selling, world-changing book….he would get that grin and chuckle and say something about not being ready yet.  I knew it was coming at some point…and I know that his writing on Live Your Legend has to be put into some sort of book form….there’s just too much wisdom, passion and value to not have it immortalized.

And, his TED talk a couple years ago…now seen by almost 3 million people….all about finding your passion and doing work you love…which, by the way, is about to be on the main TED site soon.  I see this talk living on for many years to come.  I will show it to my kids when they’re old enough to understand it and I will recommend it to all the high school and college kids I talk to.  The best part of this talk is the rawness of it….it’s passion personified….I’ve even watched it with no sound and you can just feel his energy.  I know he was a last minute fill in for the event and he prepped his ass off, going over his talk many times, with his wife Chelsea as his audience.  I know that if he had months to prepare it never would’ve been as good.  He rose to the occasion and delivered a walk off home run.  I get chills as a write about it.  And…I will watch it often.

And, when we would be in our coaching calls, we would talk a lot about my career in sales and wanting to make more of an impact.  He never pushed me to quit my job….it was all about finding ways to make an impact regardless of your situation.  And, that rings so true today.  You can make a difference.  You can do some amazing things regardless of where you are in life.  A simple smile and asking someone how their day is can change the trajectory of that person’s life.  Kindness, as Scott says, can do wonders.  He loved referencing Ghandi and always talked about a song he loved – Be the change that you want to be.  It wasn’t lip service.  He lived it.  He breathed it.

That’s it.  Be the change that you want to be.  We can all make a difference.  It’s not about being some A list blogger or big TED speaker or NY Times Bestselling author….it’s about starting from where you are.  And…a commitment to do something to put your dent in the world.   Maybe it’s writing a hand-written note to someone thanking them…maybe it’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in some time just to check in….or maybe it’s picking up the phone and just calling for no reason.  There’s so much we can do every day to make a difference.  Be the change that you want to be.

This is a profound loss no doubt.  Scott’s impact was just beginning, I’m sure of it.  He was just scratching the surface. It’s our duty to live our own personal legends.  That’s what will keep his impact going.  His revolution.  His movement.  His community.  He, by the way, never said “my” TED talk…or “my” community.  It was always “our” TED talk or “our” community.  There’s such humility and brilliance in that.

I miss you already Scott.  Your legend and your light will shine brightly for so, so many years to come.

I ask that you all keep Scott’s wife, Chelsea, and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

And, I challenge you to stop playing small in the world.  Do something that matters.  Find your own personal legend….it’s in there…you just have to keep looking.

God bless.

Jon

If you want to learn more about Scott & Live Your Legend, here are some great starting points.  Be warned – your life will never be the same.

His TEDx Talk on doing passionate work just went live on the main TED site with almost 3M views.

  1. The Live Your Legend Website
  2. Good Life Project Interview with Jonathan Fields – This is a great interview by one of the best interviewers out there – Jonathan Fields.  These two were close friends and Jonathan was a great mentor to Scott.
  3. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits tribute to Scott
  4. Corbett Barr’s tribute to Scott
  5. Jonathan Mead’s tribute to Scott
  6. Kyle Wood’s tribute and 30 Scott Dinsmore quotes
  7. Tribute to Scott on Live Your Legend
  8. And, finally, here is the creed Scott created for the community at Live Your Legend

The-Creed-of-Living-Legends

 

The Obstacle is the Way

The Obstacle is the Way

So, Gabe, my seven year old, and I are driving Sunday night and I asked him what the coolest thing he learned last week in camp was.  He said, “to face my fears.”

I love that my seven year old is learning this.  And not only was told this but got to see it in action. He was at a local camp called Seven Summits recently, which is an outdoor-based camp, with a series of obstacles like climbing, zip lining, kayaking, etc.  It’s focus is to help kids with confidence, team-building and facing their fears.  They do a bunch of events for companies and sports teams too.  Now, I want to go!

So, it was a simple question…and a simple, yet profound, answer.  He said he climbed a 60 foot wall and it took him an hour to do it.  He said he was “creeped out” at first (I love the words kids use to describe stuff).  I asked him what made him finish it and get to the top and he simply said he wanted to.

There’s something magical that happens when we face our fears.  When we take action instead of being paralyzed by our insecurities, there is bound to be something good that comes of it.  Being stuck or standing still is never a good place.  Taking action, continuing to push forward….just getting up when you’ve been knocked down, now that’s powerful.

Each kid got a nickname at the end of camp and Gabe’s was “Smooth” – not sure why, but the kid loves to wear his sunglasses (or keep them on top of his head) so I’m guessing that had something to do with it : )

FullSizeRender (7)I’m super proud of this kid.  He learned maybe life’s most valuable lesson.  I pray and hope that he continues to learn more about this but the stage is set for him.  He’s seen firsthand how overcoming fears and obstacles can lead to some amazing things.

I recently had a deal come it at work.  A lot of people played a big part in bringing it home.  As a thank you, I’m giving all of the key players a book I’ve read multiple times in the last year – The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.  It’s helped immensely in overcoming challenges at work and in life.  I would venture to even call it a life-changing book – I highly recommend reading it.

I thought I’d share some quotes from the book that resonated with me.  I hope they add value to your life and if you’re going through a challenge…or when you do….that you can use perspective like this to keep pressing on.

“Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity. Where one loses control of emotions, another can remain calm. Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness—these reactions are functions of our perceptions. You must realize: Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.”
― Ryan HolidayThe Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage
“Knowing that life is a marathon and not a sprint is important. Conserve your energy. Understand that each battle is only one of many and that you can use it to make the next one easier. More important, you must keep them all in real perspective. Passing one obstacle simply says you’re worthy of more. The world seems to keep throwing them at you once it knows you can take it. Which is good, because we get better with every attempt. Never rattled. Never frantic. Always hustling and acting with creativity. Never anything but deliberate. Never attempting to do the impossible—but everything up to that line. Simply flipping the obstacles that life throws at you by improving in spite of them, because of them. And therefore no longer afraid. But excited, cheerful, and eagerly anticipating the next round.”
― Ryan HolidayThe Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/47476117@N04/7568953596″>What’s next?</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

“But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

 

So, there we were.  In the air, Michelle is upset b/c we’re leaving our three little ones to trek across the country for a couple days on the West Coast.  Headphones in, eyes transfixed on the ipad screen.  She let me choose the movie.  You’d think I was smarter and would have chosen a comedy to lift her spirits.  She was really nervous about leaving the kids…especially since Emerson, our youngest, was only 16 months old – and, still nursing.  Again, I got to choose the movie.

Tears started rolling down our faces early on and they didn’t seem to stop for the entire 2 hours.  I think the lady sitting next to us thought we were crazy : )  Michelle still tells the story today and laughs about my choice.  I mean who in their right mind would choose A Fault in our Stars, a movie about two teens who are fighting cancer, when their wife is freaking out about leaving her kids?  I laugh about it…we both do.

So, the truth is, I didn’t realize how dramatic the movie would be.  Not my fault, right?  If you’ve never seen the movie, I highly, highly recommend it.  Here’s the IMDB Page (the book is by John Green).

The story is about two teenagers (Augustus and Hazel Grace), who meet at a cancer support group.  It’s a love story and a story of their epic battle with cancer.  I won’t ruin it for you, if you haven’t seen it, but it’s a profound movie.  It’s a tale about the power of love and the power of pain.  And, sometimes it’s the pain that leads to the love.

I’m writing this b/c I feel like there are some key messages in the story.  It resonated with me so greatly.  And, I think it planted seeds for me to open up about my challenges with anxiety & depression (add link to post).  In the story, Augustus – a 17-year old who lost a leg to cancer and continued his battle, keeps an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

“It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”

 

I love this.  It’s something we all can benefit from.  It really helped propel me to share my story.  To open up about not being as perfect as meets the eye.  That “killing” is just a stroke of a match away.  But, Augustus keeps it in his mouth…as a reminder of his strength.  It’s staring fear in the face.  It’s bringing whatever is holding you back to the forefront.  It’s awareness.  It’s not running from the shit storms life can throw at you.  It’s a profound message.  You acknowledge the struggle, but you don’t give it power.  This resonated with me greatly and I thought it might benefit others – that’s why I’m writing this post today.

The story is one that will grip your heart.  It’s a love story, but it’s also a story about pain…about the inevitability of sadness and hurt in our lives.  But, that doesn’t have to be the whole story.  You see, we all have a choice.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

 

We all have a choice to decide if our hurts define us…or if our hurts can be a fork in the road…and potentially lead to our healing if we embrace them.  As the title says, there is fault in our stars, but the truth is there is fault in ourselves.  The more we embrace these faults, the better off we’ll be.

There’s a quote in the story where Hazel is thinking about her swing set.  She was reflecting on her childhood and a time when she was healthy…and felt safe.  Her swing set reminded her of her childhood.

“One swing set, well worn but structurally sound, seeks new home. Make memories with your kid or kids so that someday he or she or they will look into the backyard and feel the ache of sentimentality as desperately as I did this afternoon. It’s all fragile and fleeting, dear reader, but with this swing set, your child(ren) will be introduced to the ups and downs of human life gently and safely, and may also learn the most important lesson of all: No matter how hard you kick, no matter how high you get, you can’t go all the way around.”

 

The message here is about our desire to have things the way they were…to try and “go all the way around” and back to a time in our life where everything fit into a nice little box…and was perfect.  There’s beauty in that innocence, yes.  But, you just can’t always go back to the way things were.  Life is hard.  But, there’s hope…if you can just change your mindset.  Sometimes you’re dealt a bad hand, sometimes life grabs you by the throat, but the true test is how you respond.  I’m learning to choose to respond “Above the Line”, to walk the talk so to speak.  What about you?

So, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I highly recommend doing one or the other.  Just make sure you have a tissue box nearby : )

God Bless,

Jon

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

More Thoughts on Dealing with Adversity (and 10 lessons learned from my journey)

More Thoughts on Dealing with Adversity (and 10 lessons learned from my journey)

Courage

 

Hello from the air….Air travel – I’m always fascinated by it.  I write from 10,000 feet (or whatever it is).  For some reason, flying brings out a lot of creativity for me.  I think it’s the disconnection, although I did buy the wifi to send a few emails for work, etc.

I’ve heard from many people about my post earlier this week about embracing adversity.  I think the overwhelming sentiment is that it was encouraging to hear, refreshing to hear.  For that, I’m eternally grateful.  Your words mean more than you know. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I know I haven’t written a lot in the last year so please forgive me for posting a bit more than I have been : )

By all accounts, at least surface accounts, you would call me successful.  If we were in a room together, you might even call me an extrovert, maybe even the life of the party.  I  don’t say that to brag or anything like that.  I say that to emphasize that a smile or a joke can simply be a cover.  I’m not saying I’ve always been miserable….there’s been plenty of happy and amazing times.  But, there’s always been a chronic underlying feeling of, shall I say – despair?  Not sure that’s the right word but I do know that not being real and not dealing with the “crap” of life is a slippery slope.

As I said before, we’re taught at an early age to keep everything in.  To deal with things and be strong.  I get it.  I’m not saying we all need to go unfiltered and shout to the world our deepest thoughts or issues.  That’s not it at all.  But, we do need to assess when we need a helping hand or someone to talk to.  Maybe it’s writing…maybe it’s prayer.  Something to allow for an outlet…otherwise, we internalize and things get pent up.

Think about garbage day.  Each week you probably go through a ritual where you take out your trash.  For us, it’s every Thursday.  It’s a ritual that morning if I’m in town to go throughout the house, gather all the trash and recyclables and fill up our brown and green trash bins.  We take the stroll around the kids toys and bikes in our garage, out to the driveway and down to the end.  The trash company comes later that day and picks it up.  We go out that night and bring the trash bins back in, empty.

Think about your life this way.  What if you were able to take out the trash each week?  To cleanse yourself of any destructive feelings or habits.

Again, maybe it’s just keeping a grateful journey and writing each week.  Maybe it’s coffee with a best friend.  Maybe it’s talking through things with your significant other.  The important thing is to have an outlet.

My outlet used to be sports as a kid.  Academics as well.  That turned into drugs and alcohol, then to work, even to gambling (albeit not big bets but a distraction from reality, nonetheless).

My dad was going through some stuff when I was a kid.  I think I was 10.  My dad was in the hospital and our school guidance counselor called me into the office.  She asked me how I was doing.  I think I just shrugged my shoulders and said “great”.  She asked about my grades and I think I said I was getting straight A’s or something like that.  So, it began…internalize and find ways to compensate.  That’s the earliest recollection I had to masking any feelings.

This was subtle of course, but over time, and as adversity and pain increases, this habit of keeping things in is a recipe for disaster.

I love my parents dearly.  They are both amazing people.  They didn’t have the best relationship when I was growing up.  In fact, their relationship ended with my mom and dad getting into a bad argument and the police showing up.  My dad spent the night in jail…nothing physical happened but it was close enough.  I know they loved each other but they just couldn’t co-exist anymore.

Instead of dealing with this, I took the road of not addressing how I was feeling.  I didn’t feel worthy b/c after all, it wasn’t me that was going through it.  It was them.  Again, recipe for disaster.

So, why do I tell you all this?  Well, I think I’m trying to be transparent b/c I know there’s probably something or someone going through tough times…and they need to know that it’s okay to feel pain.  In fact, it’s a necessity.

One of my friends and mentors, Kary Oberbrunner, talks about this a lot.  He says that we need to embrace Acute Pain in order to extinguish Chronic Pain.  One of the most influential books I’ve read, in fact, was The Deeper Path, which Kary wrote.  In order to free yourself from a lifetime of pain, you need to dig deep and uncover the root cause – not just the symptom. Essentially, it’s being authentic…it’s being vulnerable…and, overall, being courageous.

There’s tremendous bravery in vulnerability.  I never knew that but I’m learning more and more everyday.

So, what can you do?  There’s got to be some action steps right? : )

Here are some things I wish I embraced more and have learned are crucial in the process:

 

  1. Be real with yourself.  Don’t hide from your feelings.  Own your story.  It’s really the only way.
  2. Write – Forget about what you’re writing, just write.  Get your thoughts out.  This is cleansing.  It will bring clarity.
  3. Start a grateful journal – Just write 1-3 things a day you’re grateful for.  This can be as basic as the air we breathe or the smile on your child’s face.  This will build a positive mindset ritual.  It’s a great way to start or end your day
  4. Pray – For me, I’m learning more and more each day to seek God.  I find power in praying for others and praying with others, especially my wife and kids.
  5. Know that it’s never too late – There’s always time.  There’s always a way out.  No matter how painful your experience is, know this.  As the guys at Focus 3 talk about – it’s not about the Event, it’s always about the Response.  You always have an opportunity to change your response.
  6. Find someone you trust and confide in them – When I started to do this, to actually start to open up and let people in, things started to change.  It just took a while to get to that point.  Just one person.  That’s all it takes to get the ball rolling.
  7. Seek professional help – There’s absolutely no shame in this.  I used to think differently and that was my biggest mistake.  A good therapist is just like a coach or a good friend, except they’re well versed in dealing with these kind of things.
  8. Get Moving – Break a sweat…go for a walk, a run, whatever…it will help you think clearly.
  9. Perfection is a myth – Everyone has issues.  The universal emotion we all experience is pain.  As Kary wrote about in The Deeper Path, we start our lives experiencing pain (at birth) and we end our lives typically in some sort of pain.  It’s something we all feel.
  10. Learn to embrace your adversity – I’ve heard the saying Use your adversity to your advantage (I think from Darren Hardy).  What if you changed your mindset?  And, actually leveraged your adversity to help yourself or others.  That’s powerful – a complete paradigm shift!

Don’t wait.  If you’re going through something or know someone who is, the time is now.  Right now.  Life is too short.  I believe we are all put on this Earth to leave a lasting legacy and do something amazing.  Each and every one of us.  Not being authentic equates to playing small in this world.  We aren’t meant to play it small.

I hope this transparency helps you or someone you know.  I realize this is putting myself very out there.  I’m okay with that.  I’ll take the bad with the good and if just one life is enhanced b/c of this, it’s all worth it.

Thanks for reading.  I’ve kind of decided to post things somewhat unfiltered.  It’s part of the overcoming of my perfectionist tendencies : )  Sorry if I’ve jumped around a bit!

Jon

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the see of an equal or greater benefit.”  – Napoleon Hill

Embracing Adversity (The Ultimate Lesson)

Embracing Adversity (The Ultimate Lesson)

Own My Story

I guess the old adage is true.  As we age, we become wiser.  Or, maybe it’s that we learn to let go of the pride we learned to blanket ourselves with at such an early age.

We’re taught, especially the guys, to keep our feelings internalized.  To keep your chin up….to never let them see you sweat.

Failure is bad.  Second is simply the first loser.  This is what is tattooed on our psyche at an early age.

The fact is, the world isn’t getting any easier.  We live in a non-stop world of one upmanship (is that a word?  Maybe not : ).

Look at my perfect life.  This is many times the default response.

What if the truth is that perfection is a myth and pride is the wrong way to approach anything?

What if we all decided to be real?  To look our fears in the face….to punch our fears in the face?

My name is Jon…most of you know me in some capacity…whether you’ve read anything I’ve written or we know each other more intimately.  It’s nice to meet you.  You may ask, why are you introducing yourself?  Well, if I’m being honest, I’ve let pride and a never-ending quest for perfection keep me from being real.

You see, I’m as imperfect as they come.  So, I guess I’m re-introducing myself to you : )

If you look at me from the outside, it looks like I have it all together.  A healthy family, 3 kids, a dog, a great job, a nice house, nice car….etc., etc.  What if I told you that I struggle?

And, even more, what if I told you that I know a lot of you struggle?  My friend Kary talks about the universal emotion that everyone experiences…do you know what that is?  Most you probably think – Love….maybe joy.  What if I told you the universal emotion we all experience….is Pain.  Pain.  Hurt.  We all hurt in some way.  Maybe you’re not going through something now, but if you look deep inside, I imagine you all have experienced pain in some profound way.

What if we changed our perception of this pain?  Is it possible to embrace our pain…to embrace our struggles.

I believe the answer is a firm YES.  And, it’s taken me a long time to realize that.

I grew up with a charmed life.  I was good at a lot – sports, academics, etc.  But, that also brought about a desire to be…well, perfect.  And, when failure came, I had no idea how to handle it.

If my parents had issues (they eventually divorced)….it wasn’t let’s face it and talk about it…it was, let’s internalize it and go find success in another channel like athletics.  Then, when adversity hits, like maybe not living up to my potential in my athletic career (that’s short for getting benched at one point on my college soccer team)…I become a failure in everything else.  At least this was the story I started to tell myself.

Then, the snowball effect takes place…and instead of dealing with struggles, I internalized everything.  Well, except for my therapists throughout the years.

For the last 20 years, I’ve struggled.  If you know me and hang with me, you probably have no idea.  In fact, you’d probably be very surprised.  The truth is – I’m really freaking good at compartmentalizing things.  I know b/c my therapist and I talk about this now : )

My hope is that we all learn to own our stories.  I say this b/c I know that in the last year I’ve finally taken significant steps toward owning it.  It’s small steps…and putting this out more publicly is part of that process.  But, I think that by me owning this…I’m hoping that it gives others the hope that being real and embracing life’s struggles may be the key to overcoming them.  After all, the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6) – Daniel’s faith and his EMBRACING of the lions (that could have taken his life at any moment)…that’s what got him through it.  In fact, there are some accounts that say Daniel pet the lions and the lions were purring.  What if we looked our struggles in the face and accepted them…pet them…and take on the mindset of – this is part of me now. I have a choice…we all have a choice.

In the last four years, I’ve lost a pretty close friend to suicide and another close friend’s wife for the same reason.  I can’t fathom the pain they were going through.  I do know that they were probably too proud….too perfect….to just accept their situations and their frailty….and to seek help.

Today, I tell you about my struggles with anxiety and depression, not for you to feel sorry for me.  And, not for me to feel better about myself.  I tell you b/c I know that so many go through some type of pain….and so many of us feel like we can’t let our guard down and show our weakness.

But, I’m learning that in our openness…in our “being ok” with our weakness…well, this actually produces a strength – maybe a strength we’ve never imagined.

I’m a Christian…yet, I never really have been an ultra believer.  It wasn’t until the last year, where I’ve been accepting my circumstances, that I’ve felt a real connection to my faith.  It’s true – in the well, that’s where the power is.  Don’t forget that. No matter what you may be going through.  As I said at my friend TJ’s funeral in March, where there’s pain, there’s hope.  Where there’s death, there’s life.  Sometimes we have to kill our old selves off, to experience a rebirth of what we’re really meant to be…to do…to stand for…to live for.  Maybe that’s the secret to life.

Last July, I had the opportunity to speak on stage at an event called the World Domination Summit.  I stood before 2,500 world-changers and talked about a project I worked on with my friend Adam.  You can learn more about that project here, but I’ll give you the summary.  Adam lives at Creative Living, a non-profit I serve on the board of.  Creative Living provides independent living for the physically disabled.  We have a 24/7 Resident Assistant on-site to help with things most of us take for granted – like picking up something we dropped or getting a glass of water.  Adam’s story resonated with me greatly.  He struggled with depression and drug abuse, which led to his accident.  He was also a very successful athlete.  We partnered together and raised almost $10,000 for him to get an editor and publish his book.  I didn’t realize it at the time but Adam was put into my life to make me realize that being real, being authentic, was the true path to happiness.  He always had a smile on his face and was very up front with his mistakes, his struggles and his determination to make good on his life, despite his circumstances.  It’s funny b/c Adam would probably tell you that I helped him a lot (and am maybe even a mentor).  The truth is that, and I didn’t realize at the time, but Adam was teaching me this whole time.  Maybe that’s why his story resonated with me so much.  He’s living the Hero’s Journey.

I talked about our project on stage and was blessed to hear the sounds of 2,500 people applauding Adam’s accomplishment. But, something didn’t feel right.  With that success and that experience, I felt an emptiness like I had never felt before.  Here I was being a Catalyst for someone else….and, yet, I wasn’t being a Catalyst for myself.  I felt an overwhelming sense of not being congruent at that moment and for months after.  I knew the answer was being more authentic.  But, it takes some time to put it out there.

Little by little things started to happen….and, by the way, this continues to be a major work in progress.  Being more real with Michelle, my wife.  Dealing with struggles, with imperfections, has opened the door to a more powerful relationship.

You see, when you’re not real with what you’re going through, you start to mask everything.  You start to despise failure and failure begins to creep up on you.

Over time, my work product suffered.  9 years ago, at 30, I was on top of my career.  I was the up and coming sales rep – just got a big promotion.  But, that was short-lived as my insecurities would eventually take over.  Little failures here and there (and there are many in a sales career), and my old ways of striving for perfection and falling short came crawling back.  This led to doubt….and doubting yourself is a recipe for disaster.  I love to speak publicly, always have.  But, there was a time when I couldn’t speak with confidence.  In fact, there was a time that I had panic attacks even in basic sales presentations.  I was able to mask them pretty damn well, but on one fateful day, I had one during an internal meeting where I was presenting.  And, had to fake a headache to get “off stage”.  It was embarrassing to say the least.  Here I was, someone who loved to speak and who’s bread and butter was talking and presenting….and, I could barely get up in front of people.  Looking back, this was all a symptom of a larger issue.  This issue of not being authentic…not embracing my challenges, not opening up about constant anxiety and depression.

Look, there are so many things I look back on over the years and question.  Part of me feels really bad that I’ve been writing on The Catalyst Project for the last few years when, in fact, I’ve been the one who probably needs the most help : ) I’ve been thinking about being more public with these struggles for a long time.  I know that keeping things in caused a lot of harm to me and the moment I started opening up more, my world began to change.

My hope is that this gives you hope.  My hope is that we all stop looking at people on the outside and think they have it all together.  I know it’s difficult in this social media world we live in.  I’m a fan of social media by the way…it has many amazing things and keeps us all connected.  It does, however, provide a platform where we only show our surface areas…our smiling faces and amazing vacations.  My fear is that our younger generation is growing up on social media and ONLY seeing the positive side of everyone’s lives.  I know it’s a big challenge in our community and I’m sure many of yours.  The truth is that almost everyone, if not every single person, has stuff they deal with that is ugly.  And, I truly believe that if we can all embrace this ugliness a little bit more and not run from it, we’ll all be better off.

So, I guess this post is somewhat a call to arms.  For me, for you, for all of us.  It’s very easy to hide behind the curtains of pride.  But, I think it’s time we start to live a more authentic, congruent life that we’re meant to live.  Life will kick you upside the head.  If we embody a sense of faith, a sense of hope, and a sense of being okay with the mess…maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to live a life we were meant to live.

My big advice is to not take things at face value.  There may be someone out there that can find benefit in your authenticity. And, someone out there who may just need your shoulder to cry on…or your ear to talk to.

I’m continuing to own my story.  It’s a work in progress.  It won’t always be pretty, but I’m embracing that.

What about you?  I’d love to hear more about your story.  Don’t hesitate to reach out.  Maybe there’s power in all of us telling our stories….our true, authentic stories.  It’s not too late…it’s never too late…to write a new story.

God bless,

Jon