3 Powerful Lessons from 5 Years of Blogging

Five Years of Blogging

It was five years ago when I launched this blog, Leadership Insights.

At the time, I had several people encouraging me to do it, but many more were against it.

 


“Success is the pull against the current of mediocrity.” -Skip Prichard

 

Overcome Negative Voices

The list of negative sentiments kept coming at me:

  • The blogging craze is over.
  • It’s too hard to start now.
  • Starting is easy, getting anyone to read a blog is difficult.
  • Do you have the time?
  • Are you going to burn out?
  • Why do you want to share all of this for free?
  • You want to do this without a business model?
  • The technical side of it is more challenging than you know.
  • How long can you keep this up?
  • What’s the best way to promote a new blog?
  • You just joined Twitter a month ago. Learn that before doing something bigger.

I’ve now been blogging for five years. After millions of hits, you’d think the naysayers would stop. Maybe they’ve been silenced a bit, but every now and then I hear something that reminds me that success is the pull against the current of mediocrity. Somehow my brain uses negativity and difficulty as fuel to propel me higher. Truth be told, it’s not others who may cause me to pause. It’s my own thoughts. I think negative thoughts from inside us are the worst offenders because it’s much harder to tune out the voice within.

 


“Believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.” -Charles Glassman

 

Stay the Course

And, yes, I’ve often asked myself whether I should continue, whether it matters, and whether I will keep blogging. I’ve never promised that I wouldn’t quit, but instead I just plod along, writing the next post, interviewing another author, sharing a story that uplifts or a quote that inspires. Discipline wears down any obstacle in the way water seeks its own level. Often the biggest successes come after powering through the most challenging times.

 


“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” -Vince Lombardi

 

There are many things that I’ve learned in my five years of blogging:

  • How to focus on the reader
  • How to write faster
  • How to ignore critics
  • How to write better headlines
  • How to utilize a good outline
  • How to write more succinctly

Understand that People Are Most Important

Winners Give Just A Little Bit More

Olympics

Expend Just A Little More Effort

The Olympics offers us innumerable lessons on leadership and winning.

Watching some of my favorite competitions, I am once again reminded of the razor-thin margins that separate the top from the bottom.

 

“A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” –George Augustus Moore

 

In many events, the difference between the treasured gold medal and not placing at all is nearly undetectable. A first-place finish often can be measured only by going out into the hundredth of a second. Many of us remember watching Michael Phelps win his 7th Gold medal by a finger tip. Without the power of technology, and slow motion replays, it can be questionable who won an event.

 

“You become a champion by fighting one more round.” –James Corbett

 

That fraction of a second reminds me of how winners often give just a little bit more:

  • The bodybuilder who performs just 1 more rep every practice
  • The swimmer who practices by pushing just 1 more lap
  • The sales person who wins makes just 1 more call
  • The football player who spends just 1 extra minute at practice
  • The leader who writes just 1 more thank-you note
  • The friend who pens 1 note of encouragement
  • The writer who writes 1 more page
  • The student who reads just 1 more chapter
  • The runner who pushes 1 more mile
  • The coach who coaxes her team to 1 more victory

 

Disciplined activity is what moves us into the direction of success.

 

“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” –Thomas Edison

 

+1 Your Day Today

Consistently giving +1 to our goals is often what creates the winning edge.

Find Your Balance Point

Find Your Balance Point

Clarify Your Priorities

 

Are you experiencing the highest level of clarity and confidence possible to pursue your goals? 

Do you feel inspired and fully engaged?

Does your life feel like it is in perfect harmony?

 

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” –Brian Tracy

 

Most of us experience times when we feel like we are on top of our game and other times when we need to rebalance our priorities. How can we consistently stay in the place that works for us?

For many years, I have been a fan of Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top speakers with audiences exceeding 250,000 people each year. He is the author of over fifty books, including the bestselling Psychology of Achievement, which remains one of the top resources for personal development. His daughter Christina Stein is a speaker, author, and psychotherapist who focuses on work-life balance and female empowerment. The father-daughter duo teamed up to write Find Your Balance Point: Clarify Your Priorities, Simplify Your Life, and Achieve More. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Christina about their new work.

 

“True happiness is about serving others.” –Christina Stein

 

How to Achieve True Balance

What is a balance point?

We are all unique individuals with our own values, vision, purpose, and goals. Each one of us has a different way of achieving true balance. Each person experiences true balance when he or she is operating at their own unique balance point. Your balance point is a state of alignment that you experience when your actions and efforts are a true reflection of your values. It is from your balance point that you experience the highest level of clarity, commitment, strength, and confidence to pursue your ambitions, both personally and professionally.Christina Stein

You want your efforts to have power, strength and meaning. In order to move forward with focus and intention you need be sure footed and feel grounded and balanced. In martial arts before you throw a punch you get into the ready stance so you know you are at optimum grounding to have the most power and resistance. Your balance point is your own unique ready stance for life.

 

You say we can achieve a false balance. What is this? How do we recognize it?

False balance is incongruence with your actions and your values. There are a couple ways to recognize when you are experiencing false balance:

  1. You feel a little knot in your stomach all the time, and you’ve become so accustomed to this feeling that you think its normal.
  1. At the end of a busy day you sit down and feel as though you spent the whole day doing things and yet accomplished nothing.
  1. You are constantly feeling guilty about what you are doing and think you should be doing something else.
  1. Nothing inspires you. Your life is monotonous and boring, every day rolls into the next and few things hold meaning for you.

When you are experiencing false balance you may do things to try and feel better, things associated with feeling good and aimed at achieving balance, but it is not a one size fits all. Things bring balance to us because they address a specific need, and unless you identify what you need you cannot successfully identify the solution.

 

“Your values lie at the core of your character.” –Tracy / Stein

 

Put Your Own Happiness First

7 Disciplines of A Leader

Positive reinforcement word Discipline engrained in a rock

How to Help Your People, Team, and Organization Achieve

In the Seven Disciplines of a Leader, Jeff Wolf explores what leadership looks like when done right. Jeff has coached hundreds of leaders and offers his disciplines in order to benefit leaders at all levels of the organization.  I recently talked with Jeff about the leadership disciplines discussed in his book.

 

“Companies place the wrong leadership in the job 82 percent of the time.” –Forbes

 

How to Get Noticed

What advice do you give to someone who wants to stand out and get noticed as a leader in a large organization?

Learn what your company looks for in its leaders. See if there’s a competency model that identifies successful leaders’ strengths and characteristics. Study this model and be sure to practice the competencies. If no such model exists, seek out successful company leaders and talk with them to gain a better understanding of how they became successful.

You should also volunteer to lead small projects, which will provide useful leadership experiences and exposure. You’ll gain confidence and enhance the skill sets that are weak.

Always be curious. Seek new opportunities and experiences, and always be open to trying something out of your normal comfort zone.

I would encourage budding and aspiring leaders to create a plan, put it in writing, and then “work it.” Research proves that people who put their goals in writing are usually more successful.

Read as many books and attend as many training courses as possible, both within and outside of the company. Vary courses so you can experience a broad spectrum of leadership skills.

 

“A leader’s upbeat attitude is contagious and lifts morale.” -Jeff Wolf

 

There’s another important challenge to overcome: Learn the areas in which you must improve because we all have blind spots. We see some of our weaknesses, but it’s truly impossible to identify all of them.

It’s important for leaders to be positive and have a great attitude because they can either impart or sap energy. A leader’s upbeat attitude becomes contagious, lifting the morale of those around them. You can always teach skills, but you cannot always teach people how to be positive; they either have a great attitude or they don’t.

Be sure you are striving to work well with others and be aware how other people view you. When you stand up to speak in front of a group, do you exude confidence, present articulate, clear messages, and carry yourself well?

 

Coaching for Success

What is the most common reason someone calls you for coaching?

Coaching used to be thought of as a tool to help correct underperformance or, as I often call it, the “broken wing theory.” Today, coaching is used to support leaders, employees with high potential, and top producers in an effort to enhance individual capabilities.

We work in such a high-speed environment! Organizations are finally beginning to recognize the importance of helping leaders achieve critical business objectives in the shortest possible time, so they’re hiring me to speed personnel development.

I’m often brought into organizations to deal with a number of leadership issues. Providing feedback is one key area. As leaders move into greater levels of responsibility, they receive less—perhaps even no—feedback from others on their performance. The unfortunate consequence is stagnation. Critical leadership and interpersonal skills often reach certain levels, and the leader is given no opportunity to become an even better leader. Working one-on-one with an objective third-party coach offers these leaders a trusted advisor who can focus on behavioral changes that organizations are ill equipped to handle. Coaching develops extraordinary leaders. Extraordinary leaders produce extraordinary business results.

 

Have a Quick Impact as a New Leader

If you are a new manager, what are a few ways to have a quick impact?

Leadership is not rocket science. It comes down to living and leading by the golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.1119003954

People make companies. As leaders, we often spend most of our time on strategy and improving bottom-line results, but what about our people? It’s our job, as leaders, to guide them, help them develop more skills, and increase productivity.

I think Walt Disney put it perfectly: “You can dream, create and design the most wonderful place in the world….but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

For a quick impact, work to understand what your people want, not just what you want, and act accordingly. Ask your staff for their feedback with questions such as:

  • What can I do to make you happier here?
  • What do you find challenging about your work?
  • What’s energizing about your work?
  • How can I be a better leader for you to be successful?
  • What resources do you need that you currently don’t have?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you feel appreciated and receive the praise and recognition you feel you deserve?

Often times a new leader’s first inclination is to become too friendly with people. After all, everyone wants to be liked. But by trying to become everyone’s friend, leaders run the risk of losing respect and influence. If your staff considers you to be one of the group, they may not respect your judgment on important issues.

Additionally, they may lose their motivation to achieve goals, fail to work hard, and assume deadlines are soft when they believe their “friend” will never reprimand them. That’s why leaders must avoid falling into the trap of becoming too friendly with their staff. The bottom line? You’re the boss—not a best friend! You cannot be objective and unbiased when staff members view you as a work pal.

 

“It takes people to make the dream a reality.” –Walt Disney

 

A Guide to Hiring Right

5 Lessons on Innovation from Outlander’s Diana Gabaldon

A Creative Force

One of the most innovative people I have ever met is my friend Diana Gabaldon. Last year, her wildly popular Outlander novels became even more popular as the new television series was released. Whether you are reading her Outlander series or her Lord John novels, you will be hard pressed to categorize her writing. Most critics give up and classify her work with a list of descriptive words ranging from historical fiction and romance to mystery and adventure.

However you describe her novels, you may find it even more challenging to describe the author. Diana is equal parts scholar, writer and historian. Mix in a bit of archivist; stir in comic book writing, and the unique recipe begins to take shape.

When I first met Diana, I had not read any of her books. She captivated me by the way she told a story. How she went from college professor to best-selling author was a story I will never forget.

Here are a few lessons I learned from the impossible-to-describe creative force named Diana Gabaldon:

 

Lessons from A Creative Mind

1. Try….why not take a chance? 

It seems that most people have an idea, think they should do something, and then push that dream into a drawer. They never really give it a go.

Years ago, Diana read comic books. She felt the writing quality was declining and that she could do it herself. Have you ever felt that way? You see something and think, “I can do better.” Most of us have. What sets Diana apart is that she didn’t stop there. She investigated. She found out who was in charge and then turned in a submission.

Years later, Diana would take a different chance. She thought that she would like to try writing a novel. That try, what she calls the novel she was writing for “practice,” became Outlander.

What idea have you had that you have left in that drawer? What could you do to give birth to something new?

 

2. Study…for the love of creating.

Long before her mega success as an author, Diana spent years as a university professor.  She has a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She also holds degrees in marine biology and zoology. That type of academic success shows an underlying love of learning.

And it’s that same love of learning she uses in the meticulous research for her books.  Her fiction books are known for their accuracy, and it is no wonder.  Her personal library includes thousands of books. Her Arizona home alone contains over 1500 reference works on topics such as warfare techniques, poisons and history. Some of the topics are very specific, such as the art of passementarie (the knotted tassels on 18th century furnishings) or the 126 books on herbals. If you have been searching for Sam Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) or Captain Francis Grose’s A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), look no further.

Often people look for the shortcuts to success. You may hear that Diana decided to write a book and then found herself on the NYT list. The truth is that great public success is almost always the result of planting, tilling and working in private.

Diana Gabaldon's bookcase, Used by Permission Diana Gabaldon’s bookcase, Used by Permission

 

3. Fail…and keep going!