How Leadership Turning Points Can Change Your Direction

Fork In The Road

Make the Most of Leadership Moments

Turning points. Leadership moments. Whatever you call them, all of us have experiences that change us.

Bernie Swain has had a backstage pass into the lives of numerous public figures ranging from US presidents to business leaders to sports legends. As the founder of Washington Speakers Bureau, he has interacted with, listened to, and learned from many celebrities and leaders.

 

“The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it.” –Richard Bach

 

His new book, What Made Me Who I Am, takes us behind the scenes of these incredible lives to ask them about their turning points.

As we listen to their stories, what can we learn about our own lives?

What lessons of our own potential can be gleaned from these experiences?

 

Control Your Destiny

You open your book discussing turning points, those moments in life when everything changes. Your book is about these moments. Tell me about that moment in your life.

Funny thing about the turning points, they can be obscure and go unnoticed if we don’t pay attention. That happened to me. It is the lesson I learned.

Bernie SwainAs a graduate student, I’d worked as assistant director of a local community swimming pool. It was a good job, and the summer income was important to pay for graduate school. About once a week, usually a Friday or Saturday, we would keep the staff after closing and have a few beers. It wasn’t exactly allowed, but the director of the pool, who I had known since I was twelve, saw it as a morale booster and looked the other way. One night we decided to invite more friends than usual. About an hour into the party, a member of the board who lived nearby noticed the overhead pool lights and called the pool director. When he arrived, he closed down the party. I was fired the next day and replaced by the daughter of the board member, who had arrived home from college the day before.

Although I routinely dismissed the incident and had my share of laughs about it over the years, my wife Paula understood I was troubled by it. She knew I’d never really be happy unless my success or failure was in my own hands. “You will never be truly happy or confident in your future if you can’t make your own decisions and control your own destiny,” she told me.

That was all it took to undo a 15-year career on the verge of being a success; the power of passion.

 

“Follow your dreams. They know the way.” –Yohi Yamada

 

Imagine your life if you had lived your childhood dream and become a baseball player. What wisdom would that Bernie Swain be sharing? Do you think your life would have been as fulfilling?

I was happy with my career in athletics. Would I have loved being a baseball player? Yes, of course. But then what? Maybe I would have transferred my passion to doing something else, but maybe not. Life has a way of taking us to many forks in the road. Our lives are full of influences and defining moments, turning points. A mentor in high school put me on my career path, and one seemingly unimportant event at a summer swimming pool changed everything. All things considered, I found a passion that made me wake up every morning excited about a new day. And nothing is more important than that.

 

“All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” –Walt Disney

 

Combine Passion with Honesty

Your incredible business had humble beginnings. Go back to that closet for a moment. Why was it that your agency took off and endured when so many competitors disappeared? What can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

Agencies like ours, even Hollywood agencies, don’t stay on top for long. In the lecture business, it is about 10 years. Why did we become No. 1 and remain there for the last 27 years? Honesty and trust! Whether it was because we mistakenly agreed to a handshake deal with our first speaker and then with all speakers, or we had a built-in desire to do things the right way, we were honest, hardworking and trustworthy. The lesson for other entrepreneurs? Find your passion and always do what, in your heart, you know is the right thing to do. Passion and honesty, it is a great combination.

 

Learn a Powerful Lesson from Robert Reich

You’ve interacted with some of the most successful people in the world for over 25 years—presidents, sports heroes, actors and authors, on and on. The book is full of their stories, a peek behind the curtain. Off the top of your head, is there one story that you consider a ‘must-read’? Why?What Made Me Who I Am

There are a number that I love, but probably the story of Robert Reich. 4”11” tall, he was bullied through his school years. Uninterested in current events and politics entering college, he devoted a life to equality and justice for others to honor the life of another boy who protected him and who was killed during the civil rights movement in the south.

“When I was a vulnerable child, Mickey protected me from harm. I, in turn, feel a responsibility to protect others. I was honored to know him, and I hope, in some small way, that my life’s work honors his idealism, his courage, and his sacrifice.”

It is an amazing story of a life dramatically changed.

 

Use Failures to Win

Failing is a turning point for many. When I talk about failure, who comes to mind? What did you take away from that?

In my book, I write this about Lou Holtz: “I’m not special, and I’m not particularly smart. I haven’t found any magical formula for success. But what I do know is, adversity is part of life, no matter who you are, what your age, and what you do. You will never outgrow or outlive it, but you can be motivated by it. As I have learned along the way, you have two choices in life: you either stay down or pick yourself up. In life and football, you can’t count on anyone else picking you up. Georgia or Michigan State isn’t going to call and say, ‘Coach, you don’t have a quarterback, let me send you one.’

Rarely can you find a truer statement. Almost every day in our first year could be described as a failure. We could have given up at any point. If you can find your true passion in life, and that takes some soul searching, you develop a never-give-up attitude. I never thought once about quitting. But that will not be true for entrepreneurs who lack real passion.

 

“Failure is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.” –Michael Eisner

 

5 Common Traits of Successful People

7 Decisions You Can Make Today to Be More Successful

7 Decisions
This is a guest post by Janet Miller. Janet is a mom of four, former Fortune 500 executive and executive coach. She is the cofounder of Jen Reviews and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, and Tiny Buddha.

How to Be Happier and More Successful

Og Mandino once said, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all the others is – I will form good habits and become their slave.”

 

“Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure.” -Og Mandino

 

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit…or to break one. While the end result may not happen in the blink of an eye, these seven things we will go over today will definitely get you on your way. In the meantime, the happiness you will attain in realizing you are on your way to solidifying good practices will lead to your overall success. So, yes, you will realize a difference on the very first day, today, if you wish.

 

To most, this would seem like one of the least likely cases for long-term happiness and success, as it might leave you open to being let down. Quite the contrary. In assuming someone’s good intentions, you are allowing yourself to see things from their perspective, which in turn brings out the ability in you to be a good listener. You begin to see that their point has some valid root in something that they themselves find important, and you want to know what that is. It takes away the defensive attitude that we sometimes get when people come up with ideas that are not our own and also curbs our innate subconscious desire for self-righteousness.

Leadership Tip: Always start by believing in someone’s good intent.

 

2. Write down your goals every day.

Write down your goals every day. Studies show that writing down daily goals significantly improves the accomplishment of those goals. A good idea can also be a fleeting one, and it pays to jot every one of them down and then to arrange them in such a way that you can work from them towards a future arrival point, whether long-term or short-term. It can create and maintain vision, in which you can dream big, decide where you want to eventually be, and know the steps it will take to get there. It solidifies measurability, and creates something you can look back on as you begin to reach the finish line you have created.

“People with written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.” – Brian Tracy

 

3. Realize that setbacks can ultimately lead to success.

While intelligence is most often a fixed-in-place factor in our lives, resilience is not. It allows us to cope with and eventually overcome adversity, which is something that can be acted on and improved. As we strengthen our resilience, we are able to recover faster from setbacks, and that makes us a little more open to taking chances that might grant us the possibility of even more success. When failure happens, there are a couple ways to deal with it, and they make a world of difference. One way is to place blame on someone or something else or to feel so badly about it that you learn nothing. This gives no room for moving forward. On the other hand, acknowledgement makes way for setting emotion aside and analyzing the failure in such a way as to move on from it and, eventually, overcome it.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” –Truman Capote

 

All kinds of negativity can come from comparing yourself to others. Whether you are looking at success, body image, accomplishments, financial gain or social status, all of this can ultimately result in jealousy and feelings of inferiority. It can even lead to anxiety and depression if allowed to be a constant in life. In no way does it help you achieve a single goal that you have placed for yourself and can actually cause you to stop making progress on your own goals. Instead, focus your energy – both physical and mental – on being the absolute best that you yourself can be.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

 

5. Avoid toxic people.

There are studies that have proven that stress can leave a negative impact on the brain that lasts and lasts. Even short-term exposure can leave lasting impressions on the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. Long-term exposure can destroy neurons completely, which is irreversible. To think that stress is not an enemy of happiness and success is to completely ignore the reality of this situation. Being able to manage one’s emotion and reaction to outside stressors has a direct relevance in our lives, and to avoid as much of that as possible from those stressors is of the utmost importance.

Study: Stress has a negative impact on the brain.

How Great Firms Prosper Through Entrepreneurial Thinking

Achieving Longevity

Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Why are some businesses more vulnerable to disruptive change than others?

Should big companies engage in entrepreneurship?

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

In Achieving Longevity: How Great Firms Prosper Through Entrepreneurial Thinking, Jim Dewald provides advice on how to create a culture of entrepreneurial thinking. He offers a method to combine the strength of a strong, established business with the innovation of a startup.

Jim is the Dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, a former CEO and entrepreneur.

 

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” –Winston Churchill

 

Prepare Yourself for Real Disruptive Change

What makes businesses vulnerable to disruptive change?

There are 2 main messages in my book.

First, that while we think the world is changing rapidly, in fact, we continue to rely on a platform that arose from the invention of 3 general purpose technologies in the 1870’s: the internal combustion engine, the light bulb, and the telephone. Even with the computer and the Internet, we have spent decades boxing in this amazing new technology to fit our paradigm need for a faster, smaller, cheaper phone. So, while we think we are in the midst of rapid change, the western world is in fact obsessed with ensuring we stick with the old world and reward refinements of tired mature ways of doing things. When real change comes, will business leaders be prepared? I don’t think so.Dewald_AchievingLongevity

One of the reasons why we won’t respond well when real change comes is that while ideas are abundant, small start-up ventures lack the resources – people, money, physical assets — to launch these ideas. They also lack the credibility, networks, access to customers, suppliers, government officials, etc. This limits their ability to move these ideas forward, no matter how great they may be. At the same time, existing companies are flush with people, money, networks, customers, and, most important, credibility and brand value. But what they lack is an entrepreneurial mindset. To move forward, companies need to resist the rhetoric of finding and sticking to a narrow form of sustainable competitive advantage, and instead adopt a model of strategic entrepreneurship that promotes transformational growth and longevity.

The fundamental impact of disruptive change is that our organizations are not built to manage change very well. Through principles such as sustainable competitive advantage, we tend to use fixed mindsets that build a sort of impenetrable armor around the firm’s processes and procedures, instead of being flexible and adaptable. When disruptive technologies or business models present an alternative, firms resist. Indeed, even customers often resist, as we remain stuck in our paradigms formed as noted above. However, in time, customers adapt because they do not have the level of sunk investment in the old ways that companies often do. Time and again, rigid non-entrepreneurial firms fall by the wayside.

There are many very extreme examples of this phenomenon. Think of Kodak, which is a firm that actually pioneered digital photography, but in the end was unable to adapt to this powerful disruptive technology.

 

“Progress is a nice word we like to use. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.” –Robert Kennedy

 

Embrace a Spirit of Entrepreneurship

How can large organizations embrace a spirit of entrepreneurship?

I emphasize the importance of adopting three points:

  1. Recognize that opportunities are developed at all levels of the organization.
  2. Build a culture that embraces and supports entrepreneurship.
  3. Consciously develop support for entrepreneurial initiatives through effectual processes or bricolage.

The key is leadership, not only in words, but in action. It is imperative that the CEO endorse an entrepreneurial culture by example – championing new ideas. In fact, a failure or two is good because it demonstrates that even the CEO recognizes that not every entrepreneurial idea is destined for success, and it is important to manage your investment and ensure that no one new venture will take down the ship.

 

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” –Peter Drucker

 

The Key Elements of a Good Corporate Culture

What are the elements of a good corporate culture?

There are many theories on this question, and I included quite a few in my book. In the end, the key elements are:

  1. Provide open opportunities for opportunity development – these include group time (because we know that mixing people with diverse expertise and background can lead to innovative solutions), plus unstructured open thinking time (such as 3M’s famous “tinkering” time).
  2. Adopt a learning culture – growth mindsets are essential, pursuing what could be as opposed to why this won’t work.
  3. Accept failure, and the importance of learning from failure.
  4. Adopt bricolage (known outcomes, with unknown ways of getting there), or effectuation (building on invention, experiment, and science) as frameworks for pursuing each entrepreneurial initiative (purposefully).

 

“The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.” –Peter Senge

 

Encourage Creativity at all Levels

How do leaders encourage creativity at all levels of the organization?

The first thing I would say is that leaders must recognize that organizations need time to change. This is not an overnight process and will require considerable and repetitive actions and wins to change. And failure is a key component – an organization can move far closer to being creative and adopting entrepreneurial thinking by showing that a person with a great idea that failed in implementation is celebrated as thinking outside the box, rather than penalized for failing.

Researchers have studied the importance of story-telling in organizations, and how a lasting culture can be built around well-known, maybe even legendary, stories that come from the history of the organization. The dimensions of story-telling I describe in my book include equality (versus inequality), security (versus insecurity), and control (versus lack of control). Through story-telling of actual events that happened in the organization’s history, employees are able to gauge whether the organization will endorse or shun creativity at all levels.

 

“Successful innovators are..not risk-focused; they are opportunity focused.” –Peter Drucker

 

Middle management is often ignored in the leadership literature. What role do they have in this type of change management?

7 Ways to Build Self-Confidence

 

Stand Out with Self-Confidence

Dr. Ivan Joseph is the Athletic Director and head soccer coach at Ryerson University. When parents approach him, they often share attributes about their child to impress him. Dr. Joseph is looking for a specific skill above all others. That skill is self-confidence. Most of us think this is a trait, something you’re born with. This coach believes it is a skill and can be developed.

 

“No one will believe in you, unless you do.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph

 

7 Ways to Build Self-Confidence

Self-confidence can be built when you consistently:

  1. Do not accept failure.
  2. Practice. Practice.
  3. Do not accept no.
  4. Master your self-talk.
  5. Remove people who tear you down.
  6. Write a self-confidence letter to yourself about your accomplishments.
  7. Repeat positive affirmations throughout the day.

He notes that self-confident people interpret feedback the way they want to because, “No one will believe in you unless you do.”

So many of us think that, when we hit a certain age, we can ignore the skill of self-confidence. What I have seen is that it’s a vitally important skill that can be developed at any stage of your career. No one wants arrogance, but we are all attracted to confidence.

 

“Get away from the people who tear you down.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph

 

Are you feeling unworthy? Is your internal voice speaking fear and doubt? Are voices from the past telling you that you can’t do it?

Then try Dr. Joseph’s steps above and increase your self-confidence this week.

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“Put yourself in a situation where you say, I’ve done this a thousand times.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph

 

“Always act like you’re wearing an invisible crown.” –Unknown

 

“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.” –Blake Lively

 

“What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?” –Eleanor Roosevelt

 

“If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all.” –Arsene Wenger

 

6 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Evan Carmichael

Leadership Lessons from Entrepreneurs

Evan Carmichael is passionate about helping entrepreneurs. He built and sold a biotech software company at 19. He raised millions as a venture capitalist at 22. And then, he started EvanCarmichael.com as a website to help entrepreneurs. He is, by his own admission, “obsessed” with this passion.

His YouTube channel has millions of views and is the leading channel for entrepreneurs. You may have seen during one of his numerous media interviews or his many keynote speeches.

Recently, I caught up with Evan in Madrid, Spain. Having followed his career online, I wanted to learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset.

Even if we don’t own a business, what can we all learn from entrepreneurs? Here are a few lessons from Evan that inspired me. Since I am all about encouragement and empowerment, I wanted to share some of his most inspiring words.

 

6 Lessons from Entrepreneurs

All of us should:

  1. Embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.

This is a mindset of dissatisfaction with the status quo, of solutions, of challenge, and of driving to a more sustainable, successful place.

 

“Entrepreneurs have a dissatisfaction of the world around us.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones who see a better future.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Entrepreneurs are the solution providers who want to make the world a better place.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Most of our global problems could be solved by entrepreneurs.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Adopt a mindset of empowerment.

We should aim for a feeling of empowerment. It’s not about a title or a position. It’s about how we think. Finding a way to make a difference and to drive change is key to success.

 

“You don’t need permission to have an impact.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Leaders of organizations empower teams to take risks.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Assess and take appropriate risks.

Some entrepreneurs bet everything, but you can be pragmatic. You can take measured bets. Evan’s take on risk was eye opening. He thinks it’s “crazy risky” to assume you will have your job for 25 years and that your company will still be around. “Why not bet on you?” is a challenge we should all learn from.

 

“Betting on yourself is one of the best bets you can make.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Embrace failure.

Failure is a subject I love to study because it is a component of all success. Evan adopts failure as part of the process, as something to embrace and encourage.

 

“Failure is feedback.” –Evan Carmichael