Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Start the "Generosity Revolution"

We think that when we show generosity, the person that gets the benefit is the person whose need we are meeting. Someone moves forward because we give them our money, time or words of encouragement.  But generosity works as much (if not more) in the heart of the giver as it does in the life of the receiver. It shares this unique capability to take the momentum of good and then flip that momentum back at the originating person with other expressions of love. For example, when we forgive someone else, we think we are letting them off the hook, but what happens when we forgive another person is that our own hands are removed from our own throats. When we show generosity, we think we are providing resources to a life of scarcity, but what really happens is that our own hearts broaden and grow in abundance.

Recently I shared 12 thoughts on generosity in a talk entitled, "Let's Start the Generosity Revolution." The goal of that talk was to radicalize the audience towards generous lives. Don't listen to this talk unless you want to be radicalized yourself.

But I wonder, who would you become if you became your most fully generous self?

Here are the bullet points from that talk, some that might surprise you.
  • Generosity cannot be crammed onto your To Do List.  The opportunity to show generosity lies within every item on your To Do List.
  • Generosity implies heart-spaciousness or soul-bandwidth.
  • Generosity is attention.
  • Generosity is inconvenient.
  • Generosity is going to pinch your rock and roll lifestyle. 
  • Generosity is not a doing, but a way of being. 
  • Generosity is not a doing BUT, it is ridiculous to say you ARE something if you are not doing it.
  • Generosity is surprisingly intentional.  
  • You don’t do generosity, generosity does you. 
  • Generosity is subversive.
  • When done as a crowd, the impact of generosity is unfathomable. 
  • To become most fully generous, you must first receive it fully yourself. 
Let’s start a generosity revolution. 
Right here. Right now. With you. With me. 
At work and everywhere else.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

If You Wait To Address A Need Until You Have The Need, You've Likely Waited Too Late

"Nobody has to tell the ant what to do.

    All summer it stores up food;
    at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?"

 - Proverbs 6

Over Memorial Day Weekend of this year I had a routine appendectomy performed. That routine appendectomy ended-up being anything but routine and led to a series of infections. Ultimately in September I had a MRSA-laden abscess the size of two softballs removed from my chest cavity. The illness cost me a lot of hours, emotions and dollars and was a tremendous drain on several relationships. 

The surgery to remove the abscess from the chest, what is called a "thoracotomy/decortication," is a major surgery, with plenty of subsequent pain, surgical risks and a long recovery period. Yet in the first hours after my surgery, doctors were clear that I had an advantage. I was not going to be the run-of-the-mill patient because years of physical condition and a solid diet would greatly improve my outcome compared to my peers. Additionally, the discipline I've learned as a CrossFit athlete and marathoner had taught me how to suffer and endure and still maintain a positive and realistic outlook during difficult moments, something you need to have in place before your chest is opened-up.

In a recent video I posted on YouTube, I covered some of my insights. A main insight is this: If we wait until we have a need to address the need, then we have waited too late.  The best time to prepare for difficulties is in times of abundance. 

  • The time to get a loan for your business is when your business is operating profitably, not during a downturn.
  • The time to right size and close unprofitable activities is when an organization as a whole is profiting.
  • The time to align your activities to your life's values is when you are flourishing and not when you are struggling.
  • The time to invest in your marriage is when it is going well.
  • The time to tell and show your kids your love is often and early and not when they get into tight straights.
  • The time to change your diet is before you are diagnosed with conditions and illnesses that could sideline for long periods of time.
  • The time to start a new exercise program is likely right now and not later.
You get the idea.

So, pretend you are an ant. Where is the area of your life where you can begin storing up your provisions you'll need in the future?

Here is my YouTube Video

Monday, October 28, 2013

Write Your Own Obituary

“Begin with the end in mind.” – Steven Covey.
This exercise is the ultimate expression of that mindset.

Real personal significance and achievement is unlocked when we envision a desired future and then move forward. Priorities take hold. We learn to stop giving time to what is urgent and focus on what is important. How will you be remembered? What do you really want to achieve? What relationships will you invest in with the limited time you have in this life?

Without further ado then, complete this “self-written obituary” exercise below. Your focus should be do you want your obituary to be written when you die? 

Take 30 minutes to answer the questions, then read your obituary from end-to-end and ask yourself, “Is this really how I want my life summarized?”  Make the changes based on your review. Next, share the document with someone you trust and who is close to you and let them ask you questions about it. 

Don’t be surprised if the exercise rearranges your priorities and becomes a driving force to align your daily activities with your ultimate goals!


___________________________________________(your full name)


_________________ (your full name) was born in _________________ (town/city) on ___________________ (date of birth), the child of _________________ (Mother’s full name) and _________________ (Father’s full name).  

Those friends and family closest to _________________ (your first name), described her/him as______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 (describe or list here the most important personal characteristics for which you want to be remembered).

_________________ (your first name) was proudest of several significant achievements in their life________________________________________________________________
 (list here whatever you consider to be significant: college degrees, military service, contributions made to community, businesses you founded, children, grandchildren, etc.).

_________________ (your first name), enjoyed spending time ________________________________________________________________________
(describe here how you want to use your time, not how you are using your time presently).

The one thing that they always wanted to do, but never found time or energy to do was ________________________________________________________________________
 (describe here something that you would love to experience in life, but have been delaying to do).

_________________ (your first name), loved to ___________________________________

(list here things you love  or would love to do, things that bring you to life such as hobbies, leisure activities like travel, visiting the mountains, raising kids, serving others, etc.)

_________________ (your first name) leaves behind many family and friends who loved them. They are survived by________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________ (list who would survive and miss you today, their names and their relationship to you, eg “wife” or “daughter.”

_________________ (your first name) In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider a donation to _____________________________________________________________
(the charitable organization that most resonates with your life purpose).

Friday, October 4, 2013

What Do I Want at The End of This Day?

Recently life has dealt me a difficult hand to play. A simple and routine appendectomy back over Memorial Day weekend took a lot of odd twists and turns, resulting  months later in a large MRSA abscess in my right lung cavity. Major surgery, IV antibiotics and lots of rest and down time are required to restore my health.

My confession: I am not good at "Down Time."

There are many things that are frustrating about illness, but a major frustration for me is the sense of anxiety I have that 'nothing will get done while I am sick.' What does not get done is not just business or making a dollar, other things suffer: Relationships suffer because I am isolated, my sense of satisfaction that I get from doing work-worthily is lost because I am not working, the exhaustion that accompanies acute pain dulls my critical thinking and leaves me confused. Early in my illness, I found myself very frustrated at night, having not accomplished near enough, swearing to do better the next day and then failing the next day because my basic capability to work was unchanged. It was a very bad loop down with no real sense of how to get out, except by working harder, something I could not do.

Asking myself a question relieved me of a lot of anxiety and also has helped me to be much more effective in the midst of this difficulty.  I ask myself at the beginning of every day, "What do I want at the end of this day?"   

This question is so powerful that Kathi, my wife, has started asking me this in the morning too.  As I answer her out loud, I find my thinking about what is important to me. I think about what will really make me happy, what will get me closer to my big goals and what is enough. My thinking gets clearer and a lot of unnecessary daily activities that would normally be assumed as needing to be done, simply get ruled out of the day.

Thought Experiment: Ask yourself the question: "What do I want at the end of this day?" Now as you ponder the question, consider what your priorities should be, what activities should you drop, what are you doing that is unnecessary, what are you really capable of doing in terms of time and energy?

In my own case, I found that when I first asked the question, I had 11 hours of priorities and activities. However, as a person who was fighting with a serious health issue, I had only 3 hours of energy to work in a day. So then I would ask myself, "What does a '3 Hour Kurt' do in order to get what he wants at the end of the day?" More often than not, I have found that I can achieve many of my goals with much less work than I previously imagined and the sense of accomplishing the most important things lets me put my head down on the pillow at night content, which incidentally is going to speed my recovery.

Don't wait for a serious illness to start asking this enlightening question every morning.

What do you want at the end of this day?

  • A conversation with someone close to you about something important?
  • To get the shopping and laundry done? 
  • To make a decision that you have been procrastinating on?
Forget doing everything on your list of daily "To Do's." Forget doing all the stuff you dutifully believe you must do.  Tomorrow, just do the few things that are going to bring you the most satisfaction at the end of the day. What do you want at the end of the day?

Friday, June 7, 2013

All The People Matter

My contention is that "All The People Matter" in an organization and I will argue long and hard for that position.  But a picture may be "worth a thousand words." An old rock fortress of dry-stacked, unhewn stones I saw along the Incan Trail in Atacama, Chile is my metaphor for two insights into WorkWorthy workplaces:

  • Nothing is more important for managers to do than to select the right people every time / all the time.
  • Each person in the workplace needs to realize the importance of their position to every other stone.

Whoever built the fortress considered the unique shape of each stone to perfect the fit with the other stones in the wall. All the stones matter in this fortress because all of them depend on every other individual stone for their strength and durability. If one stone fails, the entire structure is compromised. The Incan fortress challenges leaders to select the right people for their workplace every time, all the time. Selecting the right person for a job is the most important thing managers do; if you plan to build something that is going to last, you need to select people that can last.  This week I saw a statistic that said that 40% of executives fail in new companies within 18 months. Get real. That is abysmal performance. Get even more real, is your percentage better than that?  Get still more real. That number does not even include the number of execs that stay in their new jobs that are sub-performing. 

When I first saw the fortress, I asked my guide, "Wow, where is the fence to keep people away that would pull out one of those stones at the bottom and send the entire thing tumbling?"  He answered, more or less, "What sort of person would do that?" Honestly, I thought of myself as an 8 year-old boy and could imagine someone who could do something like that. Are you an employee that jumps from job to job, because the problem is with your bosses and not with the person you see in the mirror? Don't think that your job-hopping doesn't damage a lot of other people that are depending on you, because likely it does.

Probably the most challenging thing the fortress has to say about workplaces is our individual responsibility to the community in which we are set. I have heard people say that in battle, soldiers do not fight for their country, that they fight for the person on their left and right. For sure a lot of workplaces are sub-par, soul-killing places, but what kind of stone are you in that workplace? How are you showing up in the workplace? Are you a person upon which every other person can depend? When the people to your left and right think of you, are they glad it is you who is there?

"All the people matter." Go out and make that real today!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to Succeed: Kryptonite, Games Standard & Perseverance

Seeing the world from an inverted position in Patagonia!
I am a lifelong devotee to athletics and physical fitness. For the last 2 years, I have been a "CrossFit Athlete." (What is CrossFit?). CrossFit aims to improve people's ability to live life to the full, by providing a regimen for developing 10 general physical skills (Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Agility, Balance, Accuracy, Coordination, Power and Speed). The CrossFit program has been a challenging one for me, even though I have been a successful lifelong competitor in distance running.

Like anyone that is beginning CrossFit, 2 years ago there were few things in the program that I could do well.  And to this day there are many elements of the program that I am no where near mastering.

Today I did a workout that included 30 Handstand Push-Ups.  The beauty of CrossFit is that it allows for "scaling" movements, so that elite athletes and new athletes alike can capture the essence of a movement and benefit from the effort while accommodating the differences in abilities. For 2 years I have been unable to complete a workout that included "Games Standard" Handstand Push-Ups and have instead needed to scale the movements. "Games Standard" requires strict adherence of the movement without any mercy. This morning, I completed the workout, but only moments before time ran out to complete the workout.  But for me, it was a real breakthrough and now I have a real sense of accomplishment!

In order to achieve my seemingly silly personal accomplishment I had to do three things and these three things are metaphors for the journey to success:
  1. I am one of just a few "old-timers" in a gym that is full of strong, vibrant 20 and 30-somethings. Sometimes us old-timers jokingly say things like, "Just wait until they get to be our age, then they will know how tough this is!" But the truth is, early on I rejected that kind of thinking as "excuse making." No one becomes a better athlete by making excuses. I had to give up on excuses early in my CrossFit start-up and embrace who I was and work with the raw material that I was: an arthritic joint, tight hips and shoulders, various weaknesses and still I was a potentially very powerful and strong person.  No excuses, just hug your kryptonite instead of making excuses about it.
  2. I had to decide with just 6 repetitions completed in my workout today if I would continue the effort to do the movements according to Games Standard or go back to scaling.  I actually began the process of scaling the movement, then caught myself giving up and said to myself, "No way." Those 30 Handstand Push-Ups took me 17 minutes to complete. By comparison it would take someone that has mastered that movement just a few minutes to do the same. My point here is that there was a moment of real doubt, and it took only one other moment of decision to overcome that self-limiting thinking.
  3. The other way to see this is to say, "It did not take me 17 minutes to do 30 Handstand Push-ups.  It took me 2 years of training to achieve 30 Games Standard Handstand Push-Ups."  It was perseverance and consistency that brought me to the moment of doubt, decision AND accomplishment.
The Metaphor to Work:
  • What excuses are you using that are keeping you from getting started on some challenging, but necessary work? What part of the issue you face has your name on it? Are you ready to admit how flawed you are?  Are you ready to see how much greater is your potential power than the flaws you carry? Hug your kryptonite today instead of leaning on your strengths, covering your doubts and guarding your vulnerabilities.
  • What uncomfortable thing will you do today that will give you real doubt? The kind of doubt that in the past has made you into a "quitter."  No one wants to be a quitter.  Is it a phone call you have to make to an unhappy customer?  A conversation that is needed with a non-performing employee?  Is it a boss that needs to be confronted about their arrogance? Do you start to work on a critical long-term project, but become anxious and instead work on your email? Decide before you start to do something hard that when the moment of doubt comes, you will be prepared to make the decision to continue according to "Games Standard." 
  • Consistently Persevere.  There is no substitute for hard work done regularly and done as well as you can possibly do it. The idea of an "overnight success" is ludicrous; a lie with which we anesthetize ourselves. Have nothing to do with such nonsense and weak thinking. Without persistence and consistency you have no hope of making large impacts in your company's profits or in your desire to lead a life of significance. With them you will flourish during the journey and arrive with joy in a place of success.  

Hug your kryptonite.

Decide to perform Games Standard when the moment of doubt arrives (and it will arrive).

Consistently persevere.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Taking Responsibility

“What piece of this issue or opportunity has your name written on it.”  -  Susan Long, author of 'Fierce Conversations'

Here is a thought experiment.  Consider the common situations below, for which people very often think they have no responsibility :

  1. One of your employees is performing well below expectations...
  2. A new customer onboarding process was botched...
  3. You don't have time for a quarterly strategic summit with your key leaders...
  4. 15 minutes after scheduling a golf game this Saturday you learned that your kid has a baseball game at that same time..
  5. It is 5:15PM. Everyone else has left the office, but you'll be there until 8:30PM (and this is nothing new)...
  6. Your largest customer ran a promotion on your best-selling product and just wiped-out your entire inventory...

Now consider the completion of the scenarios above:
  1. ...and you have not completed a performance review in 2 years for any of your direct reports.
  2. ...and you have known for some time that there is no regular interdepartmental coordination meeting for this process.
  3. ...because your calendar is full of 'urgent' fires that have to be fought day-to-day.
  4. ...but you never share your calendar with your spouse or significant other because you don't like being 'checked-on.'
  5.'ve never asked yourself, "why am I so busy and the people that work for me are not?"
  6. ...and your operational staff does not interact with customers
It's easy to chalk up shoddy performance  and missed opportunities to 'things that just happen in life', but the truth is that we have more control over those things than we are comfortable admitting. 

Consider writing down 2 or 3 things that went wrong in the last couple of weeks and ask yourself Susan Scott's question, "What piece of this issue/opportunity has my name on it?"

You can access Susan Scott's blog here. Take the time to do so, you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Act Like A Horse. Be Dumb. Just Run.

“Act like a horse.  Be dumb.  Just run.”  - Jumbo Elliott, Hall of Fame, Villanova Track and Field Coach

Finishing kick, with Dad watching on.
While you are overthinking your next move, your competitor is getting stronger, faster and smarter.  While you are putting together more rationale for a plan you are late to launch, your boss is losing confidence in you. While you are procrastinating on a decision, your employees are losing passion for their jobs.

Learning requires three activities:  Insight -> Decision -> Action.  And it has been said that the most critical phase of learning takes place in the “Action” stage, where you can tell who has learned the most by counting who has the most bumps on their foreheads from running into walls.

So tomorrow do something radical:
  • Start your day with a decision.
  • Take a substantial action before your second cup of coffee.
  •  Announce your intention to launch a pilot on that idea you’ve been toying with for a month.
  • Assemble your team and ask them where they think you’ve been a wimp on a decision and then make the decision on the top 3 items before they leave your office.

People love being part of an organization that is moving forward, even if it means bumping into some walls. You’ll love leading one too!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Embrace Disappointment, Embrace Silence

“There are insights and emotions that can find you in no other way than through silence and within silence.”  - Susan Scott, “Fierce Conversations”

Atacama, Chile.  A place of solitude where I have embraced that fierce,
internal conversation in life's disappointments.
If you take risks, you will endure disappointment.  Perhaps you will fail yourself or fail someone else. Maybe someone will fail to keep a commitment to you. The timing of your new venture will be wrong. Your new product launch won't catch fire.

When disappointment comes, you won’t like what you feel. When it comes, you likely will be more than a bit inconsolable. When it arrives, you likely won’t be proud of your behavior. You may sulk.  You may withdraw initially.  You may play the role of a victim.

Is there a way to avoid disappointment? Absolutely not. Not if you intend to make an impact or achieve some work that is really worthwhile.

So buck it up. When disappointment comes, take Susan Scott’s advice and move into what feels like an even more dangerous place than disappointment – silence. Sit with your questions. Refuse to self-medicate your unease. Allow for a pause. 


Because in silence will come a new way of accepting your part in your failures. In quiet you will gain clarity and find new direction. In the pause of life you will find a recommitment to your vision, purpose and desire to make an impact.

What choice is there for you anyway?  You won’t settle for failure and you won’t settle for no impact in life.  At your very core, you sense you must make a significant, positive impact in life. So embrace disappointment and move on with renewed knowledge and intensity!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Antidote: Living Robustly In Transition

My faith community is presently in a time of transition. The Lead Pastor has left and the next one hasn’t yet arrived.  Typically such times of transition last between 1 and 2 years. And while this type of transition may be common for churches, it is also a long time for any organization to be without a top leader.  Common organizational wisdom in the business world would tell you that such a long time of being “leaderless” is perilous. So why isn’t my community panicking?

I heard someone say recently, “There are only 3 kinds of people; those that are going into transition, those that are currently in transition and those that are coming out of transition.” The question then is how to make life in transitional times as profound and robust as the times when expansion is more visible. 

Faith communities navigate transition successfully, sometimes more so than businesses, because they embrace transition readily. They understand inherently that there are times of “going out” and times of “coming in” and they embrace both equally. During times of “coming in,” businesses tend to focus on things like cost reductions, improved processes and finding new markets.  Churches and synagogues however, focus first on the tending of souls (their people) during such times. You see, it’s a simple matter of understanding and prioritizing: If you focus on people first, you may also get the desired results in reductions, processes and new markets.  But if you focus most intently on reductions, processes and new markets, particularly while excluding attention to souls, you may end up with nothing. Why? Because people (souls) do everything.

An example of this is happening right now at Warehouse 242, where the Teaching Team is focusing its weekly Sunday service teaching on the concept of “Antidote.” Steve Whitby, Pastor of Creativity there, puts it this way, The term “Antidote” ultimately derives fromthe Greek word “antididonal,” which means “given against.” It’s not just a cure, it is the implementation of something created to act against our darkest enemies.” During times of transition, people and communities experience all kinds of negative emotions and behaviors, these being the “darkest enemies.” This community chose to first normalize those enemies by identifying the most likely and destructive ones. Then secondly, to grow strengths into the community by building the natural antidote to those soul sicknesses, so when the community emerges from their transition they will have expanded profoundly and robustly and will be prepared for a new stage of visible growth that they were not ready to handle before the transition.

What are some of the Enemies / Antidotes that are common in transition? Here’s a starting list:

  • Navel Gazing / Opening Up
  • Gossip / Contentedness
  • Despair / Faith
  • Impatience / Humility
  • Disengagement / Remembrance
  • Unhealthy Conflict / Fellowship of the Team
  • Anxiety / Meditation & Prayer
  • Anger / Gratitude

Now, why don’t you make your own list?

Over the next few weeks, I'll blog through some of these couplets in hopes of learning more myself.  Why don’t you email me and give me your own insights so that they can be shared? Together we’ll make transitions in the workplace ensouling.