5 Things That Will Turn Our Country Around

Are you one of the many people that think our country is headed in the wrong direction, frustrated with The Blame Game that is played daily in Washington? Do you feel embarrassed by what other countries think or say about the United States? If you answered yes to either of these questions I am going to propose 5 things that will help get our country on the right path again. Take a deep breath…you ready?

1. Implement term limits. We have them for Governors, and Presidents, but not for Congressmen, Congresswomen, or Senators. Politics was never intended by our Founding Fathers to be a career path.

2. Reduce the maximum corporate tax rate. According to Fortune, nearly 80 companies have changed where they are domiciled this year alone, in order to beat the U.S. tax rates. Apple alone holds more than $150 billion…with a “B” overseas. Imagine what could be done if that money was able to be put to work here in the U.S.

3. Implement a talent assessment tool for all political candidates. We test potential job candidates during the recruiting process. We even want to meet the babysitter before we leave our kids with her…or him. But no one thinks to test the person whose job it will be to protect us, to speak softly and carry a big stick. Caliper, DISC, Kolbe, Forte, the list is endless. Just use one!

4. Eliminate second chances and “get out of jail cards”. If you don’t pay your taxes at 20 that’s called a mistake. When you don’t pay your taxes for years after the age of 35 it’s called deceitful and if you don’t like that word you can call it criminal. How can one hold others accountable when they themselves have crossed the line and thought it okay?

5. Require every potential candidate for a Legislative and Executive roll in government to undergo a rigorous training and education on Middle Eastern history. We’ve spent more than $1.5 trillion on wars in the Middle East since 2001 according to nationalpriorities.org and have lost nearly 7,000 lives. More than 20% of the total Federal budget is spent on the military and this is a sore subject for many. However it’s important to note that it is the ONLY area our Constitution states as a must-provide by OUR government. Have you read our Preamble lately? Our leaders need to understand history before they try to jump in and try to “fix” things. Perhaps it’s time for a realist to simply manage the risks that arise from the cradle of civilization rather than trying to change or control it.

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Stop Trying to Fit In and Start Being Remarkable

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Everyone wants to fit in. To be a part of the crowd. Some people go to extremes to remain invisible whether at school, the office, the gym, or anywhere else in pubic. Blending in is part of our culture. Why do you think brand names like Nike, Levi’s, Coke, Asics, Hollister, and Target are so valuable? They represent the main stream. Sure they offer quality and value but they also offer a strong emotional connection to safety. I’m safe if someone sees me wearing Nike, shopping at Target, or buying a Diet Coke.

But success doesn’t come to those who play it safe. Success isn’t for the faint of heart, or those who want to be part of the crowd. No. Success usually comes to those willing to take chances, to challenge the norms of society, to stand out and be remarkable.

Are you remarkable? Do you stand out at work or are you one of the crowd? Do your co-workers look at you as a thought leader? A progressive thinker? Or are you one of the many doers that get things done but not the one “cutting the edge?” Do you invest in building your personal brand? Are you working to create awareness around your ideas and opinions or are you silent, laying back, waiting for the next set of directions to come your way?

History is a great teacher of the correlation between remarkable and success. Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and The Beatles all were remarkable for their time. Dimon, Reagan, Lincoln, and Gates made bold decisions, often unpopular, but remarkable in ways that led to great discoveries, financial stability, and peace through power.

We all have the ability to be remarkable. We may not all be Thomas Edison’s or Michael Dell’s but we each possess unique characteristics that if amplified make us remarkable. A great sense of humor, the ability to provide calm during turbulent times, or being able to rally people together for a common cause can be remarkable characteristics. What makes you remarkable?

Income Inequality. A Difficult Subject.

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During the President’s State of the Union address he spoke to the country about income inequality. The difference between what one person makes versus another, for the same work, based upon gender, race, etc. Taken at face value I believe most people are in support of income equality. If two human beings are doing the same work, regardless of gender or race, they should be paid equal…of course that also requires all other things beyond those two criteria also being equal. And that’s where the challenge comes in.

Most successful people make significant sacrifices on their career journey to success. Long hours, missed events with their children, wedding anniversaries when they were out-of-town, an occasional birthday missed, or worse yet a birth of a child missed because of work. Many families make a very conscious and deliberate decision to focus on career advancement. This does not mean that they’ve chosen to throw everything to the wind. Perhaps their goal is to be able to send their child to Harvard, or vacation to destinations that provide both educational and personal awareness for their children to actually see what they have relative to others. And what about those that have made big sacrifices only to give back in a big way to their community with their time, skills, or money?

Every human being has free will. Of course ones ability to exercise their free will, or choice, depends in large part on where they live. American’s have the ultimate ability to choose. We can do what we want, when we want, without any interference from the government. Now to be clear, of course there are laws we need to abide by but even those are broken by people who have chosen to break them. The fact is that America was born around the concept of equal opportunity. We are the country (land) of opportunity. The land where hopes and dreams have a real possibility of becoming a reality. But even at our founding there were those that sacrificed much while others did not. That’s just human nature.

So the challenge is not in the concept of equal pay for equal work. The challenge sits with how to assess two different workers’ desires, passions, and commitments. No place is this executed better than in the world of professional sports.

Peyton Manning possesses many of the skills other quarterbacks have. Strong arm, deep understanding of defensive schemes, and the ability to change plays based upon what presents itself during the game. But Peyton Manning is different. His drive, his desire, his intense focus on watching game film over and over again. His personality presents additional leadership skills that make him even more valuable. Anyone remember Ryan Leaf? The point is that it is quite difficult to make things equal when most times the facts prove they are not equal. No two quarterbacks are the same, no two snowflakes are the same, no two CEOs are the same.

It’s a difficult if not emotional topic. It demands thought, conversation, debate, and action. We just need to be sure we’ve explored it as best we can before making things equal based solely on an altruistic perspective.  Being an American means  you have the right to explore, find, and secure opportunities.  It does not guarantee any specific outcome.  Just as we’re warned when we enter the Stock Market, no investment is guaranteed, it is simply an opportunity to invest and the possibility of your investment growing.  Think of each of us as investments.  We all have the opportunity to grow, and we all have the opportunity to fall.  Between luck, chance, skill, desire, commitment and ability the outcome – like a true investment – is never guaranteed.

3 Steps To Begin Your Innovation Journey

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Regardless of how long you’ve been in business selling what you sell, STOP! Step back. Look at the market. I mean really look at the market. If you want to do more than survive you need to innovate. Innovation requires you to think differently. To be open-minded, honest, and critical of your current operation. I am not suggesting to be negative, but rather to be realistic and honest about what has changed around you. Take these 3 steps to begin your journey of innovation.

1. Complete a SWOT analysis. This is a detailed look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  A SWOT can help provide much needed insight into your next steps. This exercise will force an outside-in view of the market.
2. Create a customer advisory board. Always an odd number of members, a small advisory board of between 5 and 7 customers can provide clear and honest feedback relative to your current products or services, as well as a great testing ground for new ideas. Make sure each member signs an NDA binding them to confidentiality of the information the board discusses.
3. Get a mentor. In an earlier blog titled Great Mentors – The Difference Maker, I talked about the purpose and importance of having a mentor. To be truly innovative requires a different level of thinking. Innovation tests previously held beliefs. In doing so, you will need someone to guide your thinking and keep you honest. Human nature is such that we tend to develop explanations for things we don’t understand or agree with…simply to make us feel better. A great mentor will make sure you face the truth even if it hurts.

Remember, to remain static is to lose ground. You’ve got to have the courage to try, and fail. Push your limits, test your boundaries. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

3 Characteristics of Great Leadership

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John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  That one statement sure packs a punch.

Effective leaders all possess similar strengths.  Discipline, focus, enthusiasm, commitment, and limitless energy are all characteristics displayed with strong leadership.  Leaders are hard chargers who operate with a clear sense of direction and are generally successful in getting people to follow.  After all you can’t be a leader without followers.

And then there are great leaders.  Those individuals who not only are able to get people to follow, but who inspire them to go beyond what they ever dreamed possible.    The great leaders understand the human condition.  They thrive on people engagement and behavioral observations.   They realize that all people are unique and therefore respond differently even when faced with the exact same circumstances.  It is the great leaders’ ability to shape their message in a way that reaches and resonates across a large group of people.  But it’s more than their message.  A great leader is able to not just create a compelling message (vision) but make it believable by the actions and characteristics they demonstrate daily.

Great leaders play at a higher level than regular leaders.  They’re the All-Stars.  The one-of-a-kinds.  The most sought after individuals that people want to meet with, get to know, or work for.  What separates the good from the great are 3 capabilities the leader must demonstrate daily:

  1. Clarity of vision.  Great leaders know where they are headed and how to get there.  It’s crystal clear to them on the inside which makes it easier to communicate outside.  They have a superior sense of direction and know where their own True North setting is which can be felt by those following.  This clarity of vision demonstrates their confidence and conviction in the actions they take and ask others to take.
  2. Teaching.  Great leaders are teachers.  They get energy from meeting with people and sharing their knowledge, perspective and beliefs.  They realize that to be great teachers they must commit themselves to being a life-long learner.  Constantly reading, asking questions, listening, and engaging in the exchange of ideas allows great leaders to capture the hearts and minds of their followers.
  3. Motivation.  Great leaders provide reasons to act.  Through their vision and teaching, they inspire people to take action and begin the journey.  Great leaders know how to motivate those around them by recognizing the differences in people and what drives individual behavior.  Even the great leader him/her-self requires motivation whether it’s spiritual, family, personal or professional they have their own reasons for taking action.

So who are you?  A leader, or a great leader?  Where do you fall relative to the 3 must-have capabilities of a great leader?  You’ve already taken steps to improve your Teaching skills by reading this blog…and I assume others.  Remember, if you can dream more, do more and become more, others will follow.