Strive For Mastery, Not Perfection

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Recently I was having a conversation with a long-time mentor, coach, and friend.  I was sharing my thoughts on a new endeavor and happened to mention that I was “trying to perfect” the thing I was working on, before attempting to market it.  My mentor stopped me in my tracks and said, “Not perfect.  Don’t focus on perfect, you’ll never get there.  Focus on mastery.  You want to be a master.  No one is perfect, nor will anyone ever become perfect.  But you can become a master.”

While certainly a profound statement, it wasn’t the first time I had heard this.  In fact, I recently went back and re-read one of my favorite books by Seth Godin, Linchpin. For Seth fans, you’ll know that he strongly believes in creating remarkable experiences.  In Linchpin he talks about being an artist.  Making your work, art…and art by definition isn’t perfect.  Some of the most valued art in the world is not “perfect”, instead it was created by a master, and even loved for its flaws.

Mastery is an ongoing journey while perfection suggests you’ve arrived, you’ve made it, you’re done.  What lies after perfection?  What’s left to learn?  What’s left to develop? What’s left to explore?  What’s left to invent?  The world is a timeless collection of things and events that simply prove perfection isn’t possible.  Instead, the world is changing, evolving, reinventing every day, minute, and second.

So with that, I will begin reframe my perspective to focus on mastery rather than perfection.  By accepting mastery as my goal versus perfection, it empowers me to accept life’s fact that there’s always something new to learn and invent.  Will you join me on the journey to mastery?

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Leadership Is About Acting Now

  

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.  In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, he says, “late is the first step to not finishing.” Many suffer from analysis paralysis.  Trying hard to solve for perfection.  Trying hard to not make a mistake.  Leaders however think about decision making differently.  They have the  courage to act and the confidence to own their decision no matter the outcome.

I might, turns into I can.  Leaders say I will, instead of I could.  I may, becomes I must.  I should, changes to I am.  Leaders think in the here and now.  They understand the importance of being decisive and accountable.  They look to the future with a clear understanding of their current circumstances.  Leaders are well-rounded.  They are continuous learners, who through learning, are constantly challenging their own perspectives, ideas and opinions.  Leaders are not afraid to change tact given new information.  They are more concerned about getting it right than being right.

In his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner conveys a philosophy of “sooner is better than perfect.”  Doing things sooner often times requires getting comfortable with uncertainty.  The point being, once you have taken action you can always do a course correction.  Leaders are constantly acting.  They are in perpetual motion.  They’re never sedentary or static.  They’re fluid, dynamic, evolving.  

Leaders know that every journey begins with the first step.  Sometimes the step is in the wrong direction.  That’s okay.  They’re comfortable with change.  They’re confident in the midst of ambiguity.  They thrive on the thrill of what they can learn.  They’re curious.  They’re bold.

Be curious.  If being curious is too bold of a starting point then be cautiously curious.  Strive to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  But act.  Taking action provides  the leader with learnings.  Those learnings add to the leaders inventory of skills, experience and perspectives.  With those ingredients the leader is able to garner the followers they need to successfully execute on their vision.

Keep moving.  Keep making things happen.

Stop Hiding, It’s Time to be Remarkable.

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Long hair, short hair.  Clean shaven, beard.  New York accent, southern drawl.  Short, tall.  Heavy, slim.  Most people think of physical attributes when considering how remarkable they are.  Sure, David Beckham or Kate Beckinsale certainly turn heads but what truly makes you remarkable?  The answer?  It’s what you do and how you do it.

All of us have encountered remarkable people in our lives.  These are the people we remember.  The ones that made a difference.  They are the people that cared enough, shared enough, and gave enough to us that we walked away feeling beyond satisfied, feeling completely fulfilled.

The great author, Seth Godin, was one of the first to raise the concept of remarkable in his book Purple Cow.  Everyone can be remarkable. Few do, but all can. It’s a choice.  The fact is you’re already remarkable, you just need to show it.  We were all born with talent.  Your first job is to be self-aware enough to identify what your talent is and then live it.  Your second job is to understand your current circumstances and determine what actions you can take that will result in someone seeing you as remarkable.

Maybe you don’t want to be cold calling all day but that’s your current circumstance.  Your choice to gear up, toughen up and lighten up will come through your interactions as remarkable instead of choosing to be beaten up.  As inspirational writer John Maxwell says, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”  Not only is he right, but your attitude also determines just how remarkable you are, and can become.

Remarkability is not just about being different, or memorable.  If it were we’d have to include people like Hilter, Hussein, and Nero.  Being remembered is not being remarkable.  Being remarkable is having a positive impact in someones day, week, or life.  While others may define remarkable differently I would simply say that it’s about making others smile, happy, or feel fulfilled.  Perhaps that’s why nurses, pharmacists and fireman always top the list of most trusted professions, because in life’s most critical moments those are the remarkable ones we turn to.

Making the choice to be, act, and do remarkable things is all yours.  The world is waiting…needs you…to be just that – to be remarkable.

 

 

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?

Know When to Hold ’em and Know When to Fold ’em

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Work not going well? You’ve been there a while but lately you seem to be spinning your wheels. You have several important projects or initiatives you’re responsible for but you still feel a bit…unfulfilled…numb. Is it time to look for a new job? Would a change in your environment really make a difference? What if you make a change and things don’t get better? Or the all-time favorite justification for staying put – “there’s no perfect job”.

While I don’t suggest job-hopping, I do believe that life’s simply too short to be unhappy, unchallenged, unfulfilled…or numb. Taking charge and owning your happiness and completeness is up to you and you alone. No one is going to do it for you. No boss will ever come to you offering to do all they can to make you happy. Remember you’re employed by them for a reason – to accomplish their goals as they are disseminated from on high.

So how do you know if the sand in the hourglass is gone and it’s time to move on? Answer the following questions to give you an indication if it’s time.

1. How excited are you to get up and go into work each day? No excitement? Boring? Drab? Dreadful? Or are you emotionally charged, eager, and ready to tear it up each day?
2. Where is your energy level at 10 am each day? Does your energy drain early in the day? Do you feel ready go get out of there before the lunch bell rings?
3. How friendly is your relationship with your boss? Do you interact on an as-needed basis or do you spend time informally simply chatting about stuff in general?
4. What words do you use to describe your co-workers? Do you consider them friends, partners, confidants? Or do you view them as snipers hiding in bushes, adversaries with sinister intentions?
5. Is the quality of your work outstanding? Do you feel like you’re delivering a masterpiece everyday or are you going through the motions? Are you still growing and learning new things that help improve your craft or are you stale, stalled, or going backward?
6. How much time do you spend thinking about or admiring other companies? Do you look at other companies with a wanting eye? Do you rush to the news stand to purchase Fortune’s, 100 Best Places to Work, issue  when it comes out?
7. Do your dinner conversations every night turn to work? Are you constantly talking about how bad things are at the office? How under-appreciated you are? How much your boss takes you for granted?

Life isn’t perfect and neither is work. For me it simply boils down to 3 things: Am I being challenged every day? I am learning? Do I like and trust the people I work with? Am I connected to my boss on a personal level? These may not be your 4 metrics and if they’re not I strongly suggest you identify what yours are. Without knowing what will make you happy, you will never find happiness. It all starts with you!

Just Enough

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We’re taught to be right at all costs. Not to make mistakes. We learn at an early age that failing is the mother of all curses in life. If we do fail the voice in our head tells us we didn’t plan enough, think enough, study enough, or work hard enough. And so begins our journey toward the ever-popular destination called “Just Enough”.

We do just enough to get by. Just enough to not be too visible. Just enough to not stand out. We focus on doing just enough work to keep our jobs, get that standard raise, and maybe, just maybe, retire with free healthcare for life. (Oops, didn’t plan on ObamaCare).

But doing just enough carries a huge risk. The pace of change today is faster than the speed of light. Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception writes about the infinite connections now created through the Internet that he refers to as the “connection economy”. The connection economy is where every human is capable of connecting with another for any reason, without needing any money, for any cause. This connected economy provides us all with an even playing field as we all have the ability to stand out, speak up, and make our unique thoughts known. The question is, are you taking advantage of this newly created connection economy or are you doing just enough?

For years I worried about being right. Getting it right. Making the right decisions. Doing the right thing. My journey has been filled with ups and downs like many others. But recently I have come to understand that it’s less about getting it right and more about being sure.

You see, often times in our lives it’s impossible to get it right because we simply don’t know what is right. Should you submit the report that shows your division’s poor results to your boss? Should you take a new opportunity offered to you or stay where you are and play it safe? Should you go to that big-name school or stick with the smaller college no one has heard of?

The point is, doing what you’re sure of, will often times result in better outcomes for you. Being sure of something means that it feels right rather than is right. Being sure of something carries an emotional connection to making it right.

If Steve Jobs worried about being right he most likely wouldn’t have invented and introduced the iPod in 2001. But he was sure it would be a hit. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook wasn’t worried about getting it right. He was sure that Facebook was needed and would become THE way people communicated with one another. Or how about Redbox, the dvd rental kiosk company. Started in 2002 as a joint venture with McDonald’s, Redbox looked at the changing market for home entertainment, listened to what customers wanted (cheap movie rentals) and innovated. They were sure first…and ultimately got it right.

Think about the important decisions in your life. Make time for yourself when you can be alone and ask yourself that all-important question…“what am I sure about?” You may be surprised by your own answer.