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The Greatness Project

Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: My brother Brian used to have a bumper sticker on the back of his car that read “He who dies with the most toys wins.” At the time I thought it was clever and cute. Yet as I get older I find myself thinking about life, how we live it and the legacy we leave. Too often I encounter people who have never thought about life and passively allowed life to choose their lives for them. Yet there are the magical wonderful people I’ve met who live full lives by their own choosing and make sure that how they live is how they want to live.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of people about choosing life. We spoke about the power of deciding who you could and would be and how you would and would not act. Many of them initially were skeptical about believing they were in control. But consider the alternative. If we are just passive responders to what happens to us in life, we become a rudderless boat at the mercy of the wind and waves of some universal whim. Yet that is a belief that many people have.
Yes, there is the reality that sh*t happens, and there are times when events occur over which we have no control. Yet, much of our life; who we choose to be and how we choose to act, is in our control. And to give up those decisions about life because sometimes there are unexpected bumps in the road is throwing away our most valuable ability.
Owning our ability to choose our life takes courage. It is easier to blame other people or outside forces for the reasons we can’t accomplish what we want or be who we want to be. But it is the coward’s way out. There I said it! Giving over the power of choice when we have the ability to build our lives is the easy way. Yet when we make the choices we want to live the life we want we own our lives. That is the greatest gift of all.
Start small. Make choices about how you will react to events in your day, how you choose to live a day and then how you will live this week. It is energizing, invigorating and scary at the same time. Yet you will never regret taking control of your life. I don’t believe that “he who dies with the most toys wins.” Because when they die their family and friends have to find ways to dispose of all their toys. I would rewrite the bumper sticker to read “He/she who dies with the most choices wins.” That is a life well lived.

Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: “Imaginary obstacles are insurmountable. Real ones aren’t.”
Barbara Sher

Remember the children’s book about the train that could? “I think I can, I think I can…” That became the mantra of a generation of children. We somehow believed that if we wanted something badly enough we could obtain it. And for the most part, that is true. But if we think about the obstacles in our lives that have stopped us from doing something, or attaining a new level, or reaching a goal, we have to ask ourself honestly, how real was the obstacle?
We have a perverse ability to create monsters out of shadows, to convince ourselves that what is around the corner is deadly and it is in our best interest to turn back. Of course, we do this mostly when we are venturing into the unknown, trying a new behavior, reaching a new level and almost everything is new to us. Yet, look at our lives. Every year we learned something new, moved to a new place, made new friends, started new jobs, or went back to school. All of those moments are frightening in themselves, but are not insurmountable obstacles.
What we need is a reality check. When we feel that we have an insurmountable obstacle in front of us, we need to step back and look at it from another direction. Standing in front of a brick wall will only allow us to know that we can’t get through it. However, perspective might help us to see that it is not as high as we thought, or as wide, or perhaps we realize there is no mortar between the bricks and they will fall easily. If after all of that, the obstacle still seems insurmountable, ask someone else to examine it. Sometimes a different perspective allows us to understand the way an obstacle can be overcome.
The biggest obstacles are those we ourselves create because we know our weaknesses and fears. We can craft obstacles that are personally very fearsome, because sometimes it is easier to believe that a goal is unachievable than to continue the struggle to attain it. Yet the finest moments in life are those when an obstacle has been overcome, an adversary undone, or exhaustion ignored. If we don’t believe we can achieve something, we never will. But when we think we can achieve it, we will find a way no matter the obstacles.

Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: “We are the creators of our own experience — remembering this and living our lives from this perspective empowers us.” Mike Robbins
Over the years, in many of the workshops I’ve facilitated, I’ve heard the lament “I’ve not found my purpose yet.” This thinking imperils the very end goal many people pursue. When I visualize someone “looking” for their passion or purpose, I picture them looking under rocks with a large magnifying glass.
The idea that my purpose in life or passion is out there waiting for me to find creates two different and very big problems. The first problem is that idea of searching for our purpose makes the world and our lives a big game. Our purpose is hidden out there and we have to find it. Really? Yet, there are no rules, no guidelines and nothing to say when we really find it. That would be a nasty universe indeed. However the second problem is more critical. If we are to “find” our purpose in life, that means that it was planted and planned by someone or something else. It is not really ours, it is imposed on us by something outside of us. So, we don’t really own it and when things get difficult or challenging it is much easier to blame the universe or some higher being rather than persevere in our purpose.
Reality is much simpler, but requires more courage. Our life will be much more powerful, guided, energized when we craft our purpose. It is up to us to evaluate our strengths, what we love to do, how we love to interact and glue all of that together into our life purpose. That is when we truly own our lives. That is when the purpose that we pursue is directly connected to who we are and how we will make a difference in the lives of others.
So, if someone ever asks you “have you found your purpose?” You can respond by offering “no, I’m too busy crafting it.” You will have a much more powerful life and you won’t spend it looking under rocks.

Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: The Status of Powerlessness

“We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.”
Eric Michael Leventhal
It seems we live in a society, even an epoch, when status symbols and power are critical to how we perceived. Daily we are pitched to own new clothes, watches, cars, computers, etc., that proclaim to the world that we are wealthy, powerful, or at least up-to-date. These symbols communicate to others how we fit into our world and where we are in the pecking order. Most careers even seem to have a dress code. Look around. In order to fit in, everyone from artists to CEOs have a style that fits their chosen profession. And all of this stuff is to make others believe we are powerful (but perhaps mostly it is to convince us).
Have you ever met someone who is so powerful they can afford to let others shine? They can be quietly present and not have to take over the room. Those are people who have matured into the natural power of being authentic. They don’t worry what others might think of their clothes, nor do they have to dominate the conversation or have the final word. Their quiet power is more striking than all of the boisterousness, bragging or status symbols of those around them. They are the ones who have grown into the best of who they are.
We all have power. And it is power from the very nature of who we are and what we have to give to the world. Every time we give into the status symbols and pecking order that are prevalent in society we cheapen who we are and what we bring. Yet choosing not to play the game of authority takes courage. Being calm in a maelstrom of insecurity requires that we have explored the truth of who we are, what we bring and what our frailties are. Therein lays the precious gold of what we bring to the world. Once we know those truths about ourselves there are none who can upset or tempt us. That is true power and is what this world needs right now.

Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Anne Bradstreet
I am an optimist. I don’t apologize for it, nor do I demand that others have the same outlook as I have. Yet I cringe when I hear optimists universally described as “not looking at reality.” But what is reality?
We live in a world that begins with fairy tales where couples live “happily ever after”, where Oz is at the end of the yellow brick road and the good always wins. These are the mental models we are given as children to face the reality of the world. Yet, we all know that the world is harsher than that. So, should we abandon the belief that everything will turn out well? Not at all.
Life has its rough times and it is the rough times that can define us. It is not enough to look forward to the bright future, without packing some rain gear. That is where we can help ourselves and help others.
When we embark on a new project we need to envision success or we will not set out on the journey. Yes, we envision the end goal in all its glory so that we have the energy to begin. And we also need the tools and resources to face the challenges along the way so that when the challenges arise, we are ready to meet them.
Plan for the challenges in every venture, heck, plan for them in every day. What do you do to keep your eyes on your goal? How do you energize yourself when things get tough? Who can you rely on to support you when things don’t work out? These are the tools and resources that all of us need to pack as we walk this unpredictable life.
I have always loved the phrase “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” In this life, we will meet with times of winter and times of spring, with both the good and the bad. Both the good and the bad teach us, but only if we are prepared. So, welcome your spring when it comes. It will be that much sweeter after you have worked your way through your winter.