“To change your life, you have to change the way you think. Behind everything you do, is a thought. Every behavior is motivated by a belief. Every action is promoted by an attitude. Be careful of how you think. Your life is directed by your thoughts!”

- John Wright

John Wright Speaking Video

The Value of Teamwork: 1+1 = 3 (Or More!)

I find it significant that of all his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey calls Habit #6 –  Synergize –  the miracle habit.  In doing so, he emphasizes its importance.  He says:

“When properly understood, synergy is the highest activity in all life — the true test and manifestation of all of the other habits put together.  The highest forms of synergy focus the four unique human endowments, the motive of Win/Win, and the skills of empathic communication on the toughest challenges we face in life.  What results is almost miraculous.  We create new alternatives — something that wasn’t there before.”

Covey defines synergy as:

” …producing a third alternative – not my way, not your way, but a third way that is better than either of us would come up with individually.  It’s the fruit of mutual respect – of understanding and even celebrating one another’s differences in solving problems, seizing opportunities.  Synergistic teams and families thrive on individual strengths so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.  Such relationships and teams renounce defensive adversarialism (1+1=1/2). They don’t settle on compromise (1+1= 1 ½ or merely cooperation (1+1=2).  They go for creative cooperation (1+1=3 or more).”

The vast majority of you reading this have at some time in your life, been involved with a team.  It could have been a sports team, a musical group, the cast of a play – or maybe you worked on a group project.  Whether you were aware of it or not, you most likely learned the value of teamwork.

My friend, Robert Cooper, lists synergy at #3 in his 5 Hallmarks of the Greatest Leaders in the World. He calls it “Finding Leverage.”  Leverage makes lifting something that would be impossible to lift by yourself, possible.  Synergy, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, makes actions in your business, personal or family life, that you thought impossible…POSSIBLE.



To Understand – Listen

Last week, our discussion of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster) shifted from the private victories (Habits 1-3) to the public victories (Habits 4-6).   In my opinion, the fifth habit, the subject of this week’s blog, is the ultimate public victory because it is a critical skill in connecting with and LEADING others.

Habit # 5 – Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

” When we listen with the intent to understand others, rather than with the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship building.  When others feel understood first, they feel affirmed and valued, defenses are lowered, and opportunities to speak openly and to be understood come much more naturally and easily.  Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage.  Effectiveness lies in balancing the two.”

In most conversations, we don’t really listen when the other person is speaking.  We are too busy formulating our reply.  We think we are listening.  We also think we know where the person is heading, and we are much more concerned with what we have to say next than we are to truly understanding where this person is coming from and what he is saying.

Covey says it takes kindness and courage to seek first to understand, and I’d like to add it also takes a great deal of focus.  This focus sharpens our ability to listen, and, more importantly, to understand.  It’s very difficult to have a meaningful conversation with someone if we don’t really know his position.

To listen powerfully, let go of concerns about whether the person is right or wrong, or whether you agree or disagree.  At this stage, all that matters is that you know where the person is coming from, and that you understand that it is important to him.

The next time you are involved in a conversation, notice where your focus is while the other person is speaking.  If it is anywhere but on the speaker, adjust and LISTEN!

Stop Picking Winners and Losers

Today, I move into the public victory section of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster).

Habit #4: Think Win-Win.

I admit… There is a part of Win-Win that is difficult to get my arms around.

Most of us in the United States, and probably around the world, have not been trained or educated in Win-Win. The experience most of us have in life is one of competition, Win-Lose. I was trained to want to win, which meant that I wanted you to lose. Yet, when I look at my best relationships with the most important people in my life — family, co-workers, teammates, etc. — they are truly Win-Win.

Let’s quote the book:

“Thinking win-win is a frame of mind and heart that seeks mutual benefit and is based on mutual respect in all interactions. It’s about thinking in terms of abundance – an ever-expanding ‘pie,’ a cornucopia of opportunity, wealth, and resources – rather than of scarcity and adversarial competition. It’s not thinking selfishly (win-lose) or like a martyr (lose-win). In our work and family life, members think interdependently – in terms of ‘we’ not ‘me.’ Thinking win-win encourages conflict resolution and helps individuals seek mutually beneficial solutions. It’s sharing information, power, recognition, and rewards.”

I have been blessed to be a Rotarian for most of my professional life. Rotary is a worldwide organization with a first class reputation. The Four Way Test of Rotary, is a perfect example of the Win-Win philosophy.

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
4. WILL it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

So here’s a suggestion. Pick only winners by adopting a Win-Win attitude in your dealings with others.

The Myth of Time Management – what it really means to put first things first

“Effective people, in my observation do not start with their tasks.  They start with their time.  And they do not start out with planning.  They start by finding out where their time actually goes.”  — Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker, long considered one of the world’s top management consultants, had his clients complete a 7-day/24-hour-per-day time audit.  I do the same with my clients.  (I have written a previous blog sharing that the most important number in your life is 8760, the number of hours in a year.)  So, it makes perfect sense that one of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is about time.

Habit #3. Put First Things First.

All things are created twice – first mentally, second physically. Putting first things first is the second, or, physical creation.  It is organizing and executing around the mental creation (your purpose, vision, values, and most important priorities).

Second things do not come first.

First things do not come second.

Successful individuals and organizations focus on what matters most, which is not necessarily what is urgent.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

People often ask me how I can help them with their “time management.”  My first response is that I can’t help them, because you can’t manage time; everyone has all there is.  What they are really asking about is self management.    In that regard, I attempt to lead people in the direction of scheduling their priorities, versus prioritizing their schedules.

Most people think about all they have to do during the day, and prioritize their schedule around what is most urgent.  Often they are left with a long list of things they categorize as important but rarely, if ever, get around to, such as faith, family, exercise, and career.  A more effective strategy is prioritizing your to-do list in order of importance according to the larger plan for your life.

Make time FIRST for your most important priorities – the things that have the greatest effect on the quality of your life.  You will find that those other urgent things will also get taken care of, or you may decide they were not so urgent after all.

Goals! They’re Not Just For Sports

Welcome to Habit 2, Begin with the end in mind.*

Stephen Covey writes that all things are created twice – first mentally, second physically.  Individuals, families, teams, and organizations shape their own future by creating a mental vision and purpose for any project.  They don’t just live day to day without a clear purpose in mind.  They mentally identify and commit themselves to the principles, values, relationships, and purposes that matter most to them.

A mission statement is the highest form of mental creation for an individual, a family, or an organization.  It is the primary decision because it governs all other decisions.  Creating a culture behind a shared mission, vision, and set of values is the essence of leadership.

Napoleon Hill had a lot to say on this subject long before Stephen Covey wrote the 7 Habits.  He said:

“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement, and its lack is the stumbling block for ninety-eight out of every hundred people simply because they never really define their goals and start toward them.”

Study every person you can think of who has achieved lasting success, and you will find that each one has had a definite major purpose.  Each had a plan for reaching that goal, and each devoted the greatest part of his or her thoughts and efforts to that end.

What you have just read are words that can change your life for the better.  I have spent a lifetime developing and working with leaders, and have never known one who didn’t have an “end in mind,” that is, a well thought out set of goals.

Goal setting, like anything else worth doing, takes some time and effort.  But, it doesn’t have to be difficult.  Here are six steps to establish your end in mind.

  1. Decide what it is you want, and it must be a BURNING DESIRE.  Don’t be afraid to dream big.
  2. Determine what you are prepared to give up or do to accomplish this WANT.
  3. Set a date to accomplish your goal.  This is where your dream transforms from an idea into reality.
  4. Develop a plan to accomplish your goal.
  5. Write out the plan.
  6. Read the plan twice a day.  Best times are early in the morning and just before you go to bed.  This helps burn it into your subconscious, which is working 24 hours a day.

Get excited about your goal planning.  Start dreaming.

  • Who do you want to be?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Where would you like to live?
  • What do you want to have?

Pour some passion into that thinking.  Then begin with the end in mind.  Set your goals and don’t look back.

*7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (Simon & Schuster)

Don’t read these! Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I do a great deal of speaking across the country with the intention of helping people move up the ladder of success. Over the years, I have discovered and shared many effective tools for accomplishing goals and living a better, happier life. Without question, one of the most powerful pieces I discuss (if not the most powerful) is Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster).

Covey was introduced to an audience of 8,000 Northwestern Mutual wealth advisors and their families in the early 2000’s with the Time Magazine quote: “He was the most significant leader in the world of self-improvement in the twentieth Century.” That is a powerful statement, and one I certainly will not dispute. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits are more than timeless. They are formative traits that point to a life of success and fulfillment. I can’t think of ONE REASON why ANYONE would not want to learn these, and more importantly use them each day we occupy this earth.

So, for the next 7 weeks, I will post, in order, the Seven Habits.

Don’t read them.

STUDY them.
LEARN them.
TEACH them to your children and your team members at work.

When you have committed these to memory and they have become part of your thought process, you will find that you will be using them time and time again each day. They are invaluable tools for leaders to not only understand but to use. After all, they are the Habits of Highly Successful People. Good luck and have fun learning them.
Let’s start with the first one right out of the book, and I quote,

Being proactive is more than taking initiative. It is accepting responsibility for our own behavior(past, present, and future) and making choices based on principles and values rather than on moods or circumstances. Proactive people are agents of change and choose not to be victims, to be reactive, or to blame others. They do this by developing and using four unique human gifts – self-awareness, conscience, imagination, and independent will – and by taking an inside-out approach to creating change. They resolve to be the creative force in their lives, which is the most fundamental decision anyone ever makes.

If you were to attend the NFL Rookie Symposium this year, you would hear one main theme of the meeting: CHOICES / DECISIONS / CONSEQUENCES. Proactive people make better choices because they make choices for the right reasons, not because of someone else or any other outside influence. Proactive people make better decisions because their decisions are driven from the inside out, not the outside in. And lastly, proactive people end up with better consequences, better results, and hands down a better life.

See you next time for Habit 2.

Spring Into Action

5 Goal Planning Strategies to take you from Dream to Reality

For most of the country, we are emerging from the very dark, white, cold winter. Certainly one of the worst in my memory, and I am 137 years old. (A little leftover April Fools Day humor).  But, I did get a hint of spring in the air today.  Spring is the time of preparation, and as Russell Wilson said so appropriately following the Super Bowl, the Separation is in the Preparation.  Spring is a time when we till and plant.  And, it all starts there.  Without the tilling, the soil preparation, and the planting, there will be no harvest.  With that as a backdrop, I’d like to review what I consider a true north principle:

Rarely does much significant happen in our lives unless we prepare for it.

And this preparation could be summed up in two phrases — Definiteness of Purpose and Goal Planning.

Napoleon Hill said that Definiteness of Purpose is the starting point of all greatness.  The reason that 95% of all people really don’t reach any significant greatness is simply that they never decide where and when they are going.

The discussion that I consistently use when talking about goal planning is found on page 36 of his book, Think and Grow Rich.  It’s entitled, “Six ways to turn desires in to Gold.”

Here is my take on it.

  1. You must decide what you want, and have a burning desire to accomplish it.  The term burning desire came from when the Vikings attacked Great Britain.  The captains of the Viking ships burned their ships behind the attacking Vikings when they hit the shore.  They had two choices — attack, win the battle and LIVE. Or, lose the battle, and with no retreat back to their ships, DIE.   Most of our goals don’t involve life or death outcomes.  Nevertheless, if you want to accomplish something, you need to REALLY WANT it.  In other words, have a burning desire to accomplish it.
  2. You must be willing to give something up.  This is key, a deal breaker.  It’s great to have a burning desire to accomplish something, but unless you decide what you are going to give up to accomplish what you want, it’s NOT going to happen.  Every choice we make means we are not choosing something else.  Something has to change, something has be left behind in order to move forward.
  3. You must set a deadline.  A goal without a firm date to accomplish it is a dream.  Not that dreams aren’t important. (That’s often where our goals begin.)  But without a deadline, it’s just a nice idea that could happen someday.
  4. You must have a written plan.  One wouldn’t build a house without a plan to follow.  Our goals need a formal plan with clear steps for what’s next.  Spend some serious time putting this down on paper.
  5. You must know your plan.  Read it twice per day.  So many people think this is not important, but what a mistake that is.  Reading it twice per day, first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed, BURNS it into your subconscious, and our subconscious works 24 hours per day.

So celebrate this spring by tilling your mental soil, and planting the seeds of goal planning so that you will reap the harvest this fall.

Who’s the Enemy? (Not who you may think!)

Chief Yellow Lark, a warrior of the Lakota Sioux Tribe, wrote a prayer that has always been special to me.

Oh, Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear
me. I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
Ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
The things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
But to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
My spirit will come to your without shame.

I am in the process of writing my first book, and what screams out to me, and the mission of my book, is the first sentence in the third stanza:


It’s not the opposition; it’s not the other team; it’s not the others in the office gunning for the promotion; it’s not our brothers and sisters; IT’S US… WE are the enemy. Steven Covey’s first habit in his best seller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” is BE PROACTIVE. Which means someone is in charge of our life and our destiny. And we have a choice who that person is. It’s either US or someone else.”

Being proactive means we are in charge of our life. Being proactive is more than taking initiative. It is accepting responsibility for our own behavior (past, present, and future) and making choices based on principles and values rather than on moods or circumstances. Proactive people are agents of change and choose not to be victims, to be reactive, or to blame others. They do this by developing and using four unique human gifts:

• Self awareness
• Conscience
• Imagination
• Independent will

And by taking an inside-out approach to creating change. They resolve to be the creative force in their own lives, which is the most fundamental decision anyone ever makes.

There is a PGOW, an acronym that I invented, which stands for powerful group of words:

“The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every person a reflection of their own image. As we take control of our lives by being more proactive, being happier with ourselves and our lives, we will see the world we live in gives back to us these same virtues.


Tend the Fire

tend the fireHave you ever had a candlelight dinner with someone special?  Have you ever sat by the warmth of a campfire on a cold night, or watched the joy in the eyes of your children or grandchildren as they roasted marshmallows over the dancing flames of a fire?

I’m sure (and certainly hope) that you have experienced some or all of the above.  If you have, you have witnessed the first and original “home entertainment center.”

Fire has been at the forefront of importance in human history for all but probably the last 150 years… a tiny fraction of the time we have been on this earth.  Fire provided and sustained life.  It protected us, cooked our food, warmed our caves, teepees, cabins and castles, and was the gathering point for sharing our life stories.  If our sun — the big fire in the sky — were to leave us, the earth would be dead in a few hours.  Fire is life itself. Fire is pure energy.

When we first fall in love with someone, or with our career, or with anything we feel truly passionate about, we feel the spark of this energy.  This is a wonderful, special feeling.  We think it will last forever, but these sparks of a new fire are very fragile and must be tended and cared for in order to build them into the roaring flames we want in our relationships or our careers.  If left untended, they go out quickly.

The problem that I see in our fast-paced world is that we seem to want to live in a “gas log society.” We forget that all fires must be continually looked after and cultivated.  Our marriages and our careers cannot be successful or fully lived by simply flipping the switch to turn them on like we do with a gas log.  The roaring fire in our fireplaces or in our hearts will soon go out without constant care.  There is a saying that everything through longevity tends to get off track.  The fire of passion in our lives will definitely get off track or go out if it is not tended.

Some think we can flip the switch and TURN on LIFE.  We think we can hit the backspace button and eliminate third world hunger.  We can push the delete button and wipe out the fact that 30% or our youth drop out of high school.  Hit the cut and paste to rewrite our life story because we have failed to build a life through industriousness and enthusiasm.  We just don’t seem to understand that a text message will NEVER replace whispering in a person’s ear, “I love you!”

Life is to be lived.  We can’t flip a switch when we feel like it to keep a marriage or career successful.  We can’t flip a switch only when it suits us and expect to keep our dreams alive.  Life is to be lived to the fullest, and that means being IN the game not simply AT the game.  A gas log fire is being AT the game.  Keeping a roaring fire ablaze is being IN the game.

Being in the game of life means being ALL IN… engaged, focused, committed and rising up with all the GRIT and ZEST that we can muster.

Tonight, when you have dinner, whether you are by yourself, with someone special, with a gang of kids and your spouse, light a candle and as you watch its wonderful flame, ask yourself,  “Am I tending the fires of my life to make sure that the fire within me keeps burning bright and alive each and every day?”

Becoming a Champion (Part Two)

winIn “Becoming a Champion (Part One) I discussed the importance of seeing / visioning / dreaming about where it is you want to go, or what you want to be…i.e. a champion. I said you had to see it to be it. We talked about definiteness of purpose, the starting point of all greatness, actually being definite about where you want to go or about what or who you want to be. This is the vital first step to moving beyond the plateau you are currently living on and climbing to the higher ground that you desire. The good news is that YOU can do this. The bad news is it’s tough, because it requires CHANGE.

When I ask audiences the question: “Do people like change?” the unanimous answer is “No.” But when we explore that answer, we find that people love positive change. Would you like to lose a few pounds, get in much better shape, double your income, become a better spouse or parent? The answer to all those questions is usually a very strong YES! So what is it that people don’t like about change? They don’t like the transition from point A…where they currently are, to point B, where they want to go, because typically that involves effort and more often than not, at least some discomfort.

In his book, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
, Geoff Colvin explains (and backs with a lot of research) that what separates the greats from the rest is deliberate practice — which is HARD WORK. There is no simple, easy, golden key that I can give you that will make you a champion. There is no app that you can use to access champion-ness. And, I think that is a blessing, because being a champion is reserved for those who are willing to pay a serious price. Those who are willing to start a life routine of “Deliberate Practice”…which takes commitment and effort. You are not going to be able to “follow” yourself to become a champion; you are going to have to “LEAD” yourself. And quite frankly, everyone on this planet is a leader, because we all lead the person who is most difficult to lead: OURSELF!