The Knowledge

If you are a fan of right angles and straight lines, driving in London is not for you. The baffling knot of streets, roundabouts with up to eight entry points instead of stop signs, and the fact that you are driving on what we consider the wrong side of the car AND the wrong side of the street turns most Americans into whimpering idiots within a day, if not an hour. In London, it’s completely possible to take two right turns and end up in the exact same spot. Or in Narnia. Or Bonkersville. Even with a good map, most people get lost. And yet, there are thousands of Londoners who’ve committed the city’s entire layout to memory… the drivers of London’s famous Black Cabs.

This week as my work takes me to England and Ireland, the first thing Tom and I did upon arriving at London’s Paddington Station was hail one of these cabs to take us to our hotel which was located in the financial district about 25 miles away. As we slid into the immaculate and spacious rear section with all our luggage, the friendly cab driver asked, “Where to?”

“Malmaison Hotel, please. Just a moment, I have the address right here…” As I frantically began to dig around inside my cramped travel bag, he raised his hand and replied, “No worries, Miss. I know exactly where ‘tis.” And, with a reassuring smile in the rearview mirror… we were off.

It was late afternoon and we hit a traffic jam almost immediately. Our cabbie quickly and expertly made a sharp turn and detoured down a different avenue, explaining along the way how the city was laid out as well as adding fascinating tidbits of information about all the sights we were passing. Impressed with his substantial knowledge and skill, I asked if he had lived in London all of his life and if he was a history buff. That is when I learned about “The Knowledge.”

The Knowledge is a test among the hardest to pass in the world and has been described as having an atlas of the streets of London implanted in your brain.

While learning to drive one of London’s Black Cabs is no easy feat, the pay which averages $150,000 per year and the freedom make it very appealing to 25,000 licensed drivers. Cab fares in London are the second most expensive in the world (after Tokyo). To earn the privilege, drivers have to pass an intense intellectual ordeal, known charmingly as The Knowledge. Since 1865, they’ve had to memorize the location of every street within six miles of Charing Cross… all 25,000 of the capital’s arteries, veins and capillaries. They also need to know the locations of 20,000 landmarks – museums, police stations, theatres, clubs, and more – and 320 routes that connect it all together.

It takes an average of four years to learn The Knowledge though some have done it in as few as two and as many as thirteen. To prove their skills, prospective drivers make “appearances” at the licensing office where they must recite the best route between any two points in a one-on-one oral exam. The only map they can use is the one in their head. They even have to narrate the details of their journey, complete with passed landmarks, road names, junctions, turns, restaurants, ATM’s, and maybe even traffic lights. Only after successfully doing this, several times over, can they earn a cab driver’s license.

There are no short cuts to becoming a Black Cab driver. Students, known as “Knowledge boys” (or girls), spend years driving through London learning thousands of streets and the quickest “runs” or routes from one point to another. Most of them work a full-time job, spending nights and weekends on the back of a scooter with a map of an area attached to a clipboard and mounted on the handlebars, covering thousands of miles in the process.

If they sit for one of the many exams they must take and do not pass, they simply try again. Our cabbie described it this way, “Perseverance is the key: Nobody can fail The Knowledge. They can only give up.”

So why don’t they just use a GPS (or SatNav as the Brits call them)? The answer to this question brings me to the point of this week’s Stretch: Just because technology CAN do something for us… doesn’t mean it always should.

Turns out that many experienced London Cabbies have entered regular competitions where they battle against GPS technology and the clock. They are asked routine questions, common in the life of most cab drivers, such as, “Can you take me to my hotel but on the way could you stop at a cash machine and an all-night pharmacy?” When pitted against another person operating the GPS, the cabbie equipped with The Knowledge almost always wins.

I observe similar issues in my work with healthcare and service-based businesses all the time. For example, I’m a huge fan of automated appointment confirmation systems for most clients but occasionally the administrators, armed with The Knowledge of years of experience, know that the shortest route to actually getting certain clients through the door on time and on the right day for their appointments is not only to pick up the phone personally but also to do it in a particularly personalized way for that patient… something the digital technology just can’t do.

Luckily for us, we don’t have to log thousands of miles on the back of a scooter in rain, cold, and snow for four years to learn The Knowledge. We simply have to recognize that ultimate client service is achieved by a common-sense approach to merging both technology and human interaction… high tech combined with high touch. When you merge this with experience and common sense, your team will create an unbeatable client experience that no digital “GPS” could ever navigate!

“Truth is emotional, it’s fluid, and above all, it’s human. No matter how quick we get with computers, no matter how much information we have, you’ll never be able to remove the human from the truth-seeking exercise.” — Markham Nolan

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Leadership on the Road

I love traditions. They are like little secrets that bind families, friends, and all kinds of groups together. We recently initiated a brand new tradition in our sweet blended family. Today, we leave for two weeks in England and Ireland with Tom’s grandson, Gabriel. It’s the first “trip of a lifetime” for each one of his (so far) six grandchildren when they turn 16. I keep my fingers and toes crossed that one day I’ll also add a few little “Grand Delights,” as we tenderly call them, to the big, boisterous mix but in the meantime, I’m loving every minute with these little gems.

I’ll be delivering seven short presentations on leadership conversations in Birmingham, England at a large veterinary conference so the timing was perfect to combine a little work and a little play along with this first run at what we think will be something fun for each grandchild to look forward to… almost as much as the grandparents who will get to experience the wonders of travel through the innocent eyes of a young person they love. We decided on this tradition for several reasons: 1) the lifelong memories sure to be formed, 2) the quality personal time with that individual child, and 3) the powerful lessons and the broad perspectives that can only be gained by getting out of our narrow daily world and learning that there is a big old wonderful world out there just waiting to be discovered.
All our experiences in life help to define and develop our leadership capacity and skills. It’s been my experience that travel is one of the best teachers in discovering our leadership depth. Here are a few lessons of which I am reminded and of which we will enjoy watching Gabriel navigate as well on this trip:

1) Comfortable with Discomfort
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is built in when traveling to a different country. Foods, people, customs, and which side of the road they drive on can all seem a bit foreign, overwhelming, and even a bit frightening in the beginning. Travel forces us out of our comfort zone and into our stretch zone where we know all the good stuff happens and is learned. Leadership is all about getting comfortable being a little uncomfortable.

2) New Perspectives
Travel helps us learn to tolerate and embrace the similarities and the differences in other peoples’ worlds. When we experience these, we are broadened and enriched. We are forced to examine our preconceived notions and prejudices. Leadership is all about broadening perspectives, challenging limiting beliefs, and tapping into the best in people.

3) Courage
It takes courage to try new foods, activities, languages, and share new ethnic or local traditions. Flexing our courage muscle is good for us and exposes us to things we would otherwise never know or understand. Leadership is all about displaying and encouraging courage.

4) Expanded Circles of Influence
We’ve made so many lifelong friends when we’ve traveled. We’ll spend one night with friends we’ve made on our past trips to the UK. Meeting new people broadens your circle of influence. We’ve been delighted by the rich insights, meals, and stories shared with our friends outside of our normal circles. Leadership is all about expanding and leveraging our circles of influence.

5) Self-Awareness
I was warned early on, “Be careful who you travel with because their true colors will come out.” They were so right. Travel tests our patience, will, creativity, determination, confidence, and of course… map-reading skills. Delayed flights, missed trains, lost luggage, wrong reservations, and torrential downpours can ruin an otherwise wonderful trip if the travelers are not able to master their expectations and emotions. When we travel, we get to practice focusing on what we can control and letting go of what we can’t. We must practice self-awareness balanced with the awareness of the needs of others around us. Leadership is all about a heightened self-awareness.

This week, whether you find yourself traveling across the globe, the country, the state or just across town to your job… remember that the opportunities to flex our leadership muscle show up everywhere and all the time. Grab those moments with both hands and … if you don’t have a trip to somewhere you’ve never been, get it on your calendar soon. You’ll be changed for the better and you’ll become a better leader in the process.


“Travel makes one modest.  You see what a tiny place you occupy in this world.”
~~Gustav Flaubert


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The Perfection of What Is

For association speakers, spring is show-time! Crisscrossing the country several times a month, this spring has been exceptionally busy for me. Truly loving and thoroughly enjoying my work, I am so grateful. I’ve never believed more strongly that my messages are essential, relevant, and desperately sought by the thousands of audience members to whom I’ll present them this year. It’s a simple message really but I’m constantly reminded how challenging it can be for those who, so far, have spent their lives operating from a completely different, and often opposite, paradigm.

Case in point: I write this week’s Stretch on a plane flying home from Vancouver, B.C. where I presented two talks on personal leadership at the Pacific Dental Conference. The presentations centered around the concept and skill of examining what we believe to be true, reframing our current circumstances and challenges from a different, broader perspective in order to see and access greater potential and possibilities. I spoke about the trap of believing things are happening to us, that people are against us, or things should or shouldn’t be a certain way… instead of recognizing we are always creating and orchestrating our own unique experience of “what is”; that when we embrace what is and dance with it to mold it into the experience we desire, we then have the life we desire. Not the other way around. I used several experiential exercises to help the audience really feel how to do this and used multiple examples and stories to further illuminate the idea. Judging from the level of interaction, questions, and positive comments … I felt certain my message had landed well.

Afterward, participants came up to speak further with me or to tell me how much the presentation resonated with them. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman standing aside, looking slightly anxious, and waiting for the others to finish. When they had, I turned and greeted her. She managed a strained smile, offered a timid handshake, and began to speak with a slight tremble in her voice. Clearly, whatever was on her mind had her emotions running high.

She shared her story of being blissfully happy as the office manager of a wonderful practice for over 20 years with a doctor she adored but recently and abruptly being thrust into a whirlwind of unwelcomed change. Retiring suddenly, her doctor had sold the practice to a large, corporate dental company with multiple practices and a largely absentee owner. She had been retained (on the strong advice of the retiring doctor) to manage the largest practice. The only direction she had been given was to get and keep the large, multi-cultural team she had inherited in line, find a way to increase the bottom line and not bother the owner with personnel issues of any kind. “There is no way I can do it because the team is just awful. They are mean-spirited, self-centered, and unwilling to even converse with me, let alone be led by me. The oldest one has a personal mission to sabotage and undermine my efforts with the team and they have been allowed for years to do whatever they want, whenever they want to. They have no idea….”

After a time, as gently as I could, I cut her off. Didn’t we just spend three hours talking about this very thing? Had she been in the same class I had just given?

I was painfully reminded that while these concepts sound simple, easy to agree with and even, obvious… they are not easy to implement after a lifetime of doing it another way. It’s a mammoth shift to a new discipline, mindset, and perspective and requires a great deal of trust and faith.

I took her hands, leveled my gaze, and let the calm and confidence I felt pour into her. I assured her that no one was doing anything to her. She was in full and powerful control of every piece of how she would experience this opportunity… That where she had found herself was a place of huge possibility, enormous growth and likely the opening to an incredible new career, if that’s what she desired. If not, the same environment she had once enjoyed was also available to her somewhere out there.

She stated she wanted to make it work and wanted to “not be upset and afraid.” So I had her imagine finding the way to have a substantial and clarifying conversation with her new boss about his vision as well as her role, mission, authority, and the level of his support. I had her continue to imagine a gathering in the future with a team she had built who had been re-united and re-ignited around a powerful new vision, team culture, and leader they were delighted and anxious to follow. I asked if she believed any person had ever taken a circumstance like this and transformed it into something no one could have believed or predicted. She agreed that probably someone had. I reminded her, “If it’s been done… it’s probably possible.” And they weren’t any smarter, more talented, or any braver than her. They set their course, stepped in, and took on the challenge as a gift, a precious opportunity to advance and serve their own life as well as the lives of others. They embraced “what is” … just the way it is… and decided to dance with it, enjoy the process and see what happens.

I watched as her breathing settled, her smile brightened and tears brimmed in her eyes. “You’re right, when I think of it in that way, it feels exciting and full of possibilities instead of heavy and next to impossible. I can actually feel my anger about this happening to me subside as I consider it that way. I could even see how I could look back on this as potentially a really great thing in my life instead of one of my worst pieces of bad luck.” Exactly.

Anais Nin once said, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” This week, you will be faced with a challenge of some sort: on the freeway, with your kids, attempting an impossible schedule, paying a bill, handling a conflict… and your experience of all of them will be shaped by what you decide is true and possible as well as what could be gained from the experience. Your shortest path to finding success is dancing with it exactly as it showed up and spending no time on how it should or should not have been.

Living in this way is a practice, helped I believe, by some quiet time each day in prayer, meditation, a hot bath, or a relaxing walk where you can reflect on your ability to create your experience to your liking and to fully relax into the perfection of what is.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

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Crazy Lucky

Top o’ the morning to ya on this second Monday in March. March is generally the month when we start to awaken from winter and welcome in Spring (at least on the West Coast!) We also get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick was a 5th century Irish bishop and is considered the patron saint of Ireland. He frequently used the 3-leaf clover as a metaphorical tool to teach his followers about the Holy Trinity. On occasion, he would spot a rare 4-leaf clover and considered it a token of God’s favor and impending good luck.

I’m grateful to St. Pat for giving us a holiday dedicated to nothing more than drinking a good, stout, green beer, but I’m not much of a believer in the idea of luck… at least not in the traditional terms. Denzel Washington said once in a speech, “Luck is when an opportunity comes along, and you’ve prepared for it.” Like Denzel and many others before him, I agree that we create our own good or bad luck. I think it’s largely influenced by the company we keep, the thoughts we think, the beliefs we hold and the energy which all of that helps us to emit out into the world. That combination also forms our ability to recognize and align with things, people, opportunities, ideas, and resources that the same “unlucky” people inhabiting the same world don’t see or line up with. It’s like a magnet that pulls what we want right into our routine daily orbit and from which we can sort and sift and choose. From the perspective of those who are holding different beliefs and telling a different story of the same events… we look unbelievably lucky.

I guess some people could say that March was a lucky month for me when eight years ago on March 21st, I met a man for coffee at a local Starbucks and, without knowing it, looked directly into the eyes of someone I would fall in love with and ultimately marry. It happened though after countless well-meaning people warned me that all the “good men” were taken after 50 and only “creepers” were on Internet dating sites after 50. They were wrong on both counts, and I believe that it was not luck at all but my energetic position that caused not only the alignment of our fortuitous “rendezvous” but also our ability to recognize it and follow it to this very happy end.

It has always been that way for me in work and play. So often in fact that now I don’t resist it, wonder about it, or even try to completely understand it. When I follow my intuition, put myself in a positively expectant state of mind, and love where I am as much as where I’m going… the most amazing (lucky?) things flood my experience.

For all the reasons above, I’m including a second music recommendation this month, Crazy Lucky by Better Than Ezra. In their lyric, “There are so many reasons that we shouldn’t have met, I could’ve turned right when you turned left, but the world’s got a funny way of stacking the deck, don’t forget. Too much heartache, too many nights, so many coulda, woulda, shoulda but you never tried,” they speak straight to the luck versus intention idea.

I know that positive energetic intention trumps luck every time so, this week … just go out and make your own darn luck! It will work out a lot better and way more often.

Music Monday Video Graphic

Better Than Ezra – Crazy Lucky

“There are six and three quarter billion people in this world
And 51 percent of them are girls
You roll your eyes like I’m full of it,
But I Googled that shit
And if the world is four times bigger than the moon
Then tell me, how on Earth did I find you
With just two grains of sand blowing on the beach
Damn that’s deep.

It’s like faith, God, or The Big Bang
It’s just one of them things that you can’t explain
And I don’t need to know why
Maybe we’re crazy crazy lucky,
Maybe we’re crazy crazy lucky.
And I’m just one in a billion guys
But the way, the way you love
Has got me feeling crazy crazy lucky
Feeling like oh oh oh
Like we’re crazy lucky
There are so many reasons that we shouldn’t have met
I could’ve turned right when you turned left
But the world’s got a funny way of stacking the deck
Don’t forget
Too much heartache, too many nights
So many coulda, woulda, shoulda but you never tried
I can’t figure out if we were meant to be
Or just crazy lucky

It’s like faith, God, or The Big Bang
It’s just one of them things that you can’t explain
And I don’t need to know why
Maybe we’re crazy crazy lucky,
Maybe we’re crazy crazy lucky.
And I’m just one in a billion guys
But the way, the way you love
Has got me feeling crazy crazy lucky
Oh, whoo whoo, hey, whoo ooo hey, crazy crazy

It’s like faith, God, or The Big Bang
It’s just one of them things that you can’t explain
And I don’t need to know why
Maybe we’re crazy crazy lucky,
Maybe we’re crazy crazy lucky.
And I’m just one in a billion guys
But the way, the way you love me
Has got me feeling crazy crazy lucky
But the way, the way you love me
Has got me feeling crazy crazy lucky
Feeling like oh oh oh
Like we’re crazy lucky
Crazy lucky”

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“May those that love us, love us.
And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.
And if He can’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles
So we will know them by their limping.”

~~ Unknown (An Irish saying from a plaque on our front porch)

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Music Monday: Floating Your Cork

Last week we got a great response to my Stretch about the ripple effect of what we do. In it, I referenced an analogy about The Flow (the river) and the muddy banks on the sides. Many people asked if I would re-run the story to help them fill in the blanks so… Here it is:

The Lioness Principle, which guides my company, my work, and my life, is basically the acknowledgement that we all have an inner wisdom and knowing that is infallible in its guidance and truth. But, lately I’ve realized a great distinction. I’ve come to understand that this guidance system speaks in a feeling place, not an intellectual place. In other words, to hear it and therefore leverage it in your work and life, you must feel it rather than hear it. You must allow it rather than try so hard to figure it all out. It requires getting yourself into what I call “The Flow.”

For me, The Flow looks a lot like the “It’s a Small World After All” ride at Disneyland – a magical float along an energetic river of endless and delightful possibilities, passageways, and people who can connect you to all the things, experiences, and relationships you want in life. I imagine that The Universe is happily and constantly yielding to me all the many and multiple avenues by which I can create all that I want and realize all the satisfaction from it that I desire. When I’m in The Flow, I imagine myself as a little wine cork who floats effortlessly toward all that I want. Even if I’m only on the edges of The Flow, I am likely to be easily swept up in it.

But alas, as I’m peacefully and blissfully floating along… suddenly life happens. I look at my checkbook balance, my calendar, my to-do list, an email or voicemail message, and I’m disturbed in some way by worry, fear, doubt, jealousy, insecurity, loneliness, a sudden change of plans, or an event out of my control… and out the cork pops right into the muddy banks on the sides! Or at a minimum, down it goes, under the flow, tethered by my heavy energy, limiting beliefs, and negative emotions. My work, then, is not to keep the cork from going under or popping out (which is next to impossible if you live in a modern world) but rather to quickly recognize that it has gone under and use a few tools to free it so that it may float along this river of possibilities again.

Understanding The Flow is not just important in creating a fabulous life, but it has great potential to improve your professional life as well. When I need to make an important business decision or have a challenging or crucial conversation with an employee or client, I make sure, first, that I am emotionally in The Flow and not standing outside in fear, lack, insecurity, or anger. How do I know if I’m in or out of The Flow? By the way I feel. If I feel negative emotions, I’m out, stuck in the mud, and this is never a strong platform on which to make decisions or communicate effectively as a leader.

So, when you’re out, how do you “get back in?” I think it’s different for everyone. I have found a specific set of guided meditations that help me, as does a “flow” playlist on my iPod, a “mantra” list on my computer to which I’m constantly adding quotes and thoughts, or a brisk walk on my favorite path up a hill where the view and the vibe inspire me. In every case, it requires taking a moment to regain my sense of gratitude for not only what I already have but also for the opportunity before me for growth… even though it is framed as a challenge. It also requires tapping into my faith and courage and my huge capacity for approaching the world through a lens of love, calm, forgiveness, and abundance.

This week, consider how a physical reminder such as a cork, stone, coin, or other small item sitting on your desk, dashboard, or tucked into your pocket can serve as a touchstone and reminder to tap into the place where you can access unlimited peace, well-being, absolute knowing, and perfect answers.

For Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month) here’s a little sweet jam from a big fav of mine, Jason Mraz, 3 Things, which always reminds me, when I’m stuck in the mud, to just jump right back in The Flow.

Jason Mraz- Angel by the Wings

“There are three things I do when my life falls apart
Number one I cry my eyes out and I dry up my heart
Not until I do this will my new life start
So that’s the first thing that I do when my life falls apart

Oh the second thing I would do is I close both of my eyes
And say my thank-yous to each and every moment of my life
I go where I know the love is and let it fill me up inside
Gathering new strength from sorrow,
I’m glad to be alive

And things are looking up
I know above the clouds the sun is shining
Things are looking up
Love is still the answer I’m relying, oh right
Three little things
Things are looking up

Oh, the third thing that I do now when my world caves in,
Is I pause, I take a breath, and bow and I let that chapter end
I design my future bright not by where my life has been
And I try, try, try, try, try again
Yes I try, try, try, try, try again

Things are looking up
I know beyond the dark the sun is rising
Things are looking up
And I know above the clouds the sun is shining
Things are looking up
Love is still the answer I’m relying, oh right
Three little things
Three little things”

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The Ripple Effect

Every parent wonders if the instruction and advice we gave our children when they were growing up will actually stick or be eventually discarded or ignored completely. I always did a silent, internal fist pump when I would see one of my sons put a napkin in their lap, hold the door for someone, or pull up in a car wearing their seat belt all on their own.

Once, as a speaker on a cruise where I had clients and industry leaders in attendance, I remember being ridiculously nervous about the behavior and formal manners of my two boys who were traveling with me. At the formal dinner, I felt like doing a happy dance when they used the correct glassware and silverware, said the appropriate “please” and “thank you’s,” asked to be excused between dessert and after-dinner drinks and then went around the table and said goodnight to each person at our table. I secretly giggled inside when everyone commented on what well-mannered boys I had raised… especially knowing that my husband and I were the only two people at the table who had any idea how many nights we had practiced all this at our dinner table prior to the cruise.

But the best moment was when I unexpectedly caught one of them teaching their cousin about formal table manners before a celebratory dinner or heard from a teacher that the entire class, following the example and instruction from my son, had won the prize for the most well-mannered class that month at school.

Good lessons and examples can not only positively affect the person you’re instructing but they also have the potential to “roll downhill” to others you may never know or meet. It’s the “butterfly effect” where the movement of the tiniest wings can stir the air and ripple across the atmosphere, gaining momentum and ultimately causing a great wind.

This butterfly effect happened at LionSpeak last month when I received the email below. It was one of those moments when you are paid in more than dollars, when you know that the work you do is sometimes leaving a positive, permanent footprint on the world and rippling outward in a way that will matter long after you’ve moved on.

In your work this week, consider how the things you say, the small little kindnesses you show, and the leadership you demonstrate will not only positively impact your teammates and clients but will likely cause a ripple effect to happen out there in the world. And that’s enough. Do the good work you were called to do with all the generosity and passion you can muster and rest in the knowledge that, on occasion, someone will pick up the baton and continue the race of that good work. Someone has to start the first ripple. Be the change you want to see and know those tiny wings of good works will cause an eventual gust of goodness down the road.

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Building a Bigger Pie

My husband, Tom, is a recently retired 5th grade school teacher. He spent most of his time teaching at an elementary school with a high percentage of ESL (English as Second Language) students and therefore found himself explaining the meaning of English idioms quite often. Luckily, he’s always been fascinated by the origin of phrases such as “catch a cold,” “tie one on,” or “costs an arm and a leg” and so he could often explain how they came to be part of our common language. If he didn’t know, he always enjoyed researching and reporting back on the always enlightening and sometimes comical historical context.

Even though he is now retired, I’ve discovered you can never actually take the classroom out of the teacher. Part of the work I love doing is coaching other speakers and trainers on their presentations. Last week, Tom overheard me sign off on a coaching call by saying “Break a leg!” to my colleague who was about to give the first keynote of their career. He asked if I knew where that phrase came from and I admitted I did not.

He told me centuries ago in England, musicians and actors where only allowed to perform at court dinners for background entertainment, usually not even soliciting a glance from the King. But if you were exceptionally good, he might look your way and, if he formally acknowledged you with a nod, you would answer that honor with a deep, sweeping bow in gratitude for the recognition. That bow to the King required that you lean back on a straightened leg, bending the knee of the other one … in essence “breaking a leg.” This became the sendoff to entertainers heading to court, in the hopes their performance would be so good, the King would notice and favor them. If you “broke a leg”… you had performed very well indeed.

Our ability to sincerely wish our colleagues well and genuinely hope for and rejoice in their achievements, good fortune, and success is an indicator of our own self-worth and true belief in an abundant world. I know this and yet there have been times in my life when I’ve congratulated people on something wonderful while internally and privately feeling slightly envious or even threatened. But that’s not the person I want to be. Self-examination of those feelings has brought me to this realization: Our feelings of jealousy, envy, and resentment have nothing to do with what another person actually has, does, makes, or looks like. They are always, always the result of our own personal feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and scarcity in comparison to them. And, they are big contributors to pettiness and gossip within the workplace.

The late Cavett Roberts, founder of the National Speaker’s Association, is famous for saying that instead of spending energy and time trying to figure out how to carve a bigger “piece of the pie,” spend your resources “baking a bigger pie.” The next time you feel jealous of a colleague’s promotion, pay scale, recognition or accomplishment, check yourself privately. Ask yourself why it’s important to compare yourself to others, from what insecurity those feelings stem, and how you can steer your attention to building a bigger pie for everyone.

I find it helpful to remind myself that I do believe there is always enough to go around; that no one has to lose for me to win and that, when someone else wins, it takes away nothing from me but only adds to the whole of what is possible. I try to remember that when I feel true inner joy, not the kind you fake but real feelings of gladness for others’ success, it creates the kind of energy which attracts more of that very thing into my own life. When we truly honor someone else’s good fortune, in essence, we bless it, magnify it and, better yet, attract more of it for ourselves.

“The surest route to breeding jealousy is to compare. Since jealousy comes from
feeling less than another, comparisons only fan the fires.”
Dorothy Corkville Briggs

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Be Mine, Valentine

It’s hard not to love a holiday dedicated to the idea of Love… and I do.

Usually I reserve the first Monday of the month for “Music Monday” where I select a song from which I take inspiration. But this week, I couldn’t resist referencing two songs that truly capture what I want to express. The first is appropriately called, Valentine, by the young, new artist, Kina Grannis. It should do the trick to get you in the mood to spin around the kitchen this Wednesday dancing and celebrating your love with your sweetheart.

The second song, And Then You Love Someone, by Ben Rector takes on our own level of responsibility in loving others. Likely a truer, longer lasting idea.

“Love, you learn to love, to feel the words you hate to hear,
Just shut your mouth and then the truth comes stinging clear,
You find you’re wrong and it’s your problems all along,
And then you love someone.
And not ’til then, you love someone.
It took love to finally see the pointed fingers back at me,
A silent mouth, a broken heart, a sword retired.”

Every year when my boys were young, I used to do Valentine’s Day up right for them. I set the breakfast and dinner table on Valentine’s Day in red, white, and pink. I added flowers, used my china, lit the candles, and put little sweet cards, candies, and surprises all around. I serenaded them with famous love songs playing in the background. I cooked pink oatmeal and packed red jello in their lunch boxes along with little secret valentines. The cu de gras one year was when I made red velvet waffles that sent them out the door to school with big smiles filled with slightly pink stained teeth. I might have gone just a bit overboard and decided it was best not to tell them.

I’d love to tell you that they adored this tradition and still carry on with it to this day but… in reality, all they seem to remember now is how much they loved the candy in their valentine bags and, what they now refer to as the sentimental weirdness of their mother. I really probably should have had girls.

I still do the same thing now, though thankfully my sweet and hunky Valentine these days is much more receptive to my sentimentality. As I was selecting just the right card for him yesterday, I noticed cards for just about every kind of love imaginable: Parents, step-parents, young children, grown children, friends, and yes… even colleagues.

If we’re lucky, love takes lots of forms in our lives. And nothing we could ever earn, purchase, win, or create is more fulfilling than the certainty and sureness of love. So, if it makes all the rest so much better, how do we get more of it in our lives?

I believe we get more love when we love more without conditions or expectations. You have clients, patients, co-workers, family members, and friends who will be nurtured, calmed, and healed by the receiving of love. Try it. The next time someone flips you off on the freeway, try sending them some love. When a clerk is grumpy while attending to you at the store, send them some love. When a patient is complaining on the phone, yep… love it is. Think of it as the Greek god, Cupid, shooting his arrow straight at them. That should make you both feel better!

Every time I do this internally, I soften and respond differently, and the events usually take a turn for the better. If nothing else, I feel better. This doesn’t mean you take abuse or ignore bad behavior, but it does mean that before you respond you “see” the person within the person who seeks acceptance, attention, and love… and that’s the one you speak to. Almost nothing wrong comes when we speak from a place of love. It’s a pretty safe bet.

If we stop taking stock of where love doesn’t exist in the world and focus on what we are doing in big and small ways to love and show kindness to others, we are actually the ones who benefit the most. No doubt about it. It will fill you up.

While I love the simplicity of the Kina Grannis song to help us all celebrate Valentine’s Day, the words written by Ben Rector always remind me that often when I’m upset, frustrated, or even angry at someone… when I “shut my mouth” and focus my attention on the real reasons for my reaction, I often find “fingers pointing back at me” and that “the problems were mine all along.” Owning the piece of it which is mine helps to pull me out of the role of victim and ease me back into that place of powerful love and understanding.

So, try making this a month or even a year of Valentine’s Days. Shoot those arrows into the hearts of those around you. Let them feel your reservoir of love is bigger, deeper, and stronger than yesterday, even if theirs has all but dried up. Remember that people are most attracted to those who seem delighted about life and happy in their own skin; people who love their lives, with all their imperfections, and who show love for others. It is the best anti-aging potion you’ll ever apply. It’s the most powerfully healing prescription for what ails you. It’s the strongest magnet that attracts more and more and more of it into your own life.

Oh, how I love you, my sweet Valentines! Let me count the ways.

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep
because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
~Dr. Seuss

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Music Monday: Growing Leaders

Meet Aishol-pan. She is 13 years old. She’s strong. She’s brave. And, she’s a total natural. But, when the competition ends, the real test begins. It’s about the courage it takes to soar.

That’s a quote from the movie trailer for The Eagle Huntress. This gorgeously-photographed documentary film is about a young Kazakh girl from Mongolia who attempts to become the first female huntress to compete in the eagle festival in Ulgii, Mongolia, established in 1999. The men in her family have been eagle hunters for seven generations which has been the primary source of warm furs for clothing, meat for food, and other essentials from their sparse and frigid landscape. They have highly-developed ways of training eagles to hunt for fox and other game and release the kill on command. Aishol-pan wants to follow in their footsteps. But, she enters into this training against the long-held traditions of her nomadic community where generations of men have, until now, only handed down this skill and knowledge from father to son.

No doubt this is a story of a brave, determined young girl. But like the movie, The Miracle Worker, where the story is not really about Helen Keller but rather about her teacher, Anne Sullivan… this story is not really about Aishol-pan, at least not solely. It’s really about her father, Nurgaiv, who accepts Aishol-pan’s request to train her against the advice and approval of their community and who, in a short amount of time, must have her not only ready for the competition but more importantly for the test of implementing a successful hunt with her own eagle in the frozen and dangerous wilderness.

Nurgaiv believes in his daughter. He is her champion and her teacher. He gives her access to all his knowledge and resources. But, he does not do any of the work for her. From the moment they begin, her father insists that she must develop her own strength to hold the powerful bird. She must fumble through the learning to blindfold the bird’s face so that it learns to respond to only her voice. She must find the courage to scale down a sheer, rocky cliff into an eagle’s nest and select and capture the eaglet which she will raise and train to hunt by her command only. Her father is a leader and teacher who knows instinctively that the only chance Aishol-pan has to truly compete and thrive as a huntress will lie in his ability to guide her to her own potential and strength. In doing so, he reveals her own power and confidence and develops a leader who can think for herself and make her own choices, decisions, and mistakes.

This is the goal of all leadership… to develop people, ourselves included, who find their voice, access their courage, think for themselves, and step into their full potential. It’s the difference between managers and leaders. The purpose of management is not to show people what to do to get things done, which is important, of course. The purpose of leadership is to show people who they need to become in order to do those things on their own. It’s to show them how to be resourceful, creative, self-directed, resilient, and brave so that they can meet and solve the challenges that will come as we are attempting always to move from the status quo and into the future.

The inspirational speaker and brilliant leader, Nido Quebin, once defined leadership as “a process by which management creates an environment where people voluntarily align their efforts to accomplish a common objective.” Leaders know how to inspire their people to become better versions of themselves. They know how to create an environment where people voluntarily align their efforts toward a common goal. They operate, perform, and speak in a way that inspires their people to follow them and learn from them… and then make things even better. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore some key concepts in becoming a better leader yourself, whatever your position in life or work, and how you can impact your co-workers, clients, and family members in powerful, positive ways.

But for now, consider this… Leadership is not about actions or transactions. It’s about growth and transformation. It’s not about what to do but about who to become. It’s not about doing things for people but about guiding and growing them. It’s not about a better status quo. It’s about a better future.

Click here to view movie trailer.

 Sia – Angel by the Wings
from the movie, The Eage Huntress

“Oh so, your wounds they show
I know you have never felt so alone
But hold on, head up, be strong
Oh hold on, hold on until you hear them come
Here they come, oh

Take an angel by the wings
Beg her now for anything
Beg her now for one more day
Take an angel by the wings
Time to tell her everything
Ask her for the strength to stay

You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything
You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything

Look up, call to the sky
Oh, look up and don’t ask why, oh

Just take an angel by the wings
Beg her now for anything
Beg her now for one more day
Take an angel by the wings
Time to tell her everything
Ask her for the strength to stay

You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything
You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything”


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Foundations of Leadership

If you walk around New York City, Chicago, or San Diego, it’s a given that you’re going to see a lot of tall buildings. But the only ones which qualify as skyscrapers must be at least 50 stories and over 330 feet tall. Otherwise, you’re just a “super tall” building.

The largest building on the planet today is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which reaches 2,717 feet. The foundation for this architectural monster is over 200 feet deep. Because otherwise… well, it falls over.

When builders begin to build skyscrapers, or any building for that matter, they don’t build up first… they build down. They must first excavate tons of dirt, rocks, and debris to reach a solid enough place, often bedrock, to begin building the deep foundation that will support a structure that can safely reach for the sky.

The same is true of us. Before we can build companies and teams that reach for the sky, we must first build down to the bedrock foundations that can withstand the winds of change and storms of business. We must strengthen our core so that what the public and our clients see is solid and stable. We must develop and secure our own foundations.

It’s not always easy to do… all that digging. But, it’s worth it. It took the construction team over one year just to secure the foundation of the tallest building. It’s worth some time for all leaders to unearth what they stand for, what’s standing in their way, what their vision is for the future of their company, and what is their “why.” It’s all part of a story structure that, once told well to the people on your team, is repeatable and sustainable for them to communicate to your market and customers.

This week, do some digging. Make sure your team knows and can easily articulate your company’s story of why it started, what drives its efforts, what makes it unique, and what it dreams of accomplishing. Unearth the roadblocks that are in your way and uncover the resources you need to bulldoze through them.

At LionSpeak, we’re here if you need us… ready and willing to help you build a skyscraper of a business with a strong foundation that reaches the stars. Consider attending our Leaders of the Pride workshop in San Diego on March 1-2. We’ll give you $200 off if you register before January 31st. Just use discount code JAN200 at checkout.

And, don’t wait too long. Just like the Burj Khalifa, no one holds a record forever. In April 2013, construction began on a building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, called the Jeddah Tower that will top out around 3,307 feet sometime around 2020. That’s nearly twice as tall as the One World Trade Center which was North America’s tallest skyscraper and almost 600 feet taller than the current world record.

Don’t let your competition pass you up with a stronger foundation capable of supporting a bigger dream. Do the dirty work first, and then sit back and enjoy the view.

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending.
You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

~~Saint Augustine

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