Begin Planning Your Retirement Party Now

The retirement party is in full swing. Associates from throughout the organization have gathered to celebrate and extend best wishes to Bob, a great leader who is retiring. The room is packed.

One by one people go to the front of the room, grab the microphone, and begin talking about the impact that Bob made on them. Some of the stories they tell are funny, some are serious, but every one of them is personal. One person talks about how Bob provided compassion and encouragement during a tough time. Another says that she is thankful that Bob demanded her best and would not accept mediocrity. Someone else states that Bob listened to him and changed his stance on an issue. Another person remembers the time Bob sent a personal congratulation note to her son for his graduation. Someone else talks about a time that Bob made a serious mistake but owned up to it, learned from it, and became a better leader because of the experience.

Other team members begin their speeches with: I remember . . . ; You took the time to . . . ; You helped me . . . ; Ill never forget . . . ; You cared enough to . . . ; and so on.

No one spoke about successful or failed strategies. No one mentioned a successful or failed marketing program. There were no toasts to celebrate winning an account. The evening was filled with personal stories of how Bob treated each person individually.

Meanwhile, in the same building, another retirement party is going on. The party is a not a retirement celebration. It is a celebration that a leader has retired. In fact, the leader who is retiring was not even invited to the party. He did the same job and worked just as hard as Bob. But he chose to do it differently. He was a jerk.

Which retirement party do you want?

Bob understood that leadership was not about him. His primary interest was not in the accumulation of power—it was in developing his people to become their very best. The other retiree was more interested in the accumulation of power and wealth than helping those around him become their best. Typically, jerks are greedy and interested in only themselves. They act and react without thinking. Jerks enjoy taking the easy road and are quick to blame others.

That is not you. You are a great person with honorable intentions, but sometimes you may come across differently than what you really are. Unfortunately, everyone occasionally and unintentionally comes across like a jerk. Even Bob appeared to be a jerk at times. The difference in the two retirees was how often they appeared to be jerks and how quickly they recovered when their jerk moment appeared. Bob’s jerk moments were rare, temporary, and he recovered from them quickly. His team knew that regardless of the temporary jerk moment, he had their best interest in mind. The other retiree’s team knew that his jerk moment was just another ordinary day.

You may be thinking that some jerks achieve extraordinary results. After all, you have heard that nice guys finish last. Yes, some jerks have achieved extraordinary results. You may be a marketing genius, fabulous communicator, and incredible visionary. Regardless, people in your organization will probably not stick around for long if you choose the bullying, arrogant, insulting, and uncompromising leadership route.

Excerpted from The First Two Rules of Leadership. Don’t Be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk by David Cottrell Wiley 2016

Doer or Drifter?

Are you a doer who is on a mission to achieve your clearly defined goals? Or are you a drifter who allows external circumstances to determine your next move?

Finding and pursuing your purpose is essential to success and happiness. Your purpose is more than a wish; it’s your guide that powers everything of importance. Even though your purpose evolves throughout your life stages, it doesn’t change based on temporary events that occur during each stage.

I’ve seen people who have not identified a priority that they would put above everything. Then, when the next hot deal comes along, they overreact. If you’re consistently creating a new reason for being, you don’t have a compass that reveals the true direction of where you’re heading. You may believe you’re winning, but you’re not winning at all.

Without a clear and consistent purpose, you will drift. You’ll move wherever the winds of the moment take you. That’s not a good or productive way to exist. No one I’ve ever known planned to become mediocre, but most people who don’t have a clearly defined purpose unintentionally allow mediocrity to seep in as they drift along.

The following story illustrates my point:

A couple was vacationing in Hawaii. Neither of them was a beach veteran, but they decided to try snorkeling. Before going into the ocean on their own, they took snorkeling lessons in the safety of their hotel pool. Soon they were prepared for their adventure. They got their fins on and masks ready and headed toward the Pacific to discover the unseen beauty of the ocean’s depths.

They were having a great time. No one else was snorkeling in the area. In fact, there was no one within sight. The water was perfect—calm, gentle, and relaxing. As the couple snorkeled face-down in the water, they were fascinated by the radiantly colored fish, spectacular plant life, and coral reef. It was a remarkable experience, but it was about to become unforgettable.

The guy lifted his head from the water and looked around. He quickly realized they had drifted out to sea. He could barely see their hotel in the distance. His wife was only a couple of yards from him. When he got her attention, she looked up and immediately recognized the dangerous situation they were in.

Their relaxing snorkeling adventure was over. They began swimming for their lives toward the shore. They swam for quite a while before finally reaching shallow water, where they could stand up and walk to the beach. Once they reached the beach safely, they collapsed in the sand, totally exhausted.

When they woke up that morning, they had no idea what was in store for them. They were near disaster while enjoying what they thought was a peaceful, relaxing time. They had drifted without realizing what was happening to them until they looked up. Then they were shocked to find they were not where they began and certainly not where they intended to be.

Most people drift occasionally. However, rarely does anyone drift to a destination they would have chosen. They get caught up in their day-to-day activities and become distracted, disoriented, and lose perspective. Then, they look up to discover they’re a long way from where they thought they’d be.

Life doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose to drift or choose to live and work with meaning and purpose. A clearly defined purpose allows you to intervene in any drift that may come your way.

Learn more about how you can quit drifting and become the person you want to be. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Change is good … You go first.

Change is Good … You Go First was the pithy title of a book several years ago. As creative as the title is, the candor that it infers is even more true. Who wants to change? Without a crisis, why change? If we must change, you lead the charge. 

I believe we should hug change when it comes our way. Change is usually resisted because we are confined to our own perspective, personal experiences, and data points. For instance, if you were raised in a military family, your perception of normal is based on the experiences you had growing up. If you were raised in a small rural town, your data points are small-town experiences. If you were raised in a large urban city, your opinions are formed by completely different data points. You also have data points based on the size of your family and your place in it, such as oldest, middle child, etc., as well as the gender of family members, religion, ethnicity, and significant personal events that molded your thinking. In most cases, your beliefs and ideas are generated from a small sample size of people whose experiences are like yours.

When a change comes along, foreign data points are introduced. A natural reaction to basically anything new and different is intimidation. When you expand your data points, your knowledge and wisdom are increased proportionately. However, even with new information the passion and pride of your traditional viewpoint may subconsciously overrule your ability to endorse a new perspective.

If you want long-term success and happiness, you must continually make changes. I’ve seen people hunker down, refuse to change, and wind up losing everything. They keep trying to saw sawdust at the risk of losing everything.

Change should be hugged and welcomed, even when things are going well. John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” There is a lot of wisdom in that simple statement. Most people won’t even think about their roof until rain is dripping on their sofa and flooding the floors. Then, they have to repair the roof, the sofa, and the carpet. They would rather do anything but change…even if a disaster is coming.

In order to grow, you must let go of your comfortable, traditional ways of thinking. That’s the beginning of progress. Change should be embraced and hugged without fear. It allows you to move forward and look to the future with confidence.

Since things will change, why not hug change when it shows up?

Learn more about how to hug change and become the person you want to be. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

My friend Phil

Being great in small things is among the best traits of the most remarkable people. You, too, can stand out from everyone else by doing just a little more than people expect.

Phil is a friend and one of the most amazing people I have ever known.  I consider him the gold standard of being great in small things.

I have thought a lot about what makes Phil so exceptional. My conclusion is that he is extraordinary because he is naturally friendly, well trained, and an avid reader. But he has a greater talent. I think Phil’s main quality is that he loves his work, and it shows. He once told me: “I love going to work because I get to meet more new people every day.”

Phil is a terrific example of how happiness at work begins before you leave home.

Most people say they “have to go to work.” Do they?  Of course, you have a duty to make a living. But if you continually say you “have to,” you reinforce that you’re required to do something you don’t want to do. I would be shocked if Phil ever woke up and told his wife, Amy, that he had to go to work, even though work is necessary to pay his bills. It may sound like a minor thing, but “having to go to work” is a negative way of looking at something important in your life. I bet as soon as Phil wakes up, he smiles and tells Amy, “I get to go to work again!”

To be great, you must be like Phil and love what you are doing. What if you changed your attitude from “I have to go to work” to “I get to go to work”? That one attitude adjustment transforms you from being a victim who must work into an optimist who acknowledges that work is a gift and a privilege. This small thing can make a huge difference for you and those around you.

Learn more about how to be great in small things and become the person you want to be. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Integrity, Your Whole Truth

If you want long-term success, you must guard and protect your integrity. Without it, nothing else really matters. It doesn’t matter what you say if no one trusts you. And it doesn’t matter how committed, skilled, courageous, or optimistic you are if people don’t believe you’ll honor your words. None of those traits matter if people can’t count on you to do what you say you will do.

The loss of integrity is a major reason for failure and unhappiness. Look at the people who make the news because of a scandal—sports figures, film stars, politicians, CEOs, and sometimes a neighbor down the street. In most cases they allowed ego, insensitivity, and greed to override their integrity.

How can you guard and protect your integrity? If you consciously do four things, you will enhance your relationships, improve trust, and become a person whom others want to be around more often.

First, conduct a basic integrity check: Is the action I am about to take illegal, immoral, or unethical in any form? If you answer yes to any of those, STOP. Period.

Second, ask yourself: What is the right thing to do? You know the answer to that question. Regardless how much you may want to bury what ‘right’ is, if you are honest with yourself, the ‘right thing’ will always surface.

Third, defend your commitments. Don’t make commitments you cannot keep, even minor ones. You may have to give up something to keep your commitment. If that’s the case, ask yourself: Am I okay with making the exchange?

Fourth, eliminate ‘I’ll try’ from your vocabulary. Instead of saying ‘I’ll try,’ tell the person either ‘no’ or ‘consider it done.’ ‘I’ll try’ is weak and apathetic. You are not committed to doing anything when you use those words. ‘Consider it done’ is clear, direct and powerful.

Learn more about how to become the person you want to be. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Become more optimistic!

Here are two quick actions you can take to become more optimistic.

First, talk to yourself in the same manner and with the same words you would use to encourage your best friend. If you are like most, you’re far more careful and considerate with what you say to others than with what you say to yourself. Typically, a large percentage of self-talk is negative: I can’t, I won’t, I wish, I’m not good enough, etc. Your best friend would never talk to you like that, and you would never talk to anyone else using the harmful words that you tell yourself.

When you get discouraged, ask yourself what your best friend would say to you, and then say it to yourself. It will make a difference in your ability to become the person you want to be.

Second, look around. You’ll see that there are plenty of things to be optimistic about. If you list five things you’re grateful for and dwell on them for a few minutes twice a day, your attitude will improve dramatically. Just five things. Taking a couple of minutes for gratitude will help change your perspective.

Why twice a day? If you acknowledge five blessings before arriving at work, your day will naturally begin better. In addition, before you open your door at home after work, do the same exercise. Even if you had a lousy day, refocusing on the positive things in your life will help prevent work issues from destroying your family time. The most important gift you can give your family is yourself. Give them your best, not just your leftovers from work.

Learn more about how to become an optimistic person. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

You get what you give!

Once there was a person who moved into a new town. He met a longtime resident and   said, “I’m new to your town. What are the people like here?”

“What were the people like in the town you came from?” the old-timer asked in return.

Well, they were pretty pessimistic and always complaining, and their glasses were half-empty,” the newcomer replied.

“Hmmm,” said the old-timer. “Sounds like the people who live here.”

A few weeks later, another person moved to the same town and met the same old-timer. “I’m new to your town. What are the people like here?” the newcomer asked.

“What were the people like in the town you came from?” the old-timer asked.

“Well, they were terrific. We worked together in the neighborhood, helped each other out, and were always there to support each other during tough times. We’re going to  miss them now that we’ve moved,” the newcomer replied.

“Hmmm,” said the old-timer. “I think you’ll like it here. That sounds like the people who live here.”

The old-timer’s message? You get what you give. If you want to be around people who are positive, optimistic, and eager to live life, your attitude must be the same. If you think the people around you are glum and pessimistic, check yourself because that may be what you’re reflecting, too.

Learn more about how to become an enthusiastic person. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

How optimistic are you?

Your attitude is important. It influences your approach to life and your relationships with others. It can be the catalyst to chart a new course for your life and help you become the person you want to be.

Here is a story about the same situation being looked at differently:

Two researchers working for a shoe manufacturer were independently dispatched to one of the world’s least developed countries. Their task was to evaluate the business potential for shoes within that country.

After several weeks, a report came back from the first researcher, and the message read, ‘No market here. Nobody wears shoes.’

A few days later, the second report came back from the other researcher. It read, ‘Great market here. Nobody wears shoes!’

Those two people saw the same thing differently. The first guy probably considered himself a realist. He fixated on one thing and could not see the bigger picture. Actually, he was not a realist. He was blinded by his own perception of the obstacles in front of him.

The second guy looked beyond the obvious and saw possibilities. Optimistic people see opportunity. Negative people can’t see through their own fog to the potential right in front of them.

Which guy best describes you? Learn more about how to become an optimistic person by ordering Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Lift the Fog!

Have you ever been in a fog so thick you could barely see beyond your windshield? It is not a great feeling to be stuck until the fog lifts.

How much water do you think it takes to create a fog so dense that you can’t move forward?  Hundreds of gallons? Thousands?  

Did you know that setbacks can accelerate your success? Those failures help you discover that continuing to blame someone or something else for your imperfections prevents you from becoming the person you want to be.

According to Dr. Google, a dense fog covering seven city blocks, one hundred feet deep, is composed of about one glass of water. One glass! The dense fog is a temporary state created by a very small amount of an ordinary substance. 

Often we create our own fog. The most common self-created fog generator is worry … which makes fog so thick you can’t see how to move forward.

How can you lift your fog?

Earl Nightingale, one of the first personal development gurus, studied the effects of worry. He concluded that forty percent of the time, people worry about things that will never happen. Thirty percent of worries are in the past and cannot be changed, and twelve percent are worries about criticism from others that is mostly untrue. We worry about our health ten percent of the time, which usually only makes our health worse. Only eight percent of our worries are real problems we’ll have to face—and out of those, only half of them are under our control.

Those numbers are almost unbelievable. What if his numbers are off by double, triple, or quadruple? Regardless, worrying is a bad investment in how you spend your time. Worry will paralyze you. That is why when someone tells you they are worried sick or worried to death, they are probably right.

Being stuck in worry is like having your wind knocked out. It creates fear, drains your energy, and prevents you from being your best.

Regardless of your situation, something can be done, and there is something you can do. Begin lifting your fog by ordering Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Time for a Kick in the Teeth!

Walt Disney once said, “You might not realize it when it happens and I would not recommend it, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” 

Well, that may not be the most inspirational thing I have written. After all, doesn’t everyone want to hear about positive, sensational comeback stories? Sure, we do. Unfortunately, there are no comebacks without at least one and, more often, many setbacks that help you discover your unique road to becoming who you want to be. 

Did you know that setbacks can accelerate your success? Those failures help you discover that continuing to blame someone or something else for your imperfections prevents you from becoming the person you want to be.

Walt Disney’s kick in the teeth comment was teaching us to salute the truth, quit believing something is true when it is not, and quit kicking reality under the rug while trying to ignore it. That doesn’t do you any good.

Once you understand reality, you can make corrections and improvements. Then, your road to success will be a little straighter, the challenges will seem less overwhelming, goals become easier to reach, and you will have fewer surprises along the way.

The kick in the teeth may do you good!

Learn how you can salute the truth. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Give Yourself a Break!

Have you ever been hounded by someone who was a constant critic of almost everything you do? Regardless of what you do, it is wrong in their eyes. Their criticism is persistent, ruthless and harsh.

That persistent critic reminds me of a story:

Once there was a farmer who advertised his ‘frog farm’ for sale. The farm, he claimed, had a pond filled to the brim with fine bullfrogs.

When a prospective buyer appeared, the farmer asked him to return that evening so he might hear the frogs in full voice. When the buyer returned, he was favorably impressed by the symphony of enchanting melodies springing from the pond. He bought the farm on the spot.

A few weeks later, the new owner decided to drain the pond so that he could catch and market the plentiful supply of frogs. To his amazement, when the water was drained from the pond, he found that one loudmouth bullfrog had made all the noise.

That story may reflect the person who relentlessly criticizes you. Don’t allow the critical noise of one, or even a few, ‘bullfrogs’ keep you from doing what you need to do.

Maybe it’s time to gig that frog and move on. However, before you grab your multi-pronged spear and start gigging, consider exactly where the noise of that one old bullfrog is coming from. Many times, we are our own “loudmouth bullfrog” and we’re obstinate in our own self-criticism. 

Aren’t we the most critical of ourselves? If you want to close the gap between who you are and who you want to become, you must learn to forgive yourself for your own gaffes. Find peace within yourself so you can enjoy living and become the person you want to be.

Give yourself a break! That is just one tip from Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky. Order your copy today on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore, to read more about what you can do to become the person you want to be.