If you’ve watched one series of Ohio State Football this year, you’ve no doubt noticed that the offense is having some struggles. After getting embarrassed by Oklahoma, all of the Buckeyes faults have been exposed and I see an average season ahead of them for one reason; they don’t play to their strength. I understand that not everyone is a rabid Ohio State fan so let me assure you that I have a point here. The Ohio State University Buckeyes are a running team. They’re built for dominating the line of scrimmage and picking up yards on the ground. They feature two excellent young running backs and a quarterback with talented legs but a questionable arm. When they line up and run straight ahead, there are few teams in the country that can compete with them. Until they get cute and try throwing the ball around, trying to take advantage of their speed and pick up big chunks of yardage on single plays. Then they’re a below average unit that’s easily defended. Their strength is running the ball but they don’t always play to it. In this misfortune, they’re just like a lot of people I know in business who also do not play to their strengths. Who instead of grinding out what they’re good at, try to get cute and improve what they don’t do nearly as well. For Ohio State, this is the recipe for an average season, for the rest of us, it leads to an average life. Just like the Buckeyes have been going into games with a plan that doesn’t allow them to do what they’re great at, a lot of people I know start every day with a poor game plan that puts them in a similar situation. I know speakers who are frustrated because they aren’t speaking and writers who are frustrated because they aren’t writing. They fill their day with work that takes away from their ability to focus on what they’re great at and almost like Ohio State trying to throw deep on first down, they end up behind. Contrast this with Alabama. The nation’s number one team knows who they are and what they do well. There’s nothing cute or fancy, they just show up and work at doing the things that make them great. It doesn’t take a great fan to see the difference. The first step to being great is knowing what you’re great at. The second step is doing it and the third step is the hardest of all; to stop doing what you’re just good at and get back to step two. In order for Ohio State to salvage this football season, they’re going to have to get back to running the football. If we’re going to break the bonds of average in our lives, we’re going to have to get back to doing what makes us great. Until we do, like my favorite team in Columbus, we’ll have to live with disappointment.]]>

Without question, every time I have felt frustrated by my situation in life it has come down to an inability to be the leader of my life. I have looked at circumstances and wanted things to be different but could not or would not step up and lead myself to a better situation. I wanted everything to somehow magically change for me. If anything is going to change, however,  I have learned that I must step up and lead myself. Here the three basic principles of self-leadership:

Set A Vision

It has become a cliche to quote the biblical phrase that without vision, people perish, but it gets repeated for its truth. Leading ourselves requires that we set a compelling vision for ourselves, our life and our future. This means getting crystal clear on what it is that we want. Too many of us have no idea. We show up to work in order to live, but we have no vision of what it is that we’re working for. Setting a vision will give us something to plan for, something to strive to. It gives us a target to hit because, without it, we’re not aiming for anything. 

Pursue With Courage

The scariest moments in life are often when we set out to chase something we see for ourselves. This is scary because often times, we’re the only ones who see it. Like Columbus attempting to circumnavigate the globe (without oppressing indigenous people), we must pursue our vision with courage. We must feel the fear and go forth anyway. Self-leadership requires courage because once we set a vision we will want to back out. Our friends will call us crazy and it will get uncomfortable. In these moments, our courage will be the only thing keeping us from giving in. We must set a vision, but we must also pursue it with courage.

Execute

There is a time to plan and a time to work that plan. Leadership of ourselves requires that we know the difference and be great at both. Simply put, we must get results for ourselves and the only way to do that is to execute. This means we must put in the work. We must focus our energies and our efforts and act when the time comes. Too many people believe that if they simply set a vision that the universe will magically provide it. The truth as put by Gary Vaynerchuk is that “the law of attraction only works when you do.” There will always be people who talk about getting it done, but people who lead themselves execute and get results.  Nothing in our world will change until we do. That is an absolute fact. If we’re going to see change in our lives, we’re going to have to lead it. When we set a vision, pursue it with courage and execute, we become the leaders of our own lives and when we do, everything will change for us. ]]>

When I attended my very first High Impact Presentations course very early in my career, my instructor didn’t really know what to do with me. Oh, I had the voice and my language was clean of the filler words that plagued some of the other students, but something was off. I had no problem getting up in front of the group and volunteered frequently but when I got up to speak, something wasn’t right. I had the sound, but I didn’t have the look. At the time I weighed about 315 pounds. I looked like an NFL lineman, only I was way to too slow to play. Every time I stood to speak, embarrassed by my size, I would attempt to shrink or make myself smaller. This, of course, didn’t work, it just left me looking silly. That’s when I got some of the best advice I’ve ever received about public speaking; OWN IT.  You see, I kept looking at my girth as a handicap, and for my health it certainly was, but in the front of the room, it was one of my greatest strengths. Being a BIG man in the front of the room, allowed me to take up more space and dominate my area. It gave me an aura of authority, I just had to own it. In the time that I’ve spent coaching public speakers everywhere, this the one thing that I see holding way too many would be great communicators back; their ability to own their shortcomings and make them their strengths. Are you large? Great! Own it! Use your size to capture attention and hold more space. Are you short? Great! Own it! You have a perspective different from most and if you embrace it and use it, you can come across as much more genuine. Shy? Young? Old? Whatever it is, embrace it, use it and own it.  Ronald Reagan has a disastrous first debate against Walter Mondale in 1984. He seemed tired and out of his league as it related to the facts of political life. Political writers across the country were filling pages with speculation that he was too old to be President. How could he turn this around? He had to own his shortcoming. During the second debate, his first question was about his age. He OWNED IT! Turning to the moderator he said:

“I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” 
Game over. Landslide won. Even Mondale had to smile about the line. By owning what his opponent was trying to hang him with, he was able to change the narrative and win the election.  Public speaking isn’t easy but we tend to make it way harder on ourselves than it needs to be by trying to be something we’re not. Like a 300 pound guy trying to hide, we just look foolish and nervous. Whatever it is about you that makes you, you, own it. It’s how the great ones get remembered. ]]>

It has been drilled into my head by teachers and mentors much smarter than myself, that success in business as in life, is simple, it’s the execution that’s hard. One of my mentors taught me that it comes down to just three things and if those three things are done well, success will inevitably follow. Those three things happen to get attention, get taken seriously and get the job done, the three things that I have dedicated this blog to figure out.  Because sometimes, the simplest ideas are the most profound, I’m going to suggest a simple idea that I truly believe will help anyone do a better job at standing out and getting things done; simply getting outside.  

You’ll Feel Better

Americans in general, are woefully deficient in Vitamin D. One of the best sources is from our own bodies, created from taking in the sun. Yes, too much sun can kill you but like water, so can too little. Getting outside will help us feel more energized, more connected with nature and feel better about our place in the world. 

You’ll Look Better

Our society seems to love those who have already done it. We love proven winners. There’s no better proof of this than they way we treat people whom we assume are already rich and powerful. Want to look rich and powerful? One of the best places to start is with your tan. Wealthy people who live a life of leisure on the golf course, the tennis court or on a boat, look like they spend their time in the sun. If you want to be seen as a winner, get outside and earn your color. It’s a great way to stand out and get noticed. 

You’ll Gain A New Perspective

The reason most of us feel stuck is that we don’t give ourselves enough time to simply think. Getting outside can help us create that needed breathing space to generate great thoughts and ideas. I value my time in my barn because when I come out, I always have a list of ideas to act on. For me, it’s as good as taking a shower and getting my mind and my body moving in a different direction. Not everyone has a barn to run to and not everyone would love it there if they did, but everyone can go for a walk outside and gain a new perspective on the issues they’re facing and everyone should. This week, as you work to accomplish your big tasks and take the actions that we discussed Monday, make time to get outside. You’ll feel better, look better, and have a new perspective that will help you accomplish more than you ever dreamed you could.      ]]>

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Four months ago, when we first moved into our home, I had one big thing that I wanted to change. The walls in the house were fine and the flooring had just been replaced, so there were very few things that needed my attention, just one big thing that bothered me from the beginning; the trim on my barn. My barn, like a lot of barns, had been painted red and when they painted it, they painted the trim the same color. It didn’t look awful, it just looked unfinished. I wanted to change it. The very first day we moved in, I bought the paint, the rollers, and the brushes. I put them in the barn and started doing other things. Four months later, they sat in the same place I put them on day one. It isn’t like I did nothing. I talked a lot. I talked to my wife, getting her opinion on how I should do it. I talked to my dad, I talked to my brother. I talked to my assistant and my kids, I even talked to myself. I kept asking about the best way to accomplish this great big hairy task, all the while, the paint sat in the barn. Talking isn’t the only thing I did. I worried and thought about it too. Every time I pulled into the driveway, I felt the pang of guilt over having not done it. Every time I walked into the barn, I thought more about what a big job it was. I visualized the barn trimmed out and I dreamed about it and all the while, the paint sat in the barn. That was until this weekend. The Friday before Labor Day, I resolved that I was going to paint that trim this weekend if it killed me. I blocked out my Sunday, promised myself and made my commitment known to my family. I dusted off the paint can rounded up the rollers, dressed in my paint clothes and got it done. It took me two hours. Here’s my point. For four months, I had been talking, thinking, dreaming and dreading getting on a ladder and accomplishing this seemingly insurmountable task.  For four months, I had found every reason not to do it and every excuse to do something else. When I finally shut off my brain, stopped talking and got to work, I got it done in no time at all. What I thought would take all day, took two hours. How many big projects, hard tasks or dreaded assignments do we stew, dread and talk about every day? If we just roll up our sleeves and get to it, chances are it isn’t nearly as impossible as it seemed in the beginning. This week, the week of labor day, I would encourage anyone who wants to be successful at work to learn from my bad example and use your labor rather than your mouth. Get to it and amaze yourself as what you can do.  ]]>