Leading With Conviction

The other day, I was watching the Detroit Tigers/Boston Red Sox game, and during the third inning, the announcers were talking with the Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Manning. They asked Matt what he meant when he said that pitchers should pitch with conviction. Matt stated that pitchers need to “have confidence in their pitches – that they will go where they need to.” Matt’s statement led me to think of the idea of leading with conviction. We need to have confidence in our leadership. However, there is a fine line between leading with conviction and leading with humility. 

Webster’s Dictionary defines conviction as, “a strong persuasion or belief.” Leadership is not for the weak. Weak leadership leads to a lack of vision and progress. Weak leadership is easily persuaded, which can take a company/organization in a devastating direction. Leadership needs to be strong. It needs to care less about what people think and more about doing the right thing. Leadership needs to focus on the vision and mission of the company/organization, rather than acquiescing to every public outcry. Leadership needs to stand strong in their beliefs and lead with the conviction of those beliefs. However, here is where the fine line begins. A sign of weak leadership is leadership whose convictions lead to pride and arrogance. These are dangerous and destructive characteristics. Leadership that is not humble or people focused will do more harm than good to any company/organization. 

This leads to asking the question, “With what convictions should we lead?”. Leadership is about serving others and having a positive impact on those we influence. This is why leadership is not a title or a position. Leadership is a way of life, and our convictions are what will determine our quality of leadership. If we are to lead with conviction, we need to make sure our convictions lead to effective, quality leadership.

Convictions to lead by:

  1. People First

First, we need to have the conviction that our team, our people, come first. Simon Sinek said, “Leadership leads people; not results.” This means that we need to focus on our people if we are to gain the results we are looking for. People are the hub of any company/organization, and if people aren’t taken care of, listened to, or invested in, then the company/organization will suffer. Our focus needs to be on supporting, encouraging, and empowering our team. 

  1. Stay Humble

Humility must be the foundation in which we build our leadership. Without humility, struggles are sure to ensue. As the proverb states, “Pride comes before the fall.” If we lead with an arrogant, prideful attitude, we alienate our team and hinder forward progress. If we are unable to admit our faults and failures and be willing to learn from our mistakes, then our leadership will be stiffened, and little progress will be made. Humility is a key component to leadership.

  1. Work Hard

I read a post the other day that said, “Work in silence and let your results do the talking.” In leadership, working hard is a must. It is crucial that leadership stay focused, work hard, and make sacrifices to ensure success for their team. Leadership should never be looking for the easy road or to find shortcuts. If we want our team to work hard and stay focused, then we must be the example we want to see in our team. Hard work is key to success.

  1. Be Disciplined 

Jocko Willink says, “Discipline equals freedom.” When it comes to leadership, without discipline there is no mission or vision. There is no forward progress. Discipline is about doing the hard stuff even when you don’t want to do it. Discipline is about setting goals for ourselves and our team and doing everything in our power to obtain said goals. Leadership needs to be disciplined in doing what’s right, leading with integrity, being humble, and working hard. Be disciplined in leading with conviction.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of convictions to lead by. However, these are, what I believe to be, the foundational convictions with which we should start. Selfless leadership is purposeful leadership, and unless we have a strong foundation of convictions from which to lead from, our leadership will be ineffective. Lead with convictions that focus on bettering others and yourself.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Communication Is Key

Tim emailed his supervisor to ask their thoughts on a project he and his team were working on. He was looking to get ideas, thoughts, and possible considerations to think about. He asked specific questions with the hopes of gaining more insight or information. However, when his supervisor emailed him back, he received little to no help and was left with more questions than answers. He started to wonder if his supervisor even read his email. The lack of support and communication from his supervisor left him disheartened and frustrated. It is essential that leadership takes communication seriously. 

Communication is the backbone to success. How we communicate with our team determines the success of our team and how well our team operates. If we do not give attention to questions, concerns, thoughts, and ideas from our team and write them off as trivial inconveniences, because we are too busy or have more important things to take care of, then I would argue that we have lost sight of what leadership means and what it should look like. A leader’s job is to serve, be available, invest, and sacrifice for their team. If we feel inconvenienced by questions, concerns, or ideas from our team, then we may need to do some self reflecting and reconsider our priorities. 

“Yeah, but Wallaert, you don’t understand. I get asked questions ALL THE TIME, people are ALWAYS coming to me to share concerns and ideas, and to be honest, I am behind on the work I need to get done due to dealing with the ‘communication’ of my team.” I hear you, but let me ask you this, if people are always asking questions and sharing concerns and ideas, how well are you communicating and investing in your team? Do they always have to seek you out, or do you spend time in the trenches with your team? If all we do is sit in our office answering emails with simple responses and little care, then we have done a poor job supporting our team. If we do not invest the time to provide thorough, thoughtful feedback, then our team is left with more questions. You see, if our communication with our team is ineffective, then our team will always have more questions, comments, and concerns that they need to share. 

As leaders, we need to take the time and invest in the questions, concerns, and thoughts of our team. What’s even more important is setting aside our own feelings and insecurities to allow our team to freely and safely express their own. We also need to put away our selfish desires, and  truly invest in those we are leading. We all have something to do, but the bottom line is that nothing can be more important than the people we lead. Simon Sinek once said, “Leaders lead people, not results.” If we want the results we are looking for, we must first lead our team, and one of the ways we can do that is by allowing for open, safe communication. 

Earlier, I asked if you were in the trenches with your team. Being present is two fold. Leadership must not only be physically present, but mentally present as well. This is a critical step in effective leadership. If leaders are never seen, then leadership is never happening. Leadership is not done from behind the desk. It is done in the presence of the team. The more present we are with our team, the more understanding we gain from the questions, concerns, and ideas of our team. Instead of the team always having to come to leadership, leadership should be found among the team – listening, observing, and helping wherever possible. This simple action not only strengthens the team, but also opens the door to better communication throughout the team. 

If your team asks questions, shares concerns, or voices ideas, are you listening? Are you giving your full attention to what they are saying? Are you present in the conversation and communicating in a way that allows for clear, safe communication? If you find that your team is always coming to you, then it’s time for you to get out from behind the desk and start being present among your team. If you are not providing thoughtful, meaningful feedback to your team, then you are setting your team up for failure. Invest in your team through intentional communication.

As always, stay humble and serve well! 


What drives your decision making? Let me ask that again. What REALLY drives your decision making? What are your motives when it comes to making choices in your life? Whether it’s as simple as, “What should I eat?”, to something as complicated as, “Should I move my family across the continent for a new position in my company?”, the motives we base our decisions on have the power to make us or break us. It is crucial that we reflect and self analyze the real motives that are driving our decision making. Perhaps we are making decisions on false motives that we are not being honest about.

For the past three years I have been wanting to change my position in my career. I went to school, obtained more degrees than I need, and finally achieved certification to move into different levels within my career. It’s been three years of applying and getting rejected. They say rejection gets easier over time, but the truth is, rejection hurts the hundredth time as much as it does the first. After so many rejections, one might think to stop and reconsider their motives and decisions for wanting to make changes or move into a different position. However, here lies the trap we all set. We have good intentions and desires, and we make those our motives, but in reality, there is a good chance that we have a subconscious motive that is truly driving our passion and desire. 

I wanted to move up in my career to be more hands on and helpful for teachers. I wanted to move into administration and have a role that works more directly with teachers and support them in their roles by encouraging them to be amazing educators. I wanted to empower teachers to try new things, come alongside them and help revitalize them as they start feeling burnt out, and I wanted to encourage them on their path to becoming even better educators. All of these things, I thought, were my motives. However, after applying for a recent position and being denied, again, I took time to stop and reflect. 

I started by asking myself questions, which, to be honest, were not easy to answer. A good friend of mine also asked me questions, and one of the questions she asked me was, “Why did you want the job?”. I answered the same way I started this blog; because I wanted to be an administrator. She then said, “Yes, but why?”. What she was really asking me was, “What are your motives for wanting to be an administrator?” My answer was the same as previously mentioned: I want to support and encourage teachers in a more direct role. This is where things got interesting for me. She then proceeded to ask, “Can you do that in your current role?” When I read that question, I was speechless. After thinking about it, the answer to her question was, “Yes!”. Admitting this forced me to reconsider my motives.

Through deeper reflection, and being enlightened to the fact that my intentions for wanting to be  an administrator could be done as a teacher, I discovered that my subconscious motives for wanting to be an administrator was…money. Moving into an administrative role brought more money. With the stresses of higher prices in our country and being the only one bringing in income for my family, I subconsciously started thinking about the need for more money. Now, let’s go back to the driving question, “What is the REAL motive for wanting to be an administrator?”. Underneath all of the positive intentions, the real reason for wanting to change my job was money. 

 Would more money be nice? Of course, but I don’t need more money to support, encourage, and help my current colleagues. I can do that right now by making the choice to invest in the people around me. Sometimes, being in the trenches gives me a better opportunity to invest in and support my fellow colleagues than stepping into an administrative role. I have learned that money can be a good motivator, but it should never be the sole motivator in decision making.

We need to be careful not to allow our good intentions to overshadow our motives. We may have great intentions, but our motives might be selfish, greedy, egomaniacal, insensitive, and much more. We must spend time truly reflecting on what our motives are for the decisions we make. We may come to find out that our intentions can be played out right where we are, and our motives for wanting change may be to cover up issues, run from problems we are avoiding, or to chase selfish ambitions. As a leader, it is crucial that we are always keeping our true motives in check. We need to be honest with ourselves, and if we see any motives within us that lean toward selfishness or selfish ambition, we need to reassess our “Why?” and focus on the mission of selfless leadership.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Serving and Responsibility

On a ride home with a buddy of mine the other day, he and I started talking about serving others and what that looks like. The conversation led him to reveal that he has a hard time not taking on the responsibility of the individuals that he is serving. He stated that while he wants to serve others, he finds himself wanting to take ownership of people’s needs and responsibilities. He told me that he knows it is not his responsibility to work things out for others or to get things completed for others, but he struggles with taking on ownership that isn’t his to take. After hearing this, it led me to question the line between serving others and taking responsibility for others.

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that I believe service to be the key element to leadership, that selfless leadership is about serving those around us, and that service is the highest form of leadership.  However, there is a fine line between serving others and taking responsibility for others. If we do not set clear boundaries between the two, then we can begin to build resentment and frustration toward the people we should be serving.

Service is about supporting, helping, and encouraging others through action and word. Serving others can take on a multitude of forms. Some acts of service may be small; others can be life changing or life altering. For example, seeing an individual struggling to pay for the groceries in the check out line and volunteering to pay for their groceries is an act of service. Or it could be as big as the service given by C. S. Lewis to his late friend whom he lost in World War II. He took in his late friend’s mother and cared for her until her dying day. Some acts of service will hardly have an impact on our lives, while others might completely change how we live. 

Serving others should never be about enabling or allowing for poor decision making. It should never be about taking the responsibility of others as our own. Paying for someone’s groceries at the check-out line, because they didn’t have the means to do it themselves at that time, is not taking on that individual’s responsibility nor is it enabling them. Rather, you are providing an act of service for someone in need at a specific time. This changes when you continue to give them money for groceries while they do nothing to try and earn their own income to provide for themselves. That is when you have taken on their responsibility and have enabled them to continue living without taking on personal responsibility. 

Selfless leadership means we serve those we influence. We do not enable, make excuses for, or fail to hold others accountable. Serving others should be our aim every day. We should be looking for ways to help others and provide support and encouragement where needed. We do not take on the responsibilities of others, but rather help others complete or accomplish their responsibilities. Ultimately, it is still the other person’s job to complete or fulfill their own responsibilities. But let’s admit it, getting help when our responsibilities seem overwhelming allows us time to take a breath and feel more confident in taking ownership of our responsibilities.

Live a life of leadership through service. We all need help from time to time, and seeking out ways to serve others is a way to enrich our own life. Help, support, and encourage others in their responsibilities, but do not take on other’s responsibilities for them.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

A Problem That Doesn’t Exist…

I read a post the other day where a group blamed a political party for, “solving a problem that doesn’t exist.” This statement seems to be going around a lot these days. What’s interesting is that it is leadership’s responsibility to mitigate potential problems before they exist, or to mitigate unseen issues that are currently happening. Good leadership does not react. Instead, they are proactive, looking to solve potential issues before they become reality. It doesn’t matter the company or organization, if leadership is reactive, rather than proactive, then the company/organization will always be a few steps behind. It will also wreak havoc on the staff. Just because a problem doesn’t exist now, doesn’t mean one won’t exist in the future.

A good organization has leadership that is able to head off problems as they come. A great organization has leadership that looks to mitigate issues before they happen. Leadership should be focused on seeing the potential issues that could come their way. They need to be able to focus on seeing possible issues they may have with the public, staff, other organizations, and so on. When all signs lead to failure, you don’t wait until failure happens to deal with said failure. It is important to be cognizant of the warning signs that point to anticipated problems. Leadership should be so in tune with what’s going on within and around their organization that nothing will surprise them. The question then becomes, how does leadership do this?

Leadership must have a sense of awareness. They need to keep a birds eye view of every aspect within their organization. If leaders become tunnel visioned, they will miss the warning signs of looming issues. Instead of zeroing in on problems, leadership must take a step back and ask, “How did this happen?”, and, “What can we do to avoid this in the future?” Blame is never the answer when problems need solving. Action is what is necessary. Being aware and in tune with the organization can only happen when leadership takes on a very specific role – being present.

Leadership that sits behind a desk will never be fully aware of the issues and problems that may be manifesting within the organization. Leadership that leads from the top will never know the real issues and problems that are affecting the organization. To be intune and aware of potential issues and problems, leadership must be present and lead from within their organization. Leadership needs to be among their staff. They need to listen, observe, ask questions, and spend time investing in their people. A leader who is rarely seen is a leader who is clueless to what is happening within and among their staff and organization. A clueless leader is a reactive leader, not a proactive leader. It is crucial that leadership spends the majority of their time among their staff; serving. 

Problems arise when we lack knowledge or are too consumed with our own ego that we neglect the needs of others. Leaders must be servants first. We must come alongside our staff and invest in them by giving up our time to ensure our staff is taken care of. The more we engage and invest in our staff, the more knowledge we gain about the problems and issues that may be plaguing our organization. It also gives us a better understanding of what we can do to mitigate issues and plan for the future. Being fully present with our staff gives us the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive when problems and issues may arise. It is leadership’s job to solve problems that don’t exist. After all, just because they don’t exist today, doesn’t mean they won’t exist tomorrow. Be present, be aware, and be engaged.

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Not Conformed, But Transformed

It’s easy to look at what’s happening around the country, or even the world, and jump on a bandwagon. It’s easy to conform to the ideologies of the masses for fear of being different, causing rifts, or simply not wanting to feel alone. The problem with conforming so easily is that we forfeit our courage and integrity. We lose sight of what is right and true for the sake of comfort and acceptance. Do not conform to this world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Be strong and courageous. Stand for what is right, rather than conform to the masses. Do not allow yourself to be pushed by every wind of doctrine that comes your way. Lead in a way that will never compromise your character or integrity. 

The ways of the world are as changing as the currents of the ocean. If we are always looking to conform to the ways of the world, then we will never stand for what is right, know truth from lie, or even know who we are.  The world should not be the one to tell us what to think, how to act, or what to do. We must be the ones who build personal moral and ethical codes that are based on facts and truth. Instead of seeking acceptance from the world, we should be looking at what is morally and ethically right to accept from the world. Choosing to conform to impulsive ideologies that change in an instant proves our ignorance and lack of self-confidence and courage. Conforming builds a foundation of sand that will ultimately crumble and cause us more anguish in the end.

We are called to be strong and courageous. We are called to stand for what is morally and ethically right. We are called to be lions in the midst of jackals. We are called to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We are called to take care of the orphans and widows. If we are called to do and be all of these things, then the last thing we want to do is conform to the ways of this world. The world teaches the opposite of everything we are called to be. As leaders, we must stand tall in the midst of chaos and confusion. We must be the light that others can see in the midst of the darkness that surrounds them. If we are constantly swayed by the ways of the world, we will become the darkness that surrounds others rather than the light that brings hope, strength, and encouragement. 

We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We must set aside the ways of this world and traverse the narrow path. Truth doesn’t become less true because people refuse to accept it. Facts don’t stop being facts because people refuse to accept them. We need to seek truth, stand for what is right, lead with integrity, and never compromise moral and ethical standards for personal gain and public acceptance. To renew our mind, we must do what is opposite of what this world finds acceptable. We must remove ourselves from the equation and seek to be servant leaders. While serving, we must protect the weak and stand for truth all the while holding ourselves to higher morals and ethics. 

Lead in a selfless way, but stand for what is right. Serve, but never compromise. Stay humble, but be assertive. Don’t conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Transform your mind to to be a leader that stands for what is right, protects the weak, leads with integrity, and will never compromise their character for the approval of the world. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Hard Work AND Discipline

Out of all the life lessons I teach my children, there is one thing that I want to engrain in my children’s mindset – You can do and become anything you want with hard work and discipline. There is nothing that can stand in their way if they put in the hard work and have discipline. In fact, the only person who will stand in their way is themselves. Also, it’s not “either, or” it is “both, and”. Success is gained through hard work AND discipline. You can try to earn success with one or the other, but you will find that it takes both to reach the pinnacle of success.

Out of all the qualities one can choose, it only takes hard work and discipline to become the best version of you. The problem is people will either shy away from discipline, and/or they will refuse to put in the hard work that is needed. Both qualities come with some form of sacrifice that will force you out of your comfort zone. Discipline means you have to do something whether you want to or not. Hard work means you put in 100% effort every time. Both sound like a grind, and to be honest, they are, but the outcome of a life dedicated to hard work and discipline outweighs a life of complacency and excuses. 

In the introduction, I stated that I want my children to know that they can do and become anything they want. This holds true for you, the reader. It doesn’t matter what age you are – age is just a number. As Jordan Peterson stated, “You’re not everything you could be, and you know it.” This means there needs to be a shift in thinking. Instead of, “It’s too late for me,” or, “This is just who I am,” your thinking needs to be more, “I am not my best yet. I have work to do.” You also need to understand that changing a lifestyle or ideologies is not an overnight process. It will take time. In fact, it’s going to take hard work and discipline. 

This is not an “either, or” concept. You need both hard work and discipline. You need to show up with 100% effort every time. In order to do that, you need to discipline yourself to do it, so when the time comes when you don’t want to, you do it anyway. Something else that you need to keep in mind is that time is irrelevant. If you started tomorrow with this new drive and attitude, don’t expect major results within a few days, few weeks, or maybe even a few months. This isn’t about seeing a final destination and getting yourself there. This is about one day at a time. It’s about you being purposeful in your commitment to yourself to become better. 

Do you want to be a better boss, employee, father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband, friend? Then work hard at the qualities that need to change and discipline yourself to give 100% effort every day; especially when you don’t want to. You are essentially breaking bad habits and removing negative patterns and routines from your life. If you are serious about becoming better, then it’s going to take a mindset focused on hard work and discipline.

Do you want to become better at organization, time management, specific skills, etc.? Then work hard at strengthening the areas you want to become better at and discipline yourself to give 100% effort every time. We all have areas that we can become better in. Our problem is that we make excuses for why we haven’t changed or don’t change the things about us that need changing. It means we have to become uncomfortable and do the things that we don’t want to do – work hard and be disciplined. 

The British advertising tycoon, David Oglivy, once said, “Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.” Former Navy Seal and founder of Echelon Front, Jocko Willink, says, “Discipline equals freedom.” It is up to us to become the best version of ourselves. No one is going to do it for us. It is up to us to put in the hard work and discipline to better ourselves. Stop making excuses. Resist complacency and apathy. Push yourself every day. After all, you can do or become anything you want with hard work and discipline. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

The Dichotomies of Life

I read a post the other day that said, “Life is not a competition; it’s a journey.” My first reaction was to agree with the statement, but the more I thought about it, I found myself struggling with this concept. On one hand, life is a journey, but it is also a competition. A couple days later, I was watching a motivational video, and the title said, “Don’t focus on others, focus on yourself.” Again, I found myself struggling with this concept. On one hand I agree, but on the other hand, we need to focus on others. Life is filled with dichotomies, and we must carefully balance our thoughts,  ideologies, and convictions between them all. 

Let me begin by saying life is not “either, or”, life is “both, and.” We tend to live our lives in absolutes, where we place “either, or” constructs on our thinking. In reality, life is very much “both, and.” Please don’t misunderstand me, there are absolutes, but when it comes to personal or leadership growth and development, we need to remember that nothing is “either, or.” For example, it’s not, “I either need to be assertive, or I need to be humble.” It should be, “I need to be assertive, and I also need to be humble.” Be careful that you do not build mental constructs that force you to think in “either, or”. It is important that we understand life with a “both, and” mentality and stay our thinking away from extremes.

Life is a competition, and it is also a journey. We are always in competition, and to think that we are not hinders our ability to grow, rise, and become more. Competition is good and healthy. It is okay to see life as a competition. Competition is part of our genetic code. It is engrained in our humanity. From the earliest humans, we have always had to be in competition. Throughout the world, competition is still very much alive and well. Now, I am not talking about the kind of competition one might find in sports. Rather, I am talking about the competition we face in life. We compete for mates, we compete for jobs, we compete for success, and so much more. Life is a competition. Not only do we compete with others, we are and should always be in competition with ourselves. As the saying goes, “The only person you should be better than is the person you were yesterday.” Competition is good, and we should never shy away from it. Otherwise, we become weak, useless, and unmotivated. However, we should never allow competition to overrule our focus. Be aware of the competition in your life, but do not allow your focus to be solely on competition.

Life is also a journey. Life is about taking one purposeful step after another. Our life journey should be about becoming better, becoming more. No journey is in a straight line. Life’s path has consistent twists, turns, curves, hills, valleys, and even cliffs. The question is, what are you learning, and how are you improving throughout your life’s journey? How are you becoming better than the person you were yesterday? How are you applying the lessons that you are learning? A journey requires taking action. It requires movement not stagnation. A journey means you are taking one step after another. We need to be careful that we do not get lost on our journey. Yes, life is a journey, but that doesn’t mean we take every path that comes our way, nor does it mean we get lost in the scenery. A journey requires movement, and our journey doesn’t stop until we are 6 feet under. 

We must be careful not to become so self absorbed throughout our journey that we neglect those who are a part of our journey. On the other hand, we must be careful not to put too much focus on others and lose sight of ourselves in the process. This is a dichotomy that many struggle with. We tend to either focus more on others and less on ourselves, or we focus everything on ourselves and neglect those around us. There must be a careful balance between these thoughts. 

We must focus on ourselves so that we can keep growing, become better, and stay mentally and emotionally healthy. We need to ensure that we are applying the things we are learning along our journey. If we do not focus on ourselves, we may miss valuable lessons and learning opportunities. However, focusing on ourselves does not mean we become self-centered. Rather, it means we are self-aware. We know our limits and limitations. We know when we need a break and when we can keep pushing forward. We know when we need to change our mind and when we need to stand our ground. Do not confuse self-awareness with self-centeredness. We must always stay self-aware, and the best way to do that is through reflection, meditation, and discipline.

On the other hand, we need to invest in the people around us. We need to be an encouragement and support to the people we lead, or to those who join us on our life journey. We mustn’t become so self absorbed that we neglect the relationships in our life. When we focus solely on ourselves, we build an attitude of entitlement and self centeredness. These two qualities lead us to fail at the one thing in life that matters most – building strong, quality relationships with those we lead. Side note: I have mentioned in previous blog posts that we are all leaders. If we interact with people, which we all do, we then have the power of influence. That is what makes each one of us a leader. If we fail at being a positive influence and building healthy relationships with the people who are in our life, or who we may meet along our life journey, then we have failed at the most important part of life. There must be a healthy, positive balance between self awareness and selfless servanthood.

Do not allow yourself to get stuck in the “either, or” mentality. Be flexible and open to the reality of “both, and.” Life is filled with dichotomies, and we must find balance between the extremes. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

The Gift

There is a movie that just came out on Netflix called Don’t Look Up. The movie is about two low-level scientists who found a giant asteroid on a collision course toward Earth. These two scientists go around the world warning people of their impending doom. The movie is less about the asteroid, and more about the response that people give to these scientists. The responses vary from complacency to being degraded and ridiculed. The question is raised, “If you knew the time of your death, what would you do differently now?”. I want to pose a similar question, “If you knew the time of your death, what changes would you make in your life to become a better version of you?”. 

Most of us, if asked this question, would immediately think of things we would change or do differently. Our changes might be physical, mental, relational, or even spiritual; all of which are good aspects to consider. In fact, I would bet that we could write a list of qualities that we would change or things we would do differently. However, here’s the dichotomy of this scenario and reality: In our scenario, you know the time of your death. In reality, your death is ever a mystery.  Why would knowing our death change our response to becoming a better person? Shouldn’t we heed the idea even more so because our death is unknown? Why wait till it’s too late?

Denzel Washington said, “Every day you wake up is a new chapter to the rest of your life.” Think about that statement. Your life is a book, and you are the author. Everyday is a new chapter, and like all books, one chapter does not define the rest of the book. It is a progression; a journey; a process. Your story is what you want to make it. You can either define your story by holding on to the past, holding on to regrets, or blaming others for your lack of progress and success; OR you can define your story by waking up everyday with a passion to become a better version of you. Your past doesn’t define you. Your environment doesn’t define you. You are defined by your choices and your choices ALONE. 

If knowing our end date means we would choose to be better in different areas of our life, then why not do something about it now when our end date is unknown? If you were to sit down and write what you think people would say about you at your own funeral, what kind of things would you write? Would it all be good? Would it be honest and truthful? This exercise can be so powerful if done correctly. It gives you the opportunity to be introspective and assess the areas in your life that you know need to change. I challenge you to do this little activity. Be honest and real with yourself. If you find that you have written nothing down that needs to change, then you need to look deeper. We all have things we can change for the better.

Have you ever seen Kung Fu Panda? If you have children, it’s probably one you have seen. In the movie, there is a scene where Po, the panda, is stuffing his face full of peaches sitting under a peach tree. As Po is gorging himself, Grand Master Oogway, the tortoise, comes up and points out that the peach tree is really the Tree of Wisdom. Oogway notices that Po is worried and anxious. When asked why, Po starts telling Oogway of all the things he doesn’t seem to be able to do right. He’s more concerned about what was or what will be. Oogway then quotes an ancient proverb, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.” In other words, every day we are given is a present. It is an opportunity to do great things, become better, and change the parts of us that are holding us back. What are you doing with your present? Are you so consumed in your day to day activities that you stopped looking for ways to better yourself? Have you started making excuses for why you can’t be better? Or are you looking at each day as an opportunity to become a better version of you? 

Don’t waste the gift you were given. Wake up every morning and write a chapter you are proud  to have in the novel of your life. Don’t allow what has happened to determine what you do now. Rise above your struggles, overcome your hurdles, and meet challenges face to face. Determine within yourself to become better. Don’t wait till it’s too late. After all, our end is never known. Make each day count!  

As always, stay humble and serve well!

Influence (Part 2)

Ken Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Stan Toler wrote, “Good leaders know that more is accomplished by empowering others than by commanding them.” Chuck Swindoll stated, “Anyone who influences others is a leader.” Bottom line, all leaders are influencers, and since we all influence others, we are all leaders. As Jocko Willink noted, “If you are a human being and you interact with other people, you are a leader.”

The question you need to ask yourself is, “As a leader, how am I influencing others?”. What kind of influencer are you for the rest of your team? Do your actions and words create a positive influence for your people? When you come face to face with strangers, what kind of influence do you have on them? These are important questions to ask, as we strive to better ourselves and our leadership.

When we come to the understanding that we are all leaders, and that our actions and words have power to influence others, then what we do and what we say should be considered carefully. In James’s epistle, he wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. Out of the same mouth comes praises and cursing.” We must take heed of everything that comes out of our mouth. Our words have the power to bring death or life. In the words of Toby Mac, “So speak life; to the deadest darkest night. Speak life; when the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why. Look into the eyes of the broken-hearted. Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, you speak love, you speak life.” 

We have the power to influence others in either a positive or negative way. This isn’t new information for any of us, but how often do we stop and think about how powerful our influence is on those around us. Words are powerful, but our actions are just as powerful if not more. The saying holds true, “Actions speak louder than words.” As the Apostle John wrote, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” We need to be men and women of our word, and the way we do that is to make our actions match our words. People will pay more attention to what we do rather than what we say. People appreciate follow through and want to see our words backed up by our actions. We must lead in a way that our words are never in question by consistently showing truth in what we say through how we act.

Actions can encompass many things, but one thing we don’t think about when it comes to actions is the simple act of how we look at others. Our facial expressions tell a story of unspoken words. Most people walk around with an indifferent, disinterested look. What do you feel more drawn to, a blank, disinterested facial expression or a welcoming, available facial expression? As an influencer, the most simple act of how we look at others can determine the kind of influence we have on others. In leadership, we need to be aware of our facial expressions. When we meet with others, talk with others, or simply walk by others, it’s important to remember to turn our disinterested, blank facial expressions into warm, welcoming ones. After all, leadership is about building relationships, and relationships start with the initial interactions we have with others.

Remember, you are a leader. You do not need a special title or position to be a leader. If you interact with people, you are a leader. Because you are a leader, you have the power of influence. Be sure that your influence promotes relationship, encouragement, and positivity. Be a person of your word, and let your actions show your words to be true. Keep yourself in check and be an influencer that encourages others to better themselves. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

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