“Do you recognize and communicate potential in others? Do you enable them to move forward professionally & personally?
Or do you feel threatened by changing the status quo?”
Recently, my organization asked all leadership to read and analyze the book, “Achieve with Accountability”, by Mike Evans. It’s a short and insightful reminder that builds off of the works of the late Dr. Stephen Covey. The essential premise is that we are all, response “able”…that is, responsible for self management. The idea that there is a space between stimulus and response in which we have a choice. In other words, the idea of leadership, management and responsibility all begin in the mirror. Coincidently I recently interviewed a top leader in the Southern Arizona are who stated,
“I’d say that the most critical element in life and business is the ability to look at yourself in the mirror, each day and ask the tough questions.”
This concept, however, is not new. In researching ‘people of excellence’ over the last decade this idea of self-management, introspection and personal accountability appears again and again. In fact, I suggest that this is at the heart of what I’ve called the “Circle of Mental Excellence”.
Several centuries before Evans and Covey, Miyamoto Musashi eluded to this same concept in his, “Book of Five Rings”. For him, having a strategy as a warrior, in life or in business included this daily self-management. Often interpreted by the phrases below, I suggest that it goes much deeper than looking within. The path of excellence or ‘the way’ as Musashi puts it involves both having a strategy as well as daily execution. The discipline to execute daily must come from that person in the mirror.
Lastly, the idea of teams, organizations and cultures begin with this process. This is why the “Circles of Excellence” begin with the individual and work there way out, like the rings of tree growth or the development of our solar system relies on the sun and what happens in its core. Over twenty years of management and leading others, I’ve often summarized this in these maxims;
“Lead and manage yourself, so others will not have to come in and manage for you”
“You will only be able to lead and manage others as effectively as you manage and lead yourself”
And that’s Wright as in The Wright Brothers. Wilbur and Orville Wright have been credited by history for being the first in controlled, powered flight as well as first to bring their planes to market for sale. There were naturally many other inventors and tinkerers fighting with them for the prestigious title and the Wrights fought relentlessly to the first position. But is being first always best?
In his book, Originals, Adam Grant argues that coming in second if often more advantageous than being in first. Being second allows for stepping back and seeing the accomplishment from an objective view whereas the first place winner can often get caught up or overly preoccupied in the winners circle. This preoccupation can lead to narrowed thinking, not learning from mistakes or a lack of desire to continue to innovate. This is precisely how it played out for the Wright Brothers.
The Wrights, preoccupied with protecting their distinction, would go on to spend many years embroiled in law suits over patents much to the detriment of their health and company. They refused to look at better ways of building an airplane. Their “wing warping” design, although original, was rudimentary and less effective. Their stubbornness would result in the first aerial fatality in 1908 and cost them a successful partnership with the US military.
The Wright’s second place archrival, Glenn Curtiss, saw the advantage of being second. Although he spent years fighting off the legal pursuits of the Wright Brothers, his real focus was on building better, then best aircraft. He did and landed many large contracts during WWI and WWII. His aircraft became some of the most popular of the early 20th Century. He eventually sold his stake in the company for a hansom profit and later formed 18 other companies throughout his lifetime. In an ironic twist of fate, the Curtis Company would end up acquiring the Wright’s company in 1929 to form the Curtiss –Wright Company.
“Learn to see the advantages and disadvantages of each thing”
Ulysses Hyriam Grant serves as a great example of an ordinary man who found excellence and remained committed to it throughout his life. As a result, he was well positioned when the circumstances of history knocked at his door. Like all people who have found excellence, he had a personal code of sorts that he lived by and influenced his every action.
I love libraries for many reasons, first and foremost they are are piece of history. For Western civilization, they stand as the icon of learning dating back to ancient Greece.
Libraries serve as the ultimate example of higher learning, available to anyone regardless of social or economic standing.
Libraries are a place of quiet contemplation
Today’s libraries with internet, wifi, computer and video resources provide information and resources to the public unlike any time in human history.
Then there are the books, rows and rows of books.
Now if libraries would offer fresh coffee, I’d never have another meeting in a coffee house of any kind!
There are also many examples of people who have found and sustained excellence because of the public library. Most notably is Mark Twain. With the death of his father at age eleven, he was forced to go to work and his formal education came to an end. He would go on to self-educate solely in public libraries and be awarded two honorary doctorate degrees.
In his LinkedIn article, Dustin McKissen asserts that we’re facing a decline in innovation as a result of declining cultural trust and increasing risk aversion. But innovation, particularly the big ones, do not follow a consistent time line and it’s easy to forget about how far things have come in a relatively short period of time.
Powered flight for example developed over several generations. Those who were around to see the Montgolfier Brother’s famous balloon flights in 1783 would not live long enough to hear of the Wright Brothers, let alone see their 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk. Further, consider this; it’s taken mankind a good 5,000 years to get to the point where the atom could be split.
Consider also, this short inventory of innovations in the last generation;
True we haven’t traveled to Mars, solved the riddle of cold nuclear fusion, traveled back in time and self-driving cars are a far cry from flying cars but has innovation really declined?
The data on the decline in trust, however, is compelling. So what are the true implications and consequences of this decline in trust? What has caused it? More importantly, how do fix it?
“Today’s graduates, he said, will need to carve their own path, but have the freedom to fail and to try again.”
A quote from Mark Zuckerberg, within the context of the recent MarketWatch.com article below. Like feudal Japan in the age of Miyamoto Musashi, we’ve entered a transitional period in our society. Technology and economic evolution is once again reshaping society and how we do business. As a result, many have begun to feel as if out on an island both culturally and professionally.
On the one hand, we have more resources at our disposal than in any other time in human history yet we remain unsure how to manage it all. At the same time, many of the institutions that we’ve clung to for stability have begun to shift away in other directions.
The need for individual ‘Strategy’ is greater than ever as we’ve begun to move into an age of the Ronin Professional.
It takes at least 45 days of deliberate and focused repetition to create a new habit. Mastery of a skill, on the other hand, requires a set of fundamental habits that relate directly to said skill. Those habits must be refined and developed over time, some estimate at least 10,000 hours but much of that will depend on the person and the quality of practice.
Sustaining Excellence is a strategy that incorporates all of this on a larger scale. It can have several categories including Mental, Physical, Skills, Group or Institutionalized Excellence. The guiding principle is that Habit, Mastery and Sustained Excellence are all cyclical in nature. It’s neither journey nor destination but continual process.
The concept of mass misinformation and false propaganda likely goes back as far as the ability to read and write. Some historians speculate that ancient Egyptian narratives, depicted in hieroglyphics on many monuments are embellished and in some cases inaccurate.
Terms like “Snake Oil Salesman“ has come to be synonymous with any practice intended to deceive the general public. It’s origins date back to the 19th Century in the United States during the Chinese migrations and the building of the Transcontinental Railroads. There was in fact a real product called snake oil but it ultimately became one of the best known examples of false advertising on the American Frontier.
Two centuries earlier, in feudal Japan, the nonconformist samurai Miyamoto Musashi touched on the need to be critical in judgement, analysis and weary of false information. As part of the nine rules laid out in The Book of Five Rings, Musashi states simply to “Learn to judge the quality of each thing“.
In today’s language one would speak of critical analysis, scientific method or a healthy dose of skepticism. The recent US presidential election and subsequent studies like the one discussed in the Wall Street Journal below are potent reminders that the need to judge the quality of things is greater today than ever. Fortunately these are skills that can be taught and cultivated.
Are you practicing critical analysis daily? Or are you getting fooled by the snake oil salesmen?
A study of middle-school to college-age students found most absorb social media news without considering the source. How parents can teach research skills and skepticism.
Author and speaker, Brian Tracy, has often written that:
“Most people are just one new skill away from doubling their income”
In other words, a new skill can open a new world of opportunity or experience, both personally and professionally.
Legendary samurai, Miyamoto Musashi wrote:
“You must train in the way and practice daily”
Part of that “way” being the practice of developing new skills and staying the course with said skills practice.
Current science and medicine is finding compelling evidence that engaging in new activities, particularly later in life stimulates the brain and actually improves mental capacity, sometimes even physical vitality. It has been suggested this can combat Alzheimer’s and even improve mental alertness, contrary to conventional wisdom.
It’s also been proven that new skills can be effectively developed, regardless of natural ability, measured IQ or perceived physical limitations.
Much of what we do is simply skill development, here are some examples