It is not the critic who counts

One of my favourite quotes are the words of Theodore Roosevelt that is an excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April 1910.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

At the time of this post, I am also reading Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” and found that we share the love for this quote. In her introduction, she eloquently describes how these words are an accurate description of the vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it is engaging. It’s being all in.

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our choice is a question of engagement.”

And then powerfully: “Rather than sitting on the sideline and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.”

Wow.

The rest of the book continually drips with these impactful statements. And then my wife shared a talk she did on this topic.  Have a look and be blessed.

I love how she invites everybody to have a seat.

I realize I am still struggling to show up. How are you doing?

Still practicing to be seen.

H

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Reimagine the Shape of Progress

For years I understood that it is only with boundaries that we can build sustainably. In this entertaining and passionate TED talk, Kate Raworth, confirms a lot of my believes about the world economy, and she challenges me to think further.

I love her donut model.

I am touched by her challenge that we at the beginning of the 21 century are the one that has the responsibility to create a future in which everybody can thrive. And she created a beautiful new design category for me: Regenerative and distributive. I am going to play with this category in my next design.

Let me know what you think.

Culture of Discipline

These last few days, I have been thinking about how important discipline is in growing your business.

To be honest, I am a bit stuck in this area. Sometimes a discipline becomes a habit, and the habit can become invisible when it falls into the unconscious competences phase of mastery. Unfortunately, there is a danger of becoming unconscious – attrition and complacency can set in.  So now I am in the process of reviewing the core principles for myself again to get unstuck.

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Part of this review is to go back to my mentors of which one is Jim Collins. Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” has played a significant role in my business thinking. I would like to share with you his thoughts on a culture of discipline.

Culture of Discipline is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action—operating with freedom within a framework of responsibilities—this is the cornerstone of a culture that creates greatness. In a culture of discipline, people do not have jobs; they have responsibilities. When you blend a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get a magical alchemy resulting in superior performance.” – Jim Collins

In one of his talks, he distinguishes between discipline and bureaucracy.  I love how he puts it” The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence.” So many business leaders fall into the trap of micromanaging to overcome incompetence. Save yourself lots of trouble by not going down that trail. Instead give people a clear outcome, boundaries in which they can run and then step out of the way.

I’ll give the last word to Collins again: “And never confuse discipline with conformity. True discipline requires an independence of mind. True discipline means we are so clear about what is important, we are so clear that we don’t allow what everybody else says to knock us off course.”

A Culture of Fairness in Your Business

Sometimes I wonder how much punishment a business can take. When things do not go as planned and there are severe delays in the system, we all tend to wonder. Then I am not surprised when the people in the business step up to change the situation. It confirms an old and deep-seated believe system I have: “Together, we are so much stronger than we think we are.”

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Yet, the belief in our own ability is but one of the building blocks in creating the good life we desire. It also asks that we deliberately create an environment in which we and others can flourish. In business, this flourishing environment is the underlying culture that exists.

There is always a culture present where people come together regularly. Busines owners need to know this. Culture, if not engineered intentionally, will naturally evolve. The latter, unfortunately, allows for the danger of a toxic culture to be present.

One of the essential elements to be built into any culture is fairness.

The lack of fairness is one of the contributing factors of burnout and disengagement. And as Marco Alvera highlights in his TED talk below, it is an expensive ($550 billion per year every year) oversite to not build this in your business culture.

I was impressed by how he argues that improved performance happens in an environment that is experienced as safe enough to make mistakes. This makes so much sense. If you know someone’s got your back, you are more willing to risk and grow.

He also underlines the importance of cultivating the humaneness of the business. The emotional context is as, if not more important than the systems and processes, rules and regulations. Like Maya Angelou said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

This emotional context need not be one were drama, and soppiness is tolerated. When we expect a lot of people, they usually step up to our expectation. Try to create a vacuum of excellence above a person, and they will spontaneously be sucked into it.

If you would like to create a culture in which fairness is present and do not know precisely how to start, you are welcome to contact me.

Herman

To Focus, use the Power of “No”

To focus on my goals can often be challenging.  A few years ago I was confronted by a quote that helped me become unstuck in this area.

“If you can’t say “no,” your “yes” doesn’t mean anything” – Charles Feltman

It stopped me in my tracts because of having always viewed myself as a “Yes” type of person. Yes, everything is possible. Yes, you can do it. Yes, your goal is great. This “yes” approach was for me the embodiment of positiveness. Choosing to be positive and expecting a positive outcome was my definition of being an optimist.

Since the confrontation with the quote, I now take a different view. Saying yes to everything also has a dark side. It shatters your focus. It distracts and can become an addiction. As always, there is the need to harmonize the “yesses” (the expectation of positive outcomes ) with “no’s” (the gatekeepers of focus).

Why, other than to have integrity, would we want to say “no” in business and life? Because “no “is the key to focus and focus is one of the crucial the keys to success.

The singular focus on a critical value or outcome is what distinguished a lot of great business from those that were merely good. Jim Collins refers to it as the “Hedgehog” concept.

So what is it to focus?

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Defining Focus

The best definition, I could find is the following story:

It’s the days of the epic Mahabharata in ancient India. All the kings send their sons to the ashram of Guru Drona for their education. Guru Drona teaches them everything from the Vedas to philosophy to the art of war.

One day, Guru Drona decides to see how attentive his students are. He wants to know how far they’ve come with their skills in archery. So he places a wooden bird on a high branch of a tree. And asks his students one by one to take aim to shoot the left eye of the bird. Guru Drona then asks each one what they see before they shoot.

One by one, the students come and claim that they can see everything clearly. The forest. The trees. The branches. The bird. They then shoot their arrows. Some come close to the mark. Others miss by wide margins. One or two even hit the bird. But no one is extremely accurate.

At last, comes Arjuna. He takes aim, and then Guru Drona asks him: what do you see? But unlike everyone else’s answer, Arjuna doesn’t say that he can see everything clearly. In fact, he says: I only see the left eye of the bird.

When he shoots his arrow, it goes straight through the center of the left eye of the wooden bird. 

The power of saying “no” is in our dedication to our desired outcome. It is the conscious choice to deprive ourselves for now from specific rewards to gain the more significant reward later. It is not easy. I know.

Simplicity, among other things, is a conscious choice between inclusion and exclusion. Often the magic is in what you leave out. But this means that you need to be comfortable with saying no, to yourself and to others. This is not easy to do. – Steve Jobs

If you need a conversation to help you gain your focus, send me a message.

Brave enough to be honest

Confronting the brutal facts are not something a lot of us do. Yet it is one of the elements of becoming everything you dream of.

In business or in life, it is comfortable to allow things to be as they are. The alternative is that we need to take responsibility to change and change (even though we yearn for it) brings with it the price tag of discomfort.

Beyond the discomfort is the prize.

The prize in life, clearly defined, is lacking, me thinks.

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That is why most people stay where they are. Vague dreams of living a good life, wishing thing could be better, are bountiful. Therefore stuckness in the norm.

To be unstuck. Liberated. You and I need to be honest.

Honest first with ourselves. Then learn how to authentic with others.

I recently watched Mark Leruste be honest about the entrepreneurial experience. I love the way how he distinguishes between the marketed reality of social media and the experienced reality of everybody. I acknowledge him for voicing what so many business owners experience. I invite you to have a look at his TEDx talk.

My last thoughts.

Face the truth. No matter how uncomfortable. But do not be overwhelmed by it. Face it with love. Love is a verb. Love is that what you do or not do, that leaves the beloved better off. Truth without love is brutal, love without truth is sentimental. Truth saturated with love is powerful.