Life is what happens when you're busy making plans

Not too long ago, I spent my life “planning my life”

A snapshot of a typical day:

Check off the to-do’s on my never ending list, schedule and attend meetings, where we talk and then plan to schedule more meetings. Plan my goals, my lunches, my budgets, my weekend plans, plan out time TO plan (how crazy is that?!) It was exhausting, and I wasn't accomplishing much.

A conversation with a friend set me straight when he bluntly told me: What are you doing? You're remarkably efficient, you sure have figured that out, now let's actually make you effective. That stung a little, but I got the point.

I started on a quest to do things that actually mattered. To be EFFECTIVE. I started a "don't care" list. (It's not a plan-ok! haha) I started doing the difficult work first, and not caring if my life was a little disheveled and unplanned. I found things straightened themselves out for the most part, and I didn't really forget as much as I thought I would.

I realized I needed to let go of controlling little things, in order to have the mental bandwidth to care and execute on the big things. Are you sabotaging your own effectiveness because of your concern for the minutia of life? Let's actually not do that anymore ;)

 Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. — Peter Drucker

The Chief Fan of Your Potential

He had warm eyes, a firm  handshake and a great  laugh. He laughed often and infectiously. He had a way of presenting an idea (no matter how profound) as though it just came to him in that moment. He was professional with a touch of humor and familiarity. “Always a pleasure Miss Bethany”  This was  my  mentor Jeff Newland.

He didn't see people as they were, he saw them for what they could be. He was truly:

"The Chief Fan of Your Potential"

A note from Jeff to me:

Bethany, I think in the future you will still be dreaming of incredible things… but I think they will be the incredible things that others fortunate enough to know you will be seeking to accomplish with your support and wisdom. You will care about those things like you care about what you’re doing right now. Remember to surround yourself with people who need you to be at your unique and special best. Keep going Bethany.. I love what’s coming.

At that time, my focus was personal excellence. I wanted to be as close to excellence in every area of my life as I could be. I wanted to be smart and successful,  to create a great life for myself, and achieve all my goals. Those weren’t wrong ambitions, but there was something missing in this perfect little life….

Other people.

Now quite a few months later, I know what he was talking about in that note.

A star wants to see himself rise to the top, while a leader wants to see those around him rise to the top. -Simon Sinek

I want to introduce you to the new “Miss Bethany”

I believe when individuals with potential are convinced of the possibilities of their value, they will take action to reach their greatness.

I purposefully champion individuals with potential.

 Jeff not only saw that I was capable of giving that to others, he did that for me. He showed me my potential and supported my growth.

What a beautiful gift: To believe in someone until she believes in herself.

Thanks to a wise and caring individual, I had the guidance I needed to take steps toward  becoming my best self, in order to give my best to others.

My wish for you, is that you too can understand your unique value and feel supported to bring that to the world.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” -Edmund Lee

Half Alive

We half heartedly do our jobs, go to school, attend church. We don't even try to be inspired. We see most of life as a drudgery to be escaped, when it's actually a privilege to be enjoyed! Living is a verb. It's active. Don't deaden yourself with night after night of sitcoms and too many beers. Life is special, exciting and wonderful, there are experiences to be had, things to create and people to bless. Open your eyes to the possibilities, count your blessings, do something worthwhile, and live completely alive!

Integrity not optional

To be a successful leader you must have integrity. If there are cracks in your foundation you won’t last long. The higher and longer you build, the wider those cracks become until they are glaringly apparent to you and everyone else. A small inconsistency or underhanded behavior will become a massive issue as others are now scrutinizing your actions and mimicking your behavior.

Those you lead will only follow if they trust and respect you. If you lack integrity, you will quickly lose the trust of your followers and then you will lose them.  If there's no one left to lead, you're no longer a leader. 

What should teenagers be doing?

The teens and 20’s are the best time to build the foundation that will be needed for a successful life.These are not the years to waste. Teenagers need to be mentored and learning practical skills. They should get internships, shadow careers, and volunteer to work on projects for free. Have them take every opportunity (especially while they have limited responsibilities) to be in their fields of interest and learning hands-on skills. Teach them they don’t need to wait to have a “real job” to work their craft.

What's wrong with this "after college" picture?

To get a job you must have experience, but to get experience you must have a job. This is the conundrum that our society has thrown many a  college graduate into on the day he's handed his diploma. Instead of leaving college fully equipped to enter a professional job, He finds himself suddenly with all the head knowledge, but none of the practical skills.

Although this 20 something young man is our bright and shining future, no one wants to hire him. He still needs to be taught everything and most people aren't willing to take the time or the risk in their business. Somehow that book education he got didn’t teach him how to DO anything, he just knows how to talk about it. Sure, he could take his diploma and start out in a very small paying job in his field of interest, and that would help him build up the experience so he can start his career. Sounds like a solution right?

There’s just a minor hitch. He has student loans which he has to start paying a few months after he graduates. The student loans were granted with the projection that he would leave college and enter a full time, high paying job in his industry. But it's not happening.

This promising young graduate steps off the platform with his diploma and suddenly finds himself scrambling for quick money. He needs to be able to pay his loans and that's a forced priority, so gaining experience becomes a secondary thought. He searches with growing desperation to find the job of his dreams and finally abandons his diploma and career field (temporarily) while he works as a waiter or bartender to pay his bills.

All the sudden, instead of starting to give to business and society in a lucrative career, our "future" is spending his most formative years washing tables and making small talk.

This could be fine for a time, but unfortunately paying those loans won't take months, but years.  So he find himself in the same predicament year after year. He's not able to use his degree because he lacks experience, he can't work a small paying job because of student loans, and his potential and passion is becoming buried and slowly forgotten.

The simplest, yet scariest solution to this problem:

Take responsibility for your own education and career path.

This could mean working to gain experience in conjunction with getting a college degree, or maybe even choosing an alternative path to college. There are many ways to avoid this predicament, but all of them require you to carefully consider the future. You'll have to get a little creative instead of just following the traditional route planned out for you.

Words from John Cusak

Say anything- one of the sweetest chick flicks from the 90’s. The character Lloyd’s older sister is slamming things around in the kitchen and Lloyd asks her “how hard is it to be happy? How hard is it to just decide to be happy”  The moment slips by and the movie continues, but that's actually a great question.

How hard is it to decide to be happy? To halt your negative thoughts and choose to dwell on what is good and lovely. How hard is it to change your mind and decide that you won't have a bad day just because it started out that way. Two people looking at the same circumstance can have very different emotions regarding it. Most often it’s a choice.

Better choices, better results

There are good or bad consequences to every action however small. After eating a cookie or jogging a mile, you won’t see immediate results. However each of those cookies and each of those steps in your sneakers were moving you (however slowly) towards or away from something. Towards health or away from it. Each and every choice we make moves us closer or further from our desired lifestyle or character. My guess is that if we had the foresight to make every decision based on future consequences of that decision, we would all make better choices.

What do you see?

Walt Disney was no longer alive when Disney World in Orlando Florida opened it's doors. Someone remarked to the creative director Mike Vance "It's too bad Walt never got to see Disney World"

Mike replied "Oh but he did see it. That's why it's here" 

Instead of merely seeing reality, a visionary acknowledges reality but sees something greater. He sees the possibilities. More important than what is there, is what could be. Instead of an abandoned shed, he sees a bustling coffee shop, that old cornfield is a water park full of screaming children; that deadbeat guy is the next world class boxer, that ghost town, a thriving metropolis.

It takes courage to see life this way and break free from the restraints of what is true now, to what could be reality.

Are you willing to do the work?

Social skills- you’ve either got them or you don’t. You can talk to anyone with that million dollar smile and charismatic charm, or you mumble your way through life with your head down.

Or at least thats what we thought… we thought it was something you were born with, something like body structure or eye color. But the truth is, those who work hard consistently win out over those who are just naturally talented.

Social skills are exactly that. Skills. They can be practiced and learned much like anything else. You can teach yourself how to think about people, how to  present yourself, how to speak well, ask good questions, be tactful and avoid awkwardness. With effort you can develop an irresistible personality, and it's really only a question of whether you're willing to work at it.

"You carry yourself well" What does that even mean?

"Carrying yourself well" Seems rather ambiguous but it's really just the physical manifestation of inner confidence; Head held high, looking people in the eyes, speaking clearly, and smiling brightly. Quite honestly, your body language impacts how people view you much more than what you say.

Perhaps in your next interaction, you should worry less about what you’re saying and take time to consider how you present yourself.

Given one day, what would you do?

You are given a day in your life. Just one. That's all you get. You can do anything, say anything, and be anything. Use your imagination.

Some people given that one day will go to exotic locations and have amazing experiences. They will pack into that one day as many happy and wonderful things they can think of. They will entertain themselves, and amaze themselves and do and see everything they've ever dreamed of.

While others would take that same day to...

To say the things that have never been said, to give whatever they could, to invent, to love, to impact. And to forever change the lives of those around them.

And how would you use that day?

Circling back

Has someone offered  you advice recently? If a colleague has spent time coaching you or giving you solutions to a problem, the best way to thank him is to circle back. Let him know how you took his advice, what happened from it, and what you accomplished. if you show him that you followed through and his words made a difference, he will be quite pleased to continue providing wisdom because he's able to see the value he provided.

A simple "thank you" is easy enough, but remember to also show proof that what he did actually helped you

Leading up

When you “lead up” you haven’t been given the title, the permission or the responsibility to lead. What you’ve done is you’ve taken initiative. You have voluntarily shouldered the responsibility, and you’ve given yourself the permission. You lead regardless of whether it’s your job.

Leading isn’t easy or fun. But you do it anyways. Not for recognition or rapport. But for those people that need you to step up. For the work that needs your expertise. And for yourself so at the end of the day, you know you gave the best you were capable of.

You lead because that’s who you are, whether your business card says it or not.

You are a leader