What Businesspeople Can Learn From the Back to School Mentality

Around this time of year, young people are experiencing the deep joy of a fresh start. It’s back to school season and possibility is everywhere! And I’ve got some good news: this sense of possibility isn’t just for students. Anyone can experience the benefits of a fresh start.

I once went on a cruise with a lot of older folks and noticed a big difference between those who saw opportunity everywhere and those who didn’t. The folks who saw opportunity in all the activities on the cruise expressed excitement about the future and were enjoying their lives more. Plus, they looked and acted 20 years younger than they were! The folks who didn’t take advantage of the ship’s activities were withdrawn and didn’t really come alive until mealtime.

The insights I gained on that cruise inspired my book Refire, Don’t Retire. One of the powerful ideas in this book is the Nothing Ordinary Rule, which challenges you to create new possibilities. For example, instead of ordering the same old thing at a restaurant, order a dish you’ve never tried. Go to an event you ordinarily wouldn’t go to. Listen to a new kind of music. Applying the Nothing Ordinary Rule increases your mental acuity and infuses your world with possibility. Pretty soon you’ll start to feel like an excited student all over again.

When you see opportunities all around you, you can’t help but generate good work. People often express astonishment that I’ve written more than 60 books. But I see each book as a new opportunity to learn about something new and share my excitement about that subject.

Aldous Huxley once said that the secret of genius is to carry the spirit of a child into old age. He was right! So take some inspiration from all the students going back to school this month—embrace the new opportunities around you.

The Power of Serving Others

Our love and prayers are with everyone who is dealing with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. So many are homeless as a result of this storm. It’s an awful situation but it’s amazing to see how people rally together to help each other in times like this. We saw it with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with the fires here in San Diego in 2007, with Hurricane Sandy in 2013—and now it’s happening with Hurricane Harvey. We have seen and heard countless examples of people serving each other during this crisis—and I’m sure there will be more.

When someone shows up to help, they don’t say “Wait a minute—what’s your religion? What’s your sexual orientation? Who did you vote for?” People who serve others don’t come with judgment; they just reach out with support and love for their fellow human beings. I love what actress Sandra Bullock said when she donated a million dollars to the Red Cross for Harvey victims last week: “There are no politics in eight feet of water. There are human beings in eight feet of water.” Isn’t that great?

During times like these, when I’m watching the heroic efforts of people taking care of each other, I always think how great it would be if we behaved this way all the time. It shouldn’t take a crisis to bring out the best in people. What are some ways we can keep ourselves in that servant heart mindset when times are bad and when times are good? Imagine the difference we could make in the world!

For now, we need to keep focusing our love, energy, and prayers on all of the good folks in the communities hit by Harvey. Please consider donating any amount to the Red Cross (www.redcross.org), the Humane Society (www.humanesociety.org), or, to find other worthwhile organizations, go to www.charitynavigator.org to ensure your donation will be used to help people affected by Harvey.

We are at our best when we stand together. Keep pumping out the love and the prayers! Good on you all!

Savor Some Solitude

In the age of information and round-the-clock news, many of us feel swamped by obligations that constantly require our attention. We can all relate to feeling bogged down by responsibilities. It’s only human to feel that balancing a job, a family, and flooded inbox makes taking time for yourself an impossible luxury.

It’s true that taking time for solitude in a busy world is challenging. In the rare moments where we have time to ourselves, relaxing can feel unsettling because we are used to doing, not being.

Despite our hang-ups, solitude is extremely valuable. Many CEOs, including Steve Jobs, use solitude as a tool to process information away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Jobs believed that if you just sit and observe your mind, you will see how restless it is; but over time your mind calms down. When it does, you can see things more clearly and there’s room for your intuition to blossom. Jobs used the awareness he developed through reflection to build a groundbreaking company. His intuition gave him insight into the desires of customers. This became one of the defining qualities of Apple: giving customers what they didn’t know they needed.

Solitude helps us know ourselves. When we know ourselves, we’re able to make decisions that match who we are and what we value. If we don’t take the time to know ourselves, our decisions are often based on what’s popular, rather than what’s best.

My wife Margie and I believe in the importance of reflection so much that we spend a good chunk of our summer in Skaneateles, away from our business in San Diego. I find that this time I spend reflecting actually improves my business decisions when I return, because I come back relaxed, with a better sense of my values.

Take time to listen to yourself, in the same way you would listen to an employee’s concerns or a friend’s problem. Time is a precious resource, but setting some aside to just be will bring a great return on investment. Even if it’s only 10 minutes each day, this time will empower you to make decisions that are powered by your deepest self.

If You Choose Your Attitude, You Get to Change Your Life for the Better

Does your busy schedule sometimes require you to do one thing when you’d really rather be doing something else, and it leaves you feeling a little grumpy? Once in a while when this happens to me, I think of a story I heard several years ago about the late, great opera singer Beverly Sills.

At a reception being held in her honor after a Saturday afternoon concert in San Francisco, the much loved Sills was approached by a reporter.

The reporter said, “I’ll bet you hate the fact that you have to give another concert tonight.”

“I don’t have to give another concert tonight,” said Sills.

“Yes you do,” the surprised reporter said as he held up a theater program. “It says so right on the front of this program.”

“You don’t understand,” said Sills. “I don’t have to give another concert—I get to give another concert. For much of my life I’ve said “I have to” do things. When I would say “I have to,” I could feel all the energy drain out of my body. Then one day I started thinking about how for each of my concerts, people were getting babysitters and dressing up and driving long distances just to see me sing. I realized how fortunate I was to be able to make a living doing something I loved to do. So the truth is, I get to give another concert tonight.”

Isn’t that great? So next time the thought runs through your head that you have to go to work, pick up the kids, do the shopping, or something else—substitute the phrase I get to. It’s a great mental shift toward a more positive attitude.

Another great attitude boost comes from Charles Swindoll. He is a famous pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher who wrote a wonderful essay about being in charge of your own attitude.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude in life. Attitude is more important than facts. It’s more important than your past; more important than your education or your financial situation; more important than your circumstances, your successes, or your failures; more important than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than your appearance, your giftedness, or your skills. It will make or break a company. It will cause a church to soar or sink. It will make the difference between a happy home and a miserable home. You have a choice each day regarding the attitude you will embrace.

Life is like a violin. You can focus on the broken strings that dangle, or you can play your life’s melody on the one that remains. You cannot change the years that have passed, nor can you change the daily tick of the clock. You cannot change the pace of your march toward your death. You cannot change the decisions or reactions of other people. And you certainly cannot change the inevitable. . . . What you can do is play on the one string that remains—your attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. The same is true for you.”

Life is a very special occasion when you have the right attitude. You are in charge—so I hope you choose to have a great attitude today. And remember: you don’t have to, you get to!

6 Keys to Accomplishing Your Big Fat Hairy Goals

This summer I’ve decided to regain some of the fitness goals I achieved back in 2013, when I was writing Fit at Last with my friend and coach, Tim Kearin.  Working with Tim, I’d lost over 40 pounds and gained balance, strength, and flexibility. But a busy speaking and writing schedule has eroded some of those gains. So rather than continue to let things slide, I’m recommitting to my goal of becoming a “lean, mean, golfing machine.”

That means going back to the basic building blocks of accomplishing a big goal like fitness. You can apply these same principles to any Big Fat Hairy Goals you’re working on.

  1. First, have compelling reasons and a purpose. Why are you working on this goal? Why is it important to you? Your goal won’t work in the long term if you are only doing it to please others. Eventually, it has to be something you want to do.

Being around as long as possible to enjoy life with my wife Margie, my kids, and grandkids was my most compelling reason to be fit and healthy when I began my fitness journey at age 71. I want to see my grandkids graduate from college and to see my son Scott and daughter Debbie get their AARP cards. While that sounds like a pretty typical reason someone would give for getting fit, another perhaps less conventional reason involves my Labradoodle dog, Joy. I absolutely love Joy, and she lets me know the feeling is mutual. When I pull into our garage, she senses it’s me even before I get in the door, and she races down the hallway and leaps into my arms. Because Joy is a small dog, I know it’s likely she’ll live to be about 15 years old, so I want to make it into at least my late 80s. I know this sounds a little strange, because most people are concerned about losing their dog, not their dog losing them! But I can’t stand the thought of Joy racing down the hall someday and not seeing me come through the door.

  1. Establish a mutual commitment to success with a knowledgeable coach, mentor, or friend who will help you keep your commitment to your commitment. If they help you, what are you going to do for them? Perhaps the two of you have similar goals and you can become partners and encourage each other.
  2. Learn about Situational Leadership® II. This is our company’s principal leadership training program we teach to businesses all over the world—and you can also use its concepts to accomplish your personal goals. SLII® suggests that there is no one best leadership style. Each learner needs varying amounts of direction and support depending on their development level (competence and commitment) on a specific task or goal. For instance, let’s say you’re starting a business. In some parts of your entrepreneurship—working with customers, for example—you might already be self-reliant and can handle a delegating leadership style. But in other areas—for example, finance and accounting—you might be cautious or even discouraged. That’s where you’ll need more direction or support from your partner, mentor, or coach.
  3. This principle primarily applies to fitness. Work with your doctor before you begin a fitness program to develop age-appropriate goals. Thinking you’re someday going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be a realistic goal, but building up your tone and strength so you can put your own carry-on bag in the overhead bin on a plane is realistic.
  4. Set up a support system to hold you accountable. This would include trusted friends and relatives who care about your success and will tell you the truth. Yes, you need cheerleaders on your journey, but you also need people who will call you on your excuses and rationalizations for not keeping your commitment to your commitment.
  5. Finally, you need to have measurable milestones to stay motivated. A basic belief I have is: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In other words, if you keep track of how well you’re doing in each area you’re working on, you can celebrate your progress—or redirect your efforts if your numbers are going in the wrong direction.

Following through on and achieving your Big Fat Hairy Goals is one of life’s most satisfying experiences. Set yourself up for success by putting these six keys to use. Good luck!