Category Archives: The 12 X’s of Leadership

Focus On Your Strengths

An exhausted and jet-lagged dad had just walked in from a brutal week of working and traveling across the country. As he was unpacking, his son burst into his bedroom carrying a baseball bat and ball and excitedly announced, “Dad, you have to see what a great baseball player I am now!”

“All right, son,” the dad replied. “Just let me change my clothes first.”

“Ok, but hurry! You are not going to believe your eyes! I am the greatest baseball player in the world!”

Baseball-kidA few minutes later, the father followed his son into the backyard, where the little boy proceeded to rest the bat on his shoulder, throw the ball up in the air with his left hand, and then quickly grab the bat with both hands and swing as the ball came back down.

On his first attempt, the little boy completely missed the ball. Undaunted, he retrieved the ball, tossed it back up in the air, and swung again, missing. His dad was starting to get a little embarrassed for him and moved in to help.

“No, Dad!” his son said with a huge grin spread across his face. “One more time.”

With a firm resolution he gripped the bat harder, tossed the ball up, and for the third time, swung the bat – and completely missed the ball.

His father’s heart was breaking for his son when the little boy turned and excitedly pronounced, “Do you see what I mean?! I am a great pitcher! Unhittable!”

Sadly, rather than focusing on what we are good at and enjoying life, we tend to focus on our own weaknesses and shortcomings and that tends to drag us down. Choose to focus on your strengths and figure out how to do “those things” more often.

“No” Does Not Mean Game Over

As I travel in airplanes across this great nation of ours, I have the opportunity to meet many different people. Since I am energized by others, me and my seatmate (or, as my wife would tease me, my new best friend) usually end up having a great conversation. I love to hear about people’s dreams and goals and learn what inspires them. Recently though I have begun to see a pattern… folks who have given up on their dream because they have run into opposition.

From the bank not loaning them the money, to a partner backing out, to the deal falling through, to the economy in general—many are throwing up their hands and saying, “Oh well…I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Phooey! Life is full of opposition. And just because you may have run into a stop sign or brick wall, that does not mean the journey is over!  Here is what I mean:

When the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962, the company said it didn’t like the young British group’s sound, claiming that guitar music was on the way out of mainstream popularity.

When Debbi Fields went to a potential investor for her idea of a cookie store, she was told that it was “a bad idea” and that market research indicated that “America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” Fields went on to found Mrs. Fields’ Cookies (and probably added to America’s obesity epidemic in the process. But I digress.)

A Yale University professor similarly labeled Fred Smith’s paper proposing the idea of reliable overnight delivery service “unfeasible.” Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation, known these days as FedEx.

It’s no secret that every one of the people behind those “bad” or unfeasible ideas created something that has become a household name. Right from the start, they experienced opposition, but they didn’t let it stop them from persevering and taking their idea from dream to reality.

Opposition is a normal part of life. Don’t let it throw you off course or cause you to give up on the dream. Pause, rethink, reevaluate, adjust, and keep moving forward!

Extend a Helping Hand

This is part 12 of a 12 part series that I call the 12 X’s of Leadership.

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers.  I actually think that they both live inside each of us all the time, and depending on the situation or circumstance, one of them takes over.

But it doesn’t have to be that way…falling prey to the stronger of the two, I mean.  We can decide which one wins. And if you will allow me to make a suggestion – choose to be a giver not a taker.

I have learned a valuable truth in my time here on this planet…a secret, you might say, that I want to share with you:


I know…it’s kind of short. But there it is, and I believe it with all my heart.

As a general rule, those who are givers, almost always seem to be the ones who seemed “filled up”, happy, content.

As a boy, I can remember hearing the saying,  “It is better to give than to receive.”  Do you remember the first time you heard it? Boy, I do. If you are like me, your next thought was probably, “Who is the loser who came up with that lame idea…give me some loot!”

Ok. So I was 6 and not quite mature enough to understand that saying, but the older I have gotten the truer it has become.

Here’s a practical idea for you to put my secret to the test: the next time you get down about the circumstances in your life, GIVE. Give of your time or your talent, or your treasure, but give. Find someone who is worse off than you and extend a helping hand.

An amazing transformation will take pace in your heart and mind: your problems suddenly shrink when you give to others.  You do not want to “trade” your pile of issues for theirs. In giving, you get…a better perspective, a better attitude, a better outlook.

Exhibit an Attitude of Optimistic Confidence

This is part 11 of a 12 part series that I call the 12 X’s of Leadership.

Leaders see themselves succeeding. They have the ability to look into the future and literally see themselves obtaining their goal. Hitting their target.

Positive visualization is a crucial element in becoming a great leader and it is a powerful tool to help you accomplish any goal you set.

I saw this dramatically played out as my daughter Lindsey prepared for her first Equestrian event as a “show jumper” many years ago. In a nut shell, for me, show jumping was watching my little wisp of a daughter, 10 years old, climb up on the back of a 700 pound wild animal she called Yoo Hoo and ride around in an arena surrounded by hundreds of people and leap over small buildings. (Ok, that’s what it looked like to me anyway.) It scared me.

We got Lindsey an amazing trainer to help her learn how to compete in this sport (honestly, all I knew about horses was which end the food went in and which end it came out and to stay away from both ends).

I was more than a little worried when “my baby” climbed up upon this 700 lb “wild beast”. They trained for months with Lindsey progressing rapidly in her learning. She was a natural.

Then one day her trainer, Jason, proclaimed her ready to compete and signed her up for a huge show. We had one week to get ready. Jason informed us that the week before a show was critical and that he wanted to work with Lindsey every afternoon with her completely dressed in her “competition outfit”.

We arrived for the first pre-competition practice and Yoo Hoo was nowhere to be seen. Jason said Yoo Hoo was ready but Lindsey was not. He proceeded to sit her on top of the fence that surrounded the riding area at the stable and they rode the course over and over in Lindsey’s mind.

Jason taught her that she had to “see” herself succeeding, that she had to visualize herself flawlessly running the course: elbows in, thumbs up, heels down, change leads, lean into the jump. Time and time again they ran the course in Lindsey’s head. She knew it. She saw herself conquering it. She exhibited an attitude of optimistic confidence

The following Saturday I watched my girl win her first blue ribbon and learn a lifelong lesson: Rather than focus on the obstacles in the course of life, focus on getting over them, beating them, and achieving your goal.