Tag Archives: obstacles


As soon as you saw the title of this post, you knew what I meant. An efficient abbreviation borrowed from the U.S. military, ASAP is now generally understood across disciplines and industries. When your boss sends you an email that reads, “I need to hear back from you ASAP,” you drop everything else and attend to the request.

We are a culture that loves to get things done, well, ASAP. Between emails, direct deposits, texts and a myriad of other technologies, we’ve essentially abolished the need to wait for anything. Except at the DMV.

Usually, this works out great for us and for our coworkers and customers. But that’s only when the answer or solution is apparent at first glance. The problem with living in an ASAP culture is that not all of our challenges can be solved with a half-hour meeting and a few three sentence emails.

We work and live in a world where many situations are complex and intricate—whether that’s negotiating contracts and company mergers or trying to come up with a new way to keep the interest of a room full of fifth graders. And, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, sometimes the first solution that strikes you is not always the best solution. ASAP decisions run the risk of completely missing out on a factor or a detail that might further complicate our entire project.

As I thought about this problem I came across an article about Harvard professor of humanities Jennifer L. Roberts. In an art history class Roberts asked each of her students to choose one painting to be the subject of their term paper. Part of completing the assignment was to visit the painting (in person, if possible) and study it for three hours.

As you can imagine, her students were not exactly thrilled at the idea of staring at a single work of art for the better part of an afternoon. And, as someone who is easily distracted by shiny things, I am positive that I would have failed Professor Roberts’ art history class.

However, for the brave souls that did attempt the assignment, something interesting happened. The students reported that as they studied the paintings, they began to notice details that, while they didn’t seem important at first, were actually critical to understanding and appreciating the work. For many of them, this dramatically changed the focus and direction of their term papers. Roberts explained it this way, “…there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive.”

Although Roberts is referring to art, I believe the same principle is true in our professional environments. There are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive. Think about starting a new job. For at least the first two weeks you are overwhelmed with learning how to do your assignments within the context of a new company. You’re learning your way around a new office. You’re figuring out a computer program or network that you’ve never used before. And on top of all that, you’re trying to navigate the interpersonal relationships of your new coworkers. It may take you weeks before you figure out how to use the copy machine!

I believe that when it comes to finding solutions or making big decisions, we don’t need to rush. What if we looked at these situations like one of the art students? You may not have three hours to think about a problem, but I bet you could find ten or fifteen minutes to jot down some ideas. And you may be surprised at the details and relationships that slowly come to light as you put the brakes on for a few minutes.

Who is Your Person?

Have you ever had a day when it felt like the universe had conspired against you? Or like you were the statue the pigeons were using for target practice?

You know what I’m talking about. You were late to work, there were staff issues you didn’t have time to deal with at the office, your flight was delayed and then you presented to several hundred people without realizing your fly was open? (Ok, maybe that last one only happens to me.) But we all have days where catastrophe seems to follow us around like the paparazzi surrounding Lindsay Lohan on her first day out of rehab.

On days like that, I call my Person.

Just about everyone has a Person. The one you know won’t care that you’re angry or frustrated or upset. The one you don’t have to pretend with. Your person might be the only one who knows you’re having a bad day, or they’re the only one who knows why you’re having a bad day. It could be a co-worker, a dear friend, parent, spouse or supervisor. Mine is my wife, Tina.

Tina has the amazing ability to patiently listen to all my worrying, griping about my day, and woe-is-me-style statements, before gently reminding me that the sky is actually not falling just because I had a rough day. She acknowledges my perspective, but also challenges me to question my assumptions, and reframe my view of a situation. She keeps me in reality and in the present moment. I call that feeling  “being centered.” She’s a pro at it. After talking to her I usually feel better, calmer, and not a victim of my circumstances.

As you pursue big goals and tackle huge obstacles, it’s critical to have a Person who centers and encourages you like Tina. Your Person is more than someone you vent to, your Person is someone who is unafraid to shift your focus and give you a not-always-gentle shove in the direction of your goals.

Some of the most successful people in the world have a Person. You may not have heard of Don Graham, Ed Roberts or Gopal Krishna Gokhale, but you might be familiar with their “mentees” Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, and Mahatma Gandhi. A Person understands the challenges of your day-to-day and the best ones will encourage you to create solutions instead of focusing on problems.

Sharing your goals and struggles with a Person can help you make huge strides towards achieving those goals.

When considering who might be a good person for you, outline what it is you really want from them—Stress management tips? Encouragement for a new idea? Insight on parenting? Spiritual growth? This will help you narrow down which people in your circles might make a great Person. Don’t restrict yourself to people in your school, company, or circle of friends. Your Person might be a CEO in another industry that you know from church, a neighbor who is very involved in a social project that inspires you or—gasp!—a family member.

Unsure if one of the people in your life is your Person? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I be authentic about what I am thinking and feeling with this person?
  • Do they listen to my point of view?
  • Does this person challenge me to think about a situation from a different perspective?
  • Does this person suggest taking steps forward, and celebrate when I do?

If you can answer YES to these questions, perhaps you have found your Person.

5 Steps to a Complete Emotional Breakdown by Wednesday

We’ve all got a little stress in our lives—and research actually shows that to be a good thing. But I’ve learned over the years that stressors at work or home can quickly go from productive to paralyzing. Here, I’ve gathered a few tried and true practices that could trigger a total breakdown in a zen master.

  1. Sleep Less– If you want to be more stressed, this is the easiest way to get there. Sleep deprivation causes the brain to raise the stress hormone even if there is not another stressor present. And, since sleep is the time that the brain uses to store and discard the day’s memories, you’ll be scattered and forgetful after burning the candle at both ends.
  2. Get an Extra Shot of Espresso– If you’re feeling a little sluggish after Step 1 (and believe me, you will), it’s ideal to try to jump start your brain with a boost of caffeine from another cup of coffee, Diet Coke, Red Bull, or one of those energy drinks with names that sound like heavy-metal rock bands. For more stress, this is perfect. Caffeine releases adrenaline, so your body will react to any stressor with a more dramatic response than you may anticipate.
  3. Be Available 24/7– It can be difficult to keep the anxiety going after 5 or on the weekends, so make sure to constantly be checking email, texts and phone messages for a new “hit” of stressors during the time others might use to unplug and recover. You may want to sleep with your Blackberry turned on right next to your bed, so even in the middle of the night you are ready for a new stressor to interrupt any chance of decent rest and get your exhausted and over-caffeinated brain churning.
  4. Ask “What If?”- These two little words are almost guaranteed to reignite any stressor—old or new—in the brain. By focusing on all the possible problems in the future and old problems and concerns from the past you effectively prevent your mind from working on solutions and taking action in the present. With any kind of decision-making this will amp up your stress level in mere minutes.
  5. Become a Lone Ranger– Realizing that others care about you and are willing to help you achieve your goals will strengthen your relationships and personal confidence—significantly lowering your stress. If you’re sharing your stressors with someone who can supply you with a new perspective, support, and encouragement, you may actually avoid a breakdown altogether. Instead, it’s best to keep your anxiety to yourself and try to tackle all of your problems without any outside help.

I don’t know about you, but my pulse is already feeling a little faster after reading through that list. And guess what? This is only part one! Stay tuned for How to Think Your Way into an Emotional Breakdown.

The Solution to #SochiProblems

I was rolling in laughter as my daughter read me some of the tweets chronicled under #SochiProblems during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympics. Armed with Twitter feeds and lightning-fast zingers, reporters have ravaged the city’s preparation for the Olympics more cruelly than the packs of stray dogs still (according to Twitter) wandering the streets.

Here’s another funny hashtag for you: #snowpocalypse2014. If you didn’t hear, Atlanta was recently hit with an unexpected snowstorm that paralyzed interstate traffic and trapped many on the roads for hours. Just like #SochiProblems, frustrated Atlantans took to the Twitterverse and blasted Governor Nathan Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed for lack of preparation. But that is just half of the story.

At the same time, other Atlantans (including my son Logan) were packing supplies, food, and extra gas into their 4-wheel drives to come to the aid of many folks who had been stranded for hours.

After hearing about my son’s actions my pride alone probably could have thawed I-75, especially when I thought about what a prime example he and many other local heroes are of Leadership Redefined. You see…

Leaders don’t waste energy complaining, but focus their efforts on finding solutions.

Did I mention that Logan had just sat in 5 hours of traffic before arriving home himself?

Whether you are leading an organization with complexities like the Winter Olympics, or just looking to make it home in one piece, I hope that we can remember in the face of adversity or inconvenience to take a moment to laugh, hashtag our own one-liners and then help ourselves and others.

And while we’re at it, if you can find me any tweets about #SochiSolutions or #SnowpocalypseHeroes, please send them my way.

Click here to order a copy(ies) of Dave’s new book Leadership Redefined.

The only resolution you should make this year

The presents have been unwrapped, the turkey’s been devoured, the crazy relatives have been pushed out the door, and we are all sick and tired of eggnog and Christmas music. It’s time to make some New Year’s resolutions. While losing weight, hitting your sales goals, or quitting smoking are great goals for next year, I’d like to challenge you to make only one resolution in 2014—and unlike the resolutions mentioned earlier, this one has the potential to transform every aspect of your life—your career, your relationships, your dreams and your health. Are you ready for it??

This year, resolve to keep the main thing the main thing.

Whatever the main thing is for you—a career goal, a desire to invest in certain relationships, or a dream you’re chasing—keeping the main thing the main thing will minimize your distractions and focus your actions with the precision of a laser pointer.

For example, if my “main thing” is to be the best husband and father that I can be, I will be working hard to be a great provider for my family—but I’ll also be curbing my late nights at the office so that I can take my wife on a date or catch a movie with one of the kids. I will learn that talking to my daughter about her day might be more exciting than whatever’s being covered on SportsCenter, or that walking our two energetic dogs with my wife transforms a mundane task into an opportunity to spend time with her. Wanting to live a long, full life with my family motivates me to eat a little better and move a little more. It makes me a better listener, a more productive employee, and a more generous giver.

So as you think about your own resolutions, I hope you identify your main thing, and perhaps a few action steps that you can take in order to keep the main thing the main thing.  May your 2014 be an exciting, successful year—but most of all, may it be the year when you begin to make progress on purpose.