Steven's Own Words

Let Fear Lead The Way…NOT!

Let Fear Lead The Way…NOT!

Do you ever get afraid? Does it stop you? Do you dream of starting a business…but fear failure? Do you dream of being on stage but fear the audition? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? How might you behave differently? Would you throw caution to the wind? Probably not. We teach our kids to be brave. If our daughters are afraid of public speaking, we don’t let them off the hook because of the fear, we help them overcome that fear – because we know they have something valuable to say. Fear is a powerful ally, but a terrible leader. Which is it for you? I’m embarrassed to say that it leads me more than I care to admit. It seems like once many of us hit adulthood, we give into fear more easily. We fear our kids walking to school alone. We’re proposing laws to keep out Muslims even though we’re a country founded on religious freedom. There are more and more gated communities popping up. Alarm systems in our home. Fear. So many of these decisions are based on fear, not the joy of possibility, and designed to hold out experiences rather than letting them in. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Those decisions are based on safety, not fear, right? Surely I can’t be advocating carelessness. I’m not. Of course it’s important to listen to common sense! By all means, lock you car, blow the candles out when going to bed…what I am saying, however, is that your perspective when you do so is of vital importance. Consider skydiving. What a rush! What excitement! What possibility! But to simply jump out of a plane without a parachute is sheer stupidity. We...
Dumbledore’s Advice

Dumbledore’s Advice

A couple weeks ago, I challenged you to dream in the light of day. Then I came across this quote from Albus Dumbledore, of Harry Potter fame: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Wise words, Professor. Everything in moderation, right? By all means, dream! Dream big! Just remember to look up once in a while and have fun, live fully, love boldly and savor every moment. It kind of reminds me of that other great sage, Ferris Bueller:  “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss...

One BIG Change for 2016!

Can you believe it? Here we are again! Sitting at the beginning of another New Year! Did 2015 go the way you planned? What do you have in the works for 2016? Something big?! Remember, we tend to find exactly what we’re looking for — so be clear on what you are looking for. After all, the year will happen with or without your engagement, so you might as well take the helm and steer the leadership of 2016 your way. Here’s one BIG change that will make all the difference: LANGUAGE. More specifically, switch from what you are trying to avoid to what you are trying to attract. I saw a sign that said: “Hate has no business here!”  I love the sentiment, and of course we all get the meaning, but what are the big action words? Hate and No. But what we really want more of is Love and Yes. My daughter is doing a science experiment studying the impact of positive and negative words on strawberries. Yes, really. And she is finding that words of hate and negativity written on a piece of paper and placed near a strawberry cause actual mold up to twice as fast as words of love and compliment placed next to them. She’s finding an actual causal relationship! Culture tries to tell us words don’t really matter, but the truth is they matter deeply. So instead of saying things like: “I don’t want to fail this year.” “I can’t lose this deal!” “I won’t give up…” “I have to lose weight.” Say what you really mean, and what will invariably be more powerful: “I will succeed.” “I am the best solution for this...

Dreaming In the Light of Day

“All [people] dream – but not equally. Those who dream by the night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous [people] for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” – T.E. Lawrence. If you have been given the gift of a dream, it is because it is meant to see the light of day. But it’s a scary thing to bring your dream into the daylight, because there we can see all the flaws, the weaknesses and gaps, the imperfections and scars of our goals.And we tend to see those marks as evidence of its impossibility.  Hogwash! (Could you hear the other word I wanted to use?) Far from marking its impossibility,those marks simply show us the work that needs to be done. They might even be the marks of beauty, of life and the courage to live, like the chips in your fine china that only occur with loving use and that create those fond memories of sharing a meal with loved ones. When you dream with your eyes wide open, you realize that dreams don’t come out fully formed and perfect. Dreams come out malleable and soft, ready to evolve, grow, take shape and, like a fine wine, get better with age. When dreams face the light of day they are tested and challenged, and sometimes they even get chipped or scratched. But these are the marks we come to love most as the dream ages, because that’s where we learned — and where we truly fell in love with the possibility, flawed or...

On The Syrian Refugees, Muslims, and Fear

It’s been almost three weeks since the Paris attacks and it’s taken me that long to find my courage and address it publicly. This isn’t because I’m afraid of terrorist retaliation, but because I know some of you out there will disagree with me. But if I sit in fear of what I have to lose, I fail to serve those of you that have honored me with your time every instance you chose to read my blog. I fail to live up to the standards of leadership I preach that says leaders aren’t leaders because they have followers — leaders are the ones courageous enough to think differently, feel differently, and act differently because they have a dream to inspire, to influence in a manner that gives themselves and others the courage to live into their best self. My goal is never to get you to simply believe me, my goal is always and forever to challenge the way you think, feel and act – especially in a manner that drives you more deeply in the direction of your dreams. And yes, I mean that — even if your goals and dreams are in contradiction to my own.  “We need not think alike to love alike.” I guess that’s why nearly half of my individual coaching clients have been more conservative and right-leaning than me; it’s not because they want to think like me, but because I help them discover more clearly, more honestly, more transparently, and more courageously who they truly want to become as a leader. In the end I find that most people want the same thing (extremists...

The Unexpected Connection Between Leadership & Travel

Daniel J. Boorstin said, “The traveler is active; he goes strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sightseeing.” Perhaps this is also the key not only to travel, but to leadership. Perhaps great leadership requires us to leave ourselves behind, to head out on an adventure, in search of people, possibility and experience. We’re not looking for tourist leadership–the kind that confirms what we already know. We’re looking for leadership that challenges everything we already think and believe. The leadership of the traveler, the adventurer, the curious discoverer.  Boorstin also said: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it’s the illusion of knowledge.”   Keep traveling. Keep leading....

Leadership In Action: Saving Lives

An eighth-grade girl in Portland read a book about the families in South Sudan who are in desperate need of clean water. This girl was moved to tears, and then to action. Women and children, she learned, walk for miles to retrieve dirty water from mud puddles; contaminated water that, as their only option, causes disease, sickness, and death. This young girl found out a way we could all help, and she’s stepping out and taking the action necessary to make that difference. What a great reminder that leadership is not a position. It’s not a title, it’s not a plaque on an office door. Leadership is behavior. It’s courage. It’s action. OK, full disclosure, this eighth grade girl is my daughter, Sarah, and I couldn’t be more proud. It only takes $15,000 to build a well in South Sudan–a well that will change (and save!) countless lives for years to come. When I ask people what it is about great leaders that they admire, the most consistent answer I get is “inspiration.” Great leaders inspire us to step up into a better version of ourselves.  Watch her two minute video, and if you are so inspired, move into action and help her build a well and save lives....

Our Knee-Jerk Reactions

How often to you pause before you react? Last week we talked about the problem with knee-jerk reactions in the media. But what about our knee-jerk reactions to the media? We live in a world where we can react instantly and anonymously on social media to anything that upsets us. We get offended, annoyed, angry, upset… type a comment and hit ‘send.’ No stopping to pause, to think, to feel, to question, to edit, to find the connecting point, the ways in which the offending commentator might be right…We would never call that person to say what we are about to type, though. That would be WAAAYYYYY too vulnerable–they would know who we are and might even respond to our face – yikes! Can’t have that. We don’t even write an email because that would take us time to compose and we might find ourselves editing, calming down and making a more reasoned response. There’s no room or time for that. Just comment + send. Because of this current culture, it’s just so easy to respond with our gut, our pain, our knee-jerk reaction. And that’s where the problems start. If we bring it into reality and not just an argument — if we bring it into how we lead in our lives — then it really boils down to asking the question: When we get the hit that says OUCH, that hurts, I disagree, I’m offended — how can we stop and ask whether that offender might be right? That puts us in a state of empathy, in true leadership. Leaders are those, it’s been said, who keep...

An Epic Failure To Lead

Lets face it: the media’s coverage of our current political environment is no example of leadership. It’s an example of pandering, sensationalism and knee-jerk reactions designed to steal moments and confuse issues. Maybe it’s just me, but the very people deemed “leaders” in our country all too often demonstrate an epic failure to lead. Look, leadership is a choice. It is not a knee-jerk reaction. We count on leaders to maintain a level head when those around them panic. Leaders aren’t the ones to create frenzy and division–they are the ones to calm it down. Leaders possess the ability to make a connection others miss, to lead, to inspire, to unite when others choose to blindly react. If you say “Well, you can’t choose to react!” I would agree. You don’t choose to react, you choose to respond, and in the failure to make that choice (which is a choice) you default to reaction. Genuine leaders will stop and question with compassion before they react, not for sensationalism but for solution and...

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