Inspiration

Finding Joy In the Mud

Life is hard. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

A few weeks ago I ran my third Tough Mudder. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it was an 11 mile course with 25 ridiculous obstacles, including ice water (big bin filled chest high with so much ice that it slowed me down wading through), electric shock station (there’s no way to avoid the live wires hanging down, you get shocked and keep moving), a 20 foot jump into water, and all sorts of walls and monkey bars and, of course, giant mud pits. Like I said: ridiculous.

 

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So why would I do something that hard even once, let alone three times? Because it’s hard. I have discovered joy in overcoming obstacles. There is a thrill when facing a new problem (Tough Mudder changes their obstacles every year). Bonds form when helping a friend and being helped (I have always run Tough Mudder with someone else). And there is deep satisfaction in overcoming. There’s nothing quite like the moment after you conquer an obstacle—and double that when you finish the course. Plus, I get to act like a ten year old boy again. Big mud pit? Jump in! See a wall? Climb it! Ice tub? I dare you swim through it!

Sometimes we do need to rest. We can’t be on the course all year long. But we can’t rest all year long either. We aren’t fully alive without some challenges to overcome. Maybe you’ve just come through a major obstacle course in your life. If so, enjoy your rest. But maybe you’ve been resting for a while. If so, it might be time to enjoy some obstacles.

We thrive in a rhythm of rest and challenge. Both are needed. And both can be fun. Tweet This So if life is throwing a challenge at you, bring a friend, jump in with both feet, and embrace the joy of overcoming.

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Scott WozniakFinding Joy In the Mud

4.5 Days to Write–4.5 Years to Publish!

My book, How to Fail as a Leader, hits the stores today. It’s officially released!

How to Fail as a Leader 3D book coverBUY THE BOOK HERE!

It only took me four and a half days to write the rough draft of my book, How to Fail as a Leader. I went on a week-long writing retreat and wrote for 14 hours a day. But that was four and a half years ago. Why did it take me so long to get from first draft to final release?

Partly, because it was a nights and weekends project. But mostly it was because I believe excellence matters. I rewrote the book eight times before it was ready to publish (and that doesn’t count the grammar/spelling revisions). Characters were cut, scenes added, discussion questions created…

More than once over the last 12 months I was tempted to publish one of the earlier versions. I have lot of other writing projects I want to do. Starting another version of this book meant delaying all other books. But I each time knew I could make the book a lot better with more work. Each time, I was faced with a choice between good enough and excellent. And, as you already know, I chose excellence.

Now, I’m not saying the book is a masterpiece. And don’t confuse doable excellence with impossible perfection. Excellence is my performance compared to my potential. My potential is never perfect. I hope I learn things that make the next book even better. But I can say this book I just released the best I can create with the leadership insights and writing skills I have now.

In the short-term, it was much harder to choose excellence. But in the end, I’m glad I did it. And I’ve never met anyone who chose excellence over expedience and regretted it. Tweet This Whether or not other love the book, I can hold my head high knowing I truly did my best.

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Scott Wozniak4.5 Days to Write–4.5 Years to Publish!

How A Bad Grade Made Me A Better Man

My latest book (which launches in 2 weeks!) has the unusual title, How to Fail as a Leader. Partly, that’s tongue in cheek—I want you to succeed, of course. But partly it’s about the power of learning from our failures. Many of the greatest learning moments in my life were right after I failed. Tweet This

sad man

For example, I have a vivid memory of sitting at my desk in my college dorm room, staring at a paper with my first truly bad grade at the end of a class. I was valedictorian of my high school and I planned to repeat those grades in college. Despite my diligence to play Axis & Allies (epic war board game) at least once a week, I somehow hadn’t gotten perfect grades.

I remember leaning forward in my chair, looking closely at the paper one more time, thinking, “What do I do now?” My dream for perfect college grades was over. Permanently. And I still had three and a half years to go. I had failed already.

Then I heard God’s voice in the quiet of my heart: “Why do you like yourself?”

My answer changed my life. In the pain of that moment, I realized that I had depended on being smart to like myself. And I used grades to validate that I was smart enough to be worth liking. In that moment I realized how dangerous and unhealthy it was to depend on perfect grades in order to like myself.

For the first time in my life, I released myself from the pressure of being perfect in school. Thankfully, I didn’t stop trying to do well in my classes. I even learned how to study better (not that I stopped playing board games).

Over the years I’ve come back to this question again and again, each time uncovering another aspect of my identity that needed adjustment. Failure has often been the catalyst.

And now I’m asking you: Why do you you like yourself?

In the game of life it’s a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season. ~Bill Vaughan Tweet This

photo credit: Sad Man via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakHow A Bad Grade Made Me A Better Man

Thinking Too Big Could Be Your Problem

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today. -Chinese Proverb

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Have you ever had a dream? Something you think would be awesome to do, that you would be so proud to have done? I have. And I still do.

Grand goals like ours can feel so far away, too big and too hard to get done. Many times, I’ve felt both inspired and overwhelmed. And the dream stays on the horizon, unfulfilled. It’s very size and awesomeness keeps it from fitting into my little life.

But I’ve learned as a leadership coach that this is a common mistake. Thinking too big can actually get in the way of doing big things. In fact, all you have to ask is: What would get you one step closer to living your dream? Tweet This

Just one step. You can do that. You can do that today.

Leaders, great organizations aren’t built overnight. My years at Chick-fil-A taught me what one man can do if he invests day after day, year after year. When Truett Cathy was in his sixties, when his peers were retiring, he wasn’t a world-changing, famous businessman. But day after day, he planted seeds. And by the end of his days, he had grown a great forest of trees that is still changing the world today.

I wish I could grow a towering tree today. But that’s too big and too hard. However, I can plant a seed today. What’s your next step? When will you take that step?

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Scott WozniakThinking Too Big Could Be Your Problem

What Is Life Giving To You And What Is Merely Numbing?

A huge question was asked this past weekend at a dinner party. One of my good friends is exhausted from wrestling with multiple, lingering health issues in his family. Another friend asked him how he copes with the stress and frustration. He said that some of what he did was fun in the moment, but really wasn’t life giving. He specifically said was that what he was doing was merely numbing him from the difficulty of his life.

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This all reminded me of another good friend, who just two days before this dinner, co-taught a workshop with me. He warned those leaders of the danger of the quick fix: the easy solution that didn’t actually solve the problem, but shifted the burden of the problem to someone else—creating another problem in the process.

Back at the dinner party, another friend asked the question: “So, instead of that numbing stuff, what could you do that would be life giving to you?”

Everyone at the table went silent for a moment. It was a big question and it invited a response from all of us. And we didn’t all have easy answers.

This might sound overly simplistic, but my goal is to figure out how to do more of what is life giving and do less of the other things. What’s hard knowing what is truly life giving—and what is merely numbing.

What are those people, places, and/or activities that fill your soul with deep gladness and sweet satisfaction? Don’t settle for merely fun. And don’t give the generic answers, like family or vacation. The more specific the better. My friend, in our discussion, realized that it wasn’t just time with friends that was his most life giving. He loved introducing great friends to each other—that group dinners with friends were even better. What is life giving can be very different from person to person, when you get specific enough.

Leaders, how full are the hearts of your people? Is their day-to-day work on their list of what’s life giving to them? If not, you’re probably not going to get remarkable results. And beware of trying to give life to your people through the methods that fill you. One of the keys to great leadership is learning the unique wiring of each of your people. We lead individuals, each wildly different, none of them “normal”.

Whatever it is, how could you do more life giving things in the next month? Next week?

And maybe the biggest question of all: What “numbing” activities are keeping you from doing more of the really life giving stuff? Tweet This How could you do less of those?

I don’t expect that I can solve this in a week or a month—or even a year. But year after year, I want to be able to say that I’m doing more life giving things and less of anything else.

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Scott WozniakWhat Is Life Giving To You And What Is Merely Numbing?

What If It Actually Works–Are You Ready?

It’s common to be impatient for success to come sooner. I’ve been there more than once. But it’s not always better to succeed sooner. There are times when slower is better. If you know me, you know slow is not my style. It took a lot of time for me to realize this.

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One of my very best childhood friends with became a multi-millionaire by age 30. Neither of our families were wealthy and it came as a huge surprise. And while I was really glad for him, it also made me really impatient to accomplish something epic myself. But my friend found out the hard way that wealth doesn’t change who you are, it magnifies who you are. Fame and fortune made all his personal struggles much bigger. And in the end, it drove him to end his life in his mid-thirties.

Success will test your character in ways that struggling cannot. Make sure you have a strong enough foundation of character to handle success, or it could be the worst thing that happened to you. Many, many lottery winners end up saying the worst thing that ever happened to them was winning the lottery. They weren’t prepared for success.

For leaders working to grow a great company, this is just as true. It’s crucial to get your operations excellent before launching that big marketing plan. It actually harms you if a lot of people come check out your mediocre product. You just convince a whole of people not to do business with you.

Are you prepared for real success? What foundational character quality or operational system do you need to strengthen?

I hope we all become wildly successful. And I hope we will be ready when that happens.

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Scott WozniakWhat If It Actually Works–Are You Ready?

What Happened When Water Got In My Gas Tank

Every Christmas, my family loads up our minivan to drive thirteen hours to visit extended family. This year we almost made it. Around 1:00am, I exited the interstate to refuel our gas tank. The kids were still asleep, a minor miracle for my family. And as I drove away from the pump, the car died. Steering onto the shoulder next to the gas station, I rolled to a stop. Even with the help of a friendly stranger and jumper cables we couldn’t get the car started. It took until 3:30am to get our car to the shop and us to Grandpa’s house.

gas station at night

The repair shop confirmed what we feared: bad gas had damaged our engine. (I’m tempted to make a burrito joke here, but I’m way too mature for that.) I learned the hard way that the quality of your fuel determines the story of your journey. Tweet This

And a great life requires more than adding good ideas. We also have to filter out contaminants. Good fuel mixed with bad fuel equals bad fuel. I put the correct grade of petroleum in our gas tank, but the groundwater that snuck along drowned out the benefits of the good fuel.

What contaminants do you need to protect yourself from?

As an individual, it could be a TV show or music album with seductive lies or a bad relationship or junk food or even a particular place. As a leader, it might be your highly skilled, but bad attitude employee or even that toxic customer.

Maybe the key to your growth this year is not more good ideas, but stronger protections from the “groundwater” trying to get in.

photo credit: in the desert via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakWhat Happened When Water Got In My Gas Tank

The Icarus Story Is Backwards

The story of Icarus is one of the most famous Greek myths. He was imprisoned with his father, a great inventor who made a king angry. His father used feathers and wax to create wings. They escaped out a window overlooking the ocean. Icarus ignored his father’s warnings to stay low. As he neared the sun, the heat melted the wax, dismantling his wings, and Icarus fell to his death.

This story is really famous and really tragic. It’s also really bad advice.

Icarus statue

The story was written by people who had never flown. The skies were strange and terrifying—they were unknown. So they warned their children to not be too audacious. And if by some chance you do fly, they warned, then don’t fly too far from the ground.

But, the truth is that the higher Icarus flew, the colder it would have gotten and the more firm his wax bindings would have become. He would have actually been much safer flying high than his timid father, who flew low over the ocean where it was warm and moist.

Generation after generation, the story gets told. Like you, I’ve been told again and again: fly low and play it safe.

But I say we should be just like Icarus. We should fly as high as we can. We should soar to places no one has ever gone before.  It’s not as risky as we’ve been told. Flying high doesn’t mean flying recklessly (see my previous post on this). As my former boss, the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, said, “No goal is too high if we climb with care and confidence.” Tweet This So I say to set high goals.

As you think about what you will attempt this year, don’t let fear keep you grounded. Reach further and become better than you every have before.

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Scott WozniakThe Icarus Story Is Backwards

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Brothers

The big things are all done now. Now it’s time to make the little things count.

Slow down and listen to the laughter and squeals of the children. Hug someone—for longer than a second. Close your eyes and smell the food. Take a big, deep breath and release it.

Be fully in this moment. And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

photo credit: Christmas Brothers via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakMerry Christmas!

Capsized at Christmas

The Christmas season magnifies our emotions, the good and the bad. When life is going well, it’s a magical time of joy. But when trouble strikes, it seems to hurt worse during the Christmas holidays.

We can feel like the woman who set out to row across the Atlantic ocean. After rigorous training, she stockpiled a specially-designed rowboat with satellite phone, food, medical supplies…everything she needed. And then, about halfway between Canada and England, a hurricane swept over her little boat.

For days, she fought the sea. And she lost. She survived, but only barely. Not only had she been capsized, but most of her supplies were washed away, including her satellite phone, her anchor, and her food.

Maybe this Christmas, you feel lost in a sea of trouble without an anchor or even food.

She did have a radio (it was built into the boat), but it didn’t have much range. She doubted it would do any good, but she sent out a distress call just in case.

Turns out, there was a ship nearby. In fact, the Queen Mary, one of the great cruise ships of modern times, just happened to be in range. About eight hours later, they pulled alongside her and replaced everything she had lost. And they added encouraging cards from the passengers and chocolate as well. She went on to finish her trip, setting a new world record.

rowboat and queen mary

I’ve had good holiday seasons and I’ve had hard ones, too. A couple of months ago, a very close friend of mine suddenly lost his job at the same time his wife needed expensive medical treatment. He doesn’t know how to pay his mortgage next month, let alone pay for Christmas.

And as I write this, my 2 year old niece is in the burn unit of the hospital, waiting for a skin graft surgery to replace all the skin on her chest and stomach. Her dad was burned trying to stop her from pulling the pot of boiling water onto herself. They’ll spend Christmas in the hospital, holding a confused little girl.

No matter how much we plan, hurricanes can capsize our lives and steal what we need. And it’s tempting to let the waves drag you under.

Don’t quit. Please. Your story is not over yet.

Maybe all you have is a short-range radio. That’s enough. Send out a call for help. You are not as alone as you think. Tonight might be long and lonely. But the Queen-Freaking-Mary might be just out of sight, on it’s way to help you.

You can finish your journey, too, if you refuse to quit. We’ve all been there. Let us help.

Photo Credit UK Daily Mail

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Scott WozniakCapsized at Christmas