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Category: Greatness

Are You Celebrating or Sulking?

What matters most to you – winning or getting all of the credit?

Michael Jordan was quickly emerging as one of the top players in the NBA as he started his second season in the league. He came out on fire during the first few games of the 1985 season before fracturing a bone in his foot during an October game against the Golden State Warriors.

The Chicago Bulls began to crater without their star second-year guard, going a disastrous 17-33 in the first half of the season. But, as we saw in ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary, hope wasn’t completely lost. #23 was coming back.

Jordan rehabbed relentlessly and returned in mid-March to the court. Worried about the long-term health of their franchise star, Bulls’ ownership imposed a “7-minutes-per-half” restriction on him. It didn’t matter how great he was playing, or how close the game was, once he hit his minute limit, he was benched for the remainder of the half/game.

The boiling point came on April 9, 1985, when battling for the final playoff spot, Jordan hit his (then) minutes restriction – with 30 seconds left in a one-point game. He fought his coach, who was being told he’d be fired if Jordan played one more second.

It had to be one of the most frustrating moments in Jordan’s life after he’d scored 15 fourth-quarter points to bring his team back. The opportunity to compete was being taken out of his hands. He was angry and helpless to aid his teammates in that moment. He was seething at the Bulls front office as he took a seat on the bench that night.

Almost every one of us can relate to the feeling of having the power to influence a result taken out of our hands.

In many situations, we sulk, whine, or complain about the situation. “It isn’t fair” that they get the chance and I don’t. Our focus has gone from winning and team success, to “what about me?” We focus on our feelings, suddenly apathetic to how the team does because it’s no longer about us.

This isn’t about sports either.

Watch the last 30 seconds of the Bulls-Pacers game in The Last Dance. You’ll see Bulls guard John Paxton hitting a game-winner and the first person off the bench to celebrate the win is Michael Jordan.

The same All-Star player who was just benched by management is on the court hugging and celebrating the win with his teammates when so many others would stay on that bench or go to the locker room because they didn’t get take the winning shot.

That moment right there showed Jordan’s uncanny leadership and focus on simply winning.

It’s also a clear reminder that as leaders, greatness requires us to focus on winning results, not getting all of the attention. Is it any surprise that the winningest team captains in sports history are about the team and not just their own awards?

  • Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
  • Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
  • Anyone on the New Zealand All-Blacks

Leaders – winners in sports and life – care about winning. Period.

It’s not about the individual attention or praise, it’s about making sure no matter what, we as a team win.

When a friend hits a big goal, we should celebrate with them – and be motivated to raise our own game.

When someone on our team gets to make the presentation for a successful client project, we should celebrate with the team that the client is happy – not complain and add negativity to our culture that we weren’t chosen to present.

If you crave the attention, you’ll rarely get the wins. If you crave the wins, you’ll easily get the attention.

Leaders on winning teams care about winning – not the attention.

Compete to do the same this week.


You’re Not Alone Battling Imposter Syndrome

I originally sat down and wrote this to you about two hours before I took the stage for 350 insurance industry leaders at a conference in Nebraska. Odd time to write an article, right?

Then Covid-19 hit the nation and changed everything, so I decided to shelf this post. I had planned to keep it in the drafts until I received a few messages from some of you about not feeling qualified enough to start *that* project. It was the perfect reminder of the one thing high-achievers all face:

Feeling like you’re about to be “found out” and kicked out.

Here’s a moment of transparency for me that I wanted you to know what I mentally deal with prior to a keynote presentation.

I had given that specific keynote presentation at least thirty times in the last two years. I actually got this specific gig because someone saw me give this talk in October and referred me to the client. It’s my second most popular talk, which means I should be 100% confident in it, right?

I wasn’t.

You see, every time I’m preparing to speak I face imposter syndrome. Yes, even a few years into this business I hear the whispers that say “you don’t belong.” I spent this morning rehearsing my gig for the 20th time in the past few weeks. I know my content. I know I’ve practiced. I know I’m ready – but that still doesn’t stop the voices.

  • What if my content isn’t actually that good and I’m a fraud?
  • What if this is the audience that doesn’t laugh at any of your jokes?
  • What if…what if…what if…

That (evil little) voice will try to convince you that you don’t belong. Here’s the thing – every single high achiever hears that voice.

They just refuse to let that voice stop them.

Imposter syndrome isn’t common among people who settle. The ones who are content to keep things “as is” don’t hear it, nor do those who give a crap effort.

It’s only people who are stepping outside of their comfort zone to try and do something bigger or new that hear it. Which means that every time you hear the voice of Imposter Syndrome it should signal to you that YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT PATH.

That voice’s appearance means you’re growing.

Right now, many of you have more time on your hands than you’re used to. You keep toying with that idea of starting a blog, building a side hustle, or even just using this time to step up and encourage others with videos or short posts. But then you stop.

You hear the whispers that “other people are more qualified to do it, so why would anyone want to hear from you” and you listen to them. So you do nothing.

You let the voices win when you do nothing, but in reality, they’re wrong.

The sound of that voice should remind you that you’re preparing to step outside of your comfort zone – and to embrace this moment as the chance to get better.

Average people would hear that voice and let it talk them out of doing anything of value. Competitors hear that voice, acknowledge they’re on the right path, and then get to work.

When I hear that voice, I immediately:

  • Start my positive self-talk (audibly).
  • Remind myself of the intentional rehearsal work I’ve put in for hours for this. I know I’m ready.
  • Control my breathing.
  • Talk back to that voice. I remind it that I’ve done this talk before and when I step on the stage, it’s my opportunity to help others and improve my work.

If I can remind myself that I’m prepared for the moment and that the talk isn’t actually about how good I look (but how much can I help the audience), that voice tends to shut itself up.

It’ll work the same for you, too.

More than anything, right now this world needs people to step up and use their voice. We need more encouragement, more helping hands, and more art/business/music/things created. We need imposter syndromes silenced so leaders – leaders just like you – can step up and lead.

Don’t let the voice of Imposter Syndrome stop you. Let it signal that you’re on the right path and then put your head down and get to work.

I’m cheering for you.

How Leaders Can Handle a Bad Coworker

Is that someone using your favorite coffee mug again?

Is that someone in a sour mood, all of the time, and seems to just drain the life out of the office?

Is that someone sitting right next to you every single day?

I’ve been there with a coworker too. You get an almost knot in the pit-in-your-stomach, please God don’t interact with me today, feeling every morning as they walk in. You dread having to deal with *that* coworker because no matter how excited you are going into a day, they seem to drain the ever-living-soul from you.

How is an aspiring leader supposed to deal with *that* negative coworker?

Most of us can relate to being forced to deal with a less-than-stellar teammate. From little league sports to our first corporate job, the chances are high that we’ve had to work closely with someone we don’t necessarily like. Anytime you take a group of people with diverse personalities, agendas, and backgrounds, throw them together on one unit, and you’ll have an adjustment period.

Did anyone else get stuck doing all of the work for your class project like I did?

School projects. Youth/High School sports. Corporate teams. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team where everyone loved being around everyone else.

And guess what? That’s ok. You don’t have to like everyone – but it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them.

It’s never ideal to have friction with a coworker, yet it happens every day in offices and locker rooms. People are thrown into a situation and despite needing to work together, will still butt heads. And we both know this one fact: some people simply love being negative.

All of the time.

It’s as if they embrace being miserable. I don’t understand it, and I’m sure if you’re reading this, you don’t either. However, it’s on us to still work with them – even if they’re a pain in the butt.

Leaders are the ones who can successfully navigate these tricky people and still excel beyond the immediate situation because they know how to do this:

Control Their Controllables.

We 100% control…

  • Our attitude
  • Our effort
  • Our actions
  • Our focus

…every day. We each face situations and individuals outside of our control, but only we dictate these four things in our lives. Unfortunately, most people seem to forget that they 100% control these things.

  • Bad attitude? Blame it on your negative coworker.
  • Poor effort? Blame it on the fact you wish you had a different job.
  • Complacent? Blame it on the idea that you “just don’t have the same motivation” as so-in-so

It’s easy to blame others for our bad attitude, effort, or lack of action. It’s easy to show up with anything less than our best when we don’t love our job or the people we work with. That’s easy.

But easy isn’t what makes us proud – or a great leader stand out. Blaming others for our controllables is simply creating an excuse to shift the responsibility off of us and onto others. But it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

That coworker may be toxic to work with, but they don’t control how hard you work. You do. It’s still 100% up to you if you:

  • Choose to adopt their negative behavior or learn to ignore it.
  • Engage in their game of misery, or encourage them (relentlessly some days) to change their perspective.

What your coworker chooses to do shouldn’t impact how you show up and what you do. However, if it continues to escalate, here are four things you can do to (directly) address the situation:

  1. Control your controllables. Despite their negativity, remove yourself from situations involving them (happy hours, water cooler talk, etc) and commit to yourself that you’ll maintain a positive attitude with your teammates. Focus on what you control.
  2. Have a direct conversation with the employee. You shouldn’t be rude or aggressive, but there are healthy reasons for having a candid conversation with your coworker about how their negative or toxic behavior is impacting you, your work, and the environment that you both share. Ask them if something is going in their personal life or why they might feel negative. In some instances, the individual is acting out because they don’t know how to process a situation outside of work.
  3. Discuss the situation with HR or your direct boss. If direct conversations fail, schedule a meeting with human resources or your manager to discuss your coworker’s behavior and how it’s negatively influencing the culture. Share steps you’ve taken to remedy the situation and some potential solutions you believe could help everyone involved. Make sure you’ve taken personal steps to talk with the coworker before immediately meeting with your superiors or HR so it’s apparent you’re interested in helping your team.
  4. (If all else fails) Look for a new opportunity elsewhere. There are some instances that a compromise or positive solution can’t be found due to the employee’s position, overarching situation, etc. In these cases, your best option may be to look for employment in a new organization. One thing to keep in mind when interviewing – make sure you interview your interviewer heavily about their culture and addressing toxic employees so you have a strong grasp of how they operate and what they do/don’t tolerate.

It doesn’t matter if we’re a high school athlete or a VP of sales for a nationwide organization, we will work with people who we don’t always “click” with. Most people use it as an excuse to shirk responsibility off of themselves.

Leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard. They control their controllables – their focus, effort, attitude, & actions – and don’t give that control to a toxic coworker.

What Kobe Bryant Taught Me

The world lost a legend today when Kobe Bryant and four passengers were tragically killed in a helicopter crash. It’s the first time a famous person’s death has actually shaken me. I hugged my wife. I text my best friend. It was a sobering reminder of how fragile life is and that despite our best precautions, we never know when today will be our final one.

I always process emotions best through writing. Putting my thoughts down helps me process my feelings inside and try to find peace when my insides feel like they’re in the midst of the storm. Kobe and I never met but, like many sports fans outside of Los Angeles, would classify our relationship as a “rollercoaster.” As a Dallas Mavericks fan, he tormented us in the regular season, going 42-22 against us, including one game where he dominated us by outscoring the entire Mavs team 62-61 through three quarters in 2005.

He was the type of player you loved to sports-hate (as Shea Serrano would say). He was incredible to watch, playing with everything he had every night. He had ice in his veins and a fire in his heart that you love when it’s in your team’s best player – and hated when he’s playing your team. No matter how you felt about playing him, Kobe was one of those special players who always had your respect.

Kobe made himself into one of the top 5 best ever to pick up a basketball. He retired from the game in 2016 but remained a fixture in basketball, attending WNBA games, Lakers games, and investing his time into building & creating the second phase of his life post-playing career.

The one thing Kobe Bryant did well? Compete. Love or hate him, you cannot deny that he was one of sports’ fiercest competitors. Reflecting back on his career after today’s devastating news, I can clearly see the five lessons I learned watching Kobe grow up in front of my eyes on the Staples Center court and social media after retirement.

1. Everyone messes up. How will you respond and choose to be better?

Kobe made mistakes on and off the court throughout his NBA career. No one is perfect, and Kobe was intentional in rebuilding his image and character reputation after those early shortcomings. He invested heavily in launching new brands, supporting the WNBA, and making loads of time for his growing family.

It’s likely we will fail at one point in our professional career or personal life. Mistakes happen, but what matters is how you learn from it and grow. Our response is the most important.

2. Success requires that you be relentlessly driven for your most important goal.

Watch this short clip:

Kobe is so focused on his goal & objective that the fake pass doesn’t even cause him to flinch. He’s unphased at the distraction, committed to guarding his opponent. Kobe was a relentless competitor who remained fixated on winning championships and being one of the best ever. Just the same, our biggest achievements will require a relentless commitment to reaching it.

3. Never let the same obstacle/opponent stop you twice.

What separates greats from all-time greats is their ability to self-assess, diagnose weaknesses, and turn those flaws into strengths.

Kobe Bryant, The Mamba Mentality

After reading The Mamba Mentality, it’s apparent Kobe’s off-court work ethic was unmatched. He constantly worked to improve his skills and studied his opponents so that he could understand his own weaknesses, where they attacked him, and how he could turn those weaknesses into strengths. Successful leaders build their self-awareness and study their competition. If they fail once, they learn how and why so they don’t fail the same way twice.

4. Treat every day as if it’s your last. End on empty.

Fast forward to the 28-minute mark for why Kobe chose “24”

Kobe practiced & played with a “today’s the day” mindset. He knew that this day was the only one he controlled and made sure to put his heart, soul, & every ounce of effort into it. His style of play – never taking a night off – is one reason he was one of the best players. He was never going to just “give” you an easy night. Every game you had to earn it if you wanted to beat him because he wasn’t going to willingly give up any ground.

One phrase I’ve used for years is “End on Empty.” It’s the idea of leaving behind the question of “what if” and emptying everything you have into every day for the goals you’ve set and people you love. We should aspire to finish each day and be done with it, knowing that we gave everything within us for the things and people that are most important to us.

5. Your pursuit of greatness will create your power of impact.

Know that if you strive for greatness, your influence & impact will stretch farther than you ever know. You will impact people you’ll never meet. Your legacy will be remembered by the positive mark you left on others’ lives. Pursue greatness so you can make a great impact.

Millions are mourning Kobe’s passing today. Most had never met the iconic Laker, but you can’t deny his game, mindset, & life greatly impacted them.

How they shot fadeaways in that empty basketball gym.

How they attacked their workouts.

How they relentlessly attacked their life.

Whenever we choose to pursue greatness, we will positively impact people we’ll never meet. You don’t do that by playing it small, accepting limits, or trying to blend it. You only do that when you pursue greatness as he did on and off the court.

How do we honor Kobe?

We honor Kobe Bryant’s legacy by how we live. We embrace his Black Mamba tenacity for the goals & people we believe are most important.⁣

And we make sure that no opponent will ever contain us.  R.I.P. Black Mamba.

Are You Playing Fantasy Football with Your Career?

Football season has returned, and with it, fantasy football.

It’s the time of year when more than 59 million North Americans invest more than $7 billion into individual players’ performances every Sunday during NFL season. And inevitably, your weekly bragging rights will come down to the last quarter of Monday Night Football. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how big of a network you’ve built, or how many social media followers you’ve accumulated – none of that influences whether you’ll win your weekly matchup or the league that season.

Rich or poor – your fate rests in the hands of professional athletes who don’t even know who you are.

Never Give Up an At-Bat

Last night my Texas Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 13-6. I turned the game on during the 5th inning and saw my team was already trailing by 10 runs.

Ouch.

Ten runs is a huge amount in baseball. In fact, only a few times in baseball history has a team overcome a 10-run deficit to win the game. It would be very easy at that point to call it a night and start looking toward tomorrow if you were losing.

In baseball, maybe more than any other sport, great players know the importance of every single at-bat. It doesn’t matter if you’re up 10 or down 10, a great player won’t mail it in at the plate just to get through the inning. They’ll work the count and do everything they can to get a hit.

Three Ways to Finish Strong

It’s time for your HALFWAY checkpoint for 2019!

There are 6 months left until 2020.

This is a perfect time look back at the progress you’ve made/didn’t, adjust your daily process to fit your plan for the next 182 days, and then hit the ground running.

Just like in sports, if 2019 is kicking your butt and you’re losing big at halftime…there’s GOOD NEWS – it’s just half time.

A POWERFUL finish can easily overshadow a slow start, so come out of the second half on fire.

And just like in sports, if 2019 is going GREAT and you’re up big at half, don’t fall into the complacency trap and take your foot off the gas! Keep competing hard every day to make your second half even BETTER than your first.

Here are 3 things you can do to set up a big second half:

Attention to Detail

The little things usually matter most.

There’s a burger joint near my wife’s office that we frequent occasionally. The food is great, but we go back time and time again because of how they behave at the bar.

The bartenders are trained to replace your martini glass as soon as they see the ice frosting disappear. A great martini should always be served in a chilled glass so that stays crisp longer. Many restaurants may serve the drink initially in a chilled glass, but then you’re on your own.

This burger restaurant continually replaces your glass until you’re finished drinking your cocktail. I’ve sat at the bar in a number of high-end steakhouses around the country – places where you’d expect them to take this much care with your cocktail at the bar – and have never once seen them take this action.

But this Plano burger bar does – every time.

The last trip there got me thinking about the importance of this one little gesture in the big picture.

A Culture That Steals Customers

Can culture help you steal customers from competitors?

Yesterday my wife and I had to take one of our dogs to a new veterinarian because our main vet was booked until next week. Our poor boxer, Sugar, has had multiple issues since we adopted her in October so trips to the vet have become almost a weekly occurrence.

I’m sure you know how frustrating it is to start at ground zero with a new doctor / dentist / vet / business… you have to fill out tons of paperwork, answer lots of questions, and then help the new doctor get up to speed on the current situation.

But this experience was QUITE different from what I expected.

This new staff asked us a TON of questions. It was more thorough of an initial process than I think I’ve ever experienced. They took a picture of Sugar for her file, and talked us through the range of treatment options. The entire experience involved this new staff doing what they could to make us feel better about the treatment process with Sugar.

Then just before we left, they provided us with a folder of information including:

  • a copy of their file on Sugar (which included everything we had shared with them),
  • doctor’s notes about how sweet of a dog she was and treatment prescribed,
  • brochures of products and local companies they recommended, from the ER to heartworm medication.

As soon as my wife and I walked out of that visit, we both agreed that we wanted to move our business from our previous vet to this new one. We felt informed in what they shared with us, comfortable that they were taking great care of our dog, and most of all, their level of thoroughness in both gathering Sugar’s history and sharing about her health issue made us feel safe working with them.

That was no accident.

This specific vet intentionally created the environment to make customers feel safe and welcome, even down to the complimentary coffee they provided – which was offered in mugs, not styrofoam cups. They understood that any trip to the doctor (be it a dentist, family doctor, or yes, even the vet) can be stressful because the majority of the time, you’re going to them because something wrong. This office took steps to make you feel comfortable and safe.

It’s this type of intentional experience that can be a game-changer for your business.

Every customer has an experience with your brand. Most experiences don’t generate a mark unless it swings heavily in one direction or another. Think about it:

We don’t generally remember our service at a restaurant unless:

  • it was slow & terrible (poor), or
  • the staff was quick, courteous, and surprised us with something personal (great).

Otherwise we never give it a second thought.

We don’t think about our experience with an e-commerce brand unless:

  • Our package arrives damaged, we have serious issues with their customer service to fix a problem or the like (poor)
  • Our shipment includes a surprise like a hand-written insert, special packaging, or amazing customer service help (great).

Just “ok” won’t help your company win.

The reason that extremes stand out is because customers expect a simple, clean process. Business owners want a smooth, seamless transaction, but the problem lies in the fact that an expected process doesn’t become a memorable one.

In their book Talk Triggers, Jay Baer & Daniel Lemin talk about the importance of creating these unique experiences for customers in order to stand out in the customer’s mind, and most importantly, create that lasting connection. I spent the first two years of building Compete Every Day by writing a thank you card to every single customer, and now, I still send random thank you cards to customers. I even will send small thank-you videos to new followers we gain on social media.

You can’t scale this type of activity, but it’s not the scalable activities that make your company stand out.

How to do better.

In order to do better, your team needs to be equipped with the right mindset and focus to make an impact on your customers. This focus goes beyond just “getting the job done” and more on “doing my job the best I can.”

See the difference?

“Getting the job done” implies doing the minimum to get by. Instead of going for straight A’s, you’re good with C’s & D’s, because with this mindset, you “still get a degree.”

“Doing my job the best I can” is about striving for excellence. This mindset asks how can I do the best I can on this, and when complete, reviews to see where they can do better next time. It’s consistently giving full effort, no matter what the situation or how the person feels in the moment. It’s a belief that “getting by” & “good enough” isn’t actually enough.

A company full of people who embrace the pursuit of greatness excel well past their competition.

Do you have a company culture that is great enough to steal customers from your competitors?

If not, we should talk. Because in order to create that winning culture, you’ll need a team of Competitors who know what it takes to pursue greatness – and are committed to that pursuit.