Being weird, building a tesseract, and honing your intuition.

What is wrong with me??? I am weird. But at least I know it, right?

Don't I care more about what people think? Sure I care what people think about me. Sometimes. But I can only imagine what my neighbors think of me. My summer routine on the weekend has included at least one evening around the fire pit. I place the bluetooth speaker under my chin and I wail. I mean wail. I sing with abandon. I am in the band. 

My wife texts, "I can hear you in the house." One weekend she let me know that when she was in the neighbor's backyard (three houses down and across the street) she could hear me all the way from there!

I love being me. I also love the movie Interstellar. It's my current fave yet to be dethroned. In fact defining SightShift at its deepest level would be like the movie Interstellar. I teach you how to build your own internal tesseract as you become a 5th dimensional being like Matthew McConaughey. Except for the hair. I can't pull off the hair. 

See? Weird. 


I don't always like my reactions. I for sure don't like all my circumstances. But the more challenging the circumstance the more I learn about myself. 

Maybe you're in a challenging circumstance right now. It's a great time to learn who you are and how to like yourself. Learning your story and how to figure out who you are in the midst of the life you're living right now is critical. This is your moment to hone your intuition. 

I talk about this in my book Figure That Shift Out. I describe it like a War of Voices. 


As you learn your story and pay attention to what’s happening, you’re going to notice a war of voices within yourself. I want you to pay attention to that. I know it sounds weird, but stay with me. You can break it down if you think about it as three competing voices: the voice that pressures you to project, the voice of shame, and the voice of who you are. I am not saying these are audible voices, but pressures at an intuitive level. Let me be your trail guide on this and see if it matches your experience. 

The first voice is the part of ourselves that we want to project to others. We want to make people think something about us. This is the proving or hiding. We’re trying to control their perception of us. Our internal chatter in this voice is constantly consumed with what others think. 

The second voice is a shaming narrator. We end up being driven by a false story that we feel we have to live up to. Whether or not we are aware of it, the narrator is harnessing voices from our past that spoke in a voice of shame. We talked about shame in the previous chapter. Shame is when you feel like you will never have a place where you are accepted and can feel at home. We have an image we want to project (the first voice) because this internal narrative of shame (the second voice) is driving us. The image we want to project by proving or hiding isn’t who we really are. The driving narration of shame isn’t who we are. Both of these voices are clues and signals to who we are. We need to learn why the shame is there and where it came from so it will stop blocking the truest expression of who we are and thus the uniqueness of our leadership. 

We want to find our third voice: who we are. Who we are at our core is free of the pressure and the shame. 

How are you going to do that? How are you going to separate the image shame drives you to project from who you actually are? The answer is simple but difficult to practice especially for high performers: Pay attention to your emotional state.

This is awareness. And it's only the beginning.

See you around the fire pit, 


I want maturity but I don't want to lose childlike wonder.

The eclipse helped us feel a sense of a wonder. It passed in a moment. But that moment was special. It's easy to see how most of human history experienced so much transcendence they could build religions around these moments.

The possibility for transcendence is always there.

I'm a sucker for a great quote. 

A fave that I have shared with you before, "But genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will — a childhood now equipped for self-expression with manhood’s capacities..." It's a French translation and I've seen some that read "with the skill of adulthood." Charles Baudelaire, French poet and jilter-of-my-brain ladies and gentlemen.

I like the way he frames that. I hope to live that. Recovering the childhood at will with the skill of adulthood is the highest and most whole of aims. 

The common path is to lose the childhood of play and wonder as you slowly become a rigid, uptight adult. There's a reason the Twenty One Pilots song "Stressed Out" got so much radio play. Statistically speaking your kids won't want the life you're currently living when they become adults. They dream about the future but they don't want the stresses that have been falsely equated with being an adult. They don't want to lose their wonder. 

We need to grieve our lost wonder.

I don't want to discourage you. I want to facilitate a wake up. The maturity that comes with adulthood is EMPOWERING. Learning who I am and how to let my emotions enhance my life and not dictate direction has been amazing. 

But I also need the child. I love being an adult with the curiosity of a child. Please hear me, I still screw up. I still succumb to the worst parts of who I am in moments. I either become childishly immature or an adult who's too serious and can't lighten up. But I've learned to interrupt my own dysfunctional patterns by embracing life with a childlike, eyes-wide-open, raging hope for what life can bring in the smallest of moments. (Cue me singing around the firepit late on Saturday nights at the top of my lungs. I love it!)  I want maturity with wonder. 

I don't want to miss any of my growth. I want to get to the edge of my abilities and go as far as I can. But I don't want to lose the child and be so serious in my pursuit of growth that I fail to enjoy the journey. I want to show up to each moment with a sense of, "How good can this get? I wonder what will happen next?"

I want to get where I want to go AND I want to enjoy getting there. This requires honesty about what I actually want my life to be about and the ability to embrace the inevitable setbacks and challenges.

Announcing SightShift:Athletes !

One day a dad brought his son to me. The dad had heard me speaking about identity and he brought his son in for a visit because the son had been kicked off a Division I team. His son was crushed. It was a conversation I've had with numerous athletes: You are more than the sport you play.

His son was stuck. When he grasped identity > mission > community it unblocked him. I love how quickly athletes can grasp and live out SightShift.



6 years ago this guy from Arizona made a comment on a blog that I used to have. 858 emails or so later (plus 4 books and hours of phone conversations) we are ready!

It THRILLS me to share with you the official launch of SightShift: Athtletes under the leadership of Bret Burchard!!

www.sightshiftathletes.com is now the home of the athletic division of SightShift. As SightShift is for leaders and businesses so SightShift: Athletes exists for the world of competitive sport. GO check out the site and let me know what you think!

While the work is mainly centered around professional and collegiate athletics this is for everyone irregardless of the level you compete. It's also for coaches and team management.

And I'm jacked for you to meet Bret! (In fact below the sign off I have a little q/a with him.)



Thanks for being here. I always want to help you grow through everything I do. And while this is more of an update than sharing specific help...we are all connected to people that need SightShift in some part of their life.

This marks a giant leap forward on 2 levels to help more people get unblocked and start overflowing healthy performance. How?

1. Bret is our first certified SightShift trainer. I only want people to accomplish certification that I believe can do a better job than me in their respective worlds. Bret is already doing that and I'm so proud for him to be first. I aim for many more certified SightShift trainers of such high caliber.

2. Bret is also our first divisional leader! As things progress we have plans for other divisions. We are just getting started.

I don't want to get too far in the future. 6 years, 858 emails, and hours of phone calls means we are so fulfilled to be in this moment.






MEET BRET (my questions in bold):

Tell us a little about yourself. Hi, my name is Bret, and I cannot resist pizza - no matter how much I have already eaten! :-)

But seriously, I live in Phoenix, Ariz., and work for the Phoenix Suns. This will be my 8th season with the Suns organization. I grew up in Missouri. My dad has been a college basketball coach for my entire life so I was literally raised in the gym. I played college basketball in Indiana for a Hall of Fame coach, worked for him as an assistant and then escaped to warmer weather! I am not a fan of being cold so I love living in the desert.

You're passionate and ambitious...why SightShift? For about 10 years I devoured every leadership and self-help resource I could get my hands on. I was around so many really successful coaches that I was on fire to reach their level. I learned a lot from all the reading, but it really only told me what the great ones do. SightShift has been the only resource that taught me how to become the leader and performer I admired.

What's your vision? The vision is to see a bunch of really ambitious athletes and coaches smile and dance while they play on their journey to the gold medal stand. I remember when I was a kid watching an episode of the TV show Smart Guy. In this episode the intimidating enforcer on the basketball team found religion, got soft and quit the sport in the name of peace, love and happiness. Everyone was devastated. That's not my dream. I love competition. I'm as ambitious as anyone. And I want to win. I want to help people like me become the champion they desire and enjoy the process along the way.

What's the first step? Well, the first step already happened and is happening. It has been allowing SightShift to influence my worldview and application in my performance and leadership. The second step is launching this site to reach a bunch of people and tell our story. In September we are going to host a webinar for coaches and then this coming basketball season I will be leading the Phoenix Suns' minor league affiliate through the training program.

How can they get in touch with you? The best way for us to connect is through the website: www.sightshiftathletes.com. Or I'm on twitter @b3burch.

My 7 favorite templates for leading. (part 2 of Leaders need to be misunderstood)


(For part 1 of this post go here.)

As a practical resource, I want to make sure that you have some tools that you can draw on. If you are going to have the courage to set the pace as a leader, to be willing to be misunderstood for a moment as people are joining you, I don't want you to be surprised by their reactions. You're going to be surprised in circumstances as a leader. You can't control all circumstances. But we should not be surprised by reactions, because they fall into patterns. I actually use seven different kind of templates that keep me sharp. I teach them all the time. I used to carry some of them around in my wallet, laminated, because I want them just to become a part of me.

You have knowledge that you draw on that aids you every day, so actively choose to make these a part of who you are. I've shared them before, and I'm just going to do a quick overview because we want to keep these in our bones, in our guts, part of our soul.

Template #1: The Four Stages Of A Team

The first template is the four stages of a team. This has been researched and studied. The four stages are forming, storming, norming, and performing. When a team forms, it forms around an initial idea, vision, enthusiasm. Then at stage two, storming, there's going to be conflict because it's not like we thought, and then it normalizes into a good rhythm, and then it hits that fourth stage of performing.

Healthy leadership means knowing what phase you're in. It's called situational leadership. You can research that with Ken Blanchard – he did some work on what to pay attention to in each phase and what you need to bring.

Template #2: The Four Approaches To Change

The second template is the four approaches to change the Myers-Briggs personality test talks about: visionary, guardian, relational, and activist.

Visionaries see the future. That's you. That's me. Our first impulse is to respond to the activist's enthusiasm, and we leave behind the guardians who think that they need to protect the ground that's been taken in the past, and if they take this new direction it's going to give up what needs to be held onto. When we only respond to the activist's enthusiasm, we make the guardians nervous and they check out, and people are thinking, "Not everyone is unified on this vision. I can't have peace about it. I'm not going to support it."

As visionaries, we want to go to the guardians first, win them over, and tell the activists to chill. The relation will come along, and we're moving forward. Not that it's that simple. But I have led organizations using all these templates, and they will help you in moments quickly get a sense of where you are and what to do next.

Template #3: The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team

The third template is the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. If you've not read it, Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a book by Patrick Lencioni, and it provides an awesome model to get you really aware of what blocks peer accountability. Healthy teams aren’t just about one person bringing accountability. It's about team accountability, each person on the team holding the others to what they said they would do.

Template #4: The Seasons

The fourth template I use is The Seasons. I did a whole podcast on The Seasons. It's actually the next book I'm working on, because The Seasons are a model to recognize the next action to take any time you might feel stuck or not happy with the result you're getting. Am I in the fall? Is there something to let go of? In winter, lean in and study. In spring, wait for that new energy to come. In summer, rest with vigilance.

Template #5: The Leadership Challenge

The fifth template is a book called The Leadership Challenge, and there's five pieces to that. The two that are most relevant to what we're talking about here is “challenge the process” and “model the way.” They're simple. What does a leader do? They do these five things. Modeling the way is what we're talking about today. You get a vision and you start living it out, and that vision is usually built on challenging the process. You're challenging what was done before. It's Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jesus, and Mandela, to use the earlier examples, saying, "There is a different way."

Template #6: The Five Stages Of A Vision

The sixth template is the five stages of vision, which I've taught you. That vision starts with getting bothered. You get bothered. Then you prepare. You execute. As you begin to execute, you'll face distractions, so you is focus. You celebrate the ground that you've taken, and then you get bothered again. If you're not stirred emotionally on something, then you're blocking up. Something is blocked up within you and you're not going to be able to access that vision. You got to get into that visceral guts of what is bothering me, what needs to change, what needs to be better.

Template #7: Leave Everything Better

The seventh template is a very simple thing, and this is the simplest way I know to express leadership. Leadership is all of your life. You lead in every category. You're never not leading, and you want to leave everything better. By leaving everything better, you're actually leading. It doesn't matter what it is. It's a relationship. It's walking through the parking lot. It's picking up a piece of trash. Leave it all better. I know that sounds weird, but if you do the small things, the big things take care of themselves.

When you're leaving everything better, when you have a question of what to do in leadership because most of life is gray, always err on empowering people. That's what healthy leaders do.

Let me conclude by saying this. I've talked a lot about vision. What is the vision? Ultimately, the people are the vision. The vision isn't some separate thing that we impose and push on the people. The people are the vision. Any great vision is about growing people.

I lost sight of this. It was my late 20s and I was talking to one of my buddies and he's been a key voice at different points of my life where I was making a decision. He said to me, "The way that you talk about the organizational vision, it's like you're pushing it on the people." And he said this phrase: "Chris, the people are the vision." That hit with a thud. That was before I started doing a lot of the research that I've done this last decade on identity and identity formation. Now I know that secure leaders are focused on building people, helping them become better.

The pace of the team is directly correlated to the pace of the leader. You will feel unhindered when you make peace with the fact that you're going to be misunderstood for a moment, you're not surprised by people's reactions, and you have the courage to keep casting the vision through all means necessary until people join you where you are. When they join you where you are, it'll be time to be misunderstood again and stretch that vision out. Happy leading, happy setting that pace and embracing the courage to be misunderstood. Lead with vision, leave it all better, and err on the side of empowerment.

(all of these are in addition to the template SightShift is based on: identity>mission>community)

(iTunes podcast link here for more about being misunderstood as a leader)

Leaders need to be misunderstood. (part 1)

Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever wondered, “why can't they just get it?” It doesn't matter if it's the team you're leading or the team you're a part of, if you're trying to lead sideways or lead up, or you're leading the team you're charged with and are responsible for developing. But you’re trying to help people understand your vision and they're not getting it.

I look back at my 20s, and my worst mistakes were because of hyped decisions. I didn't slow down, pay attention, see where I was sabotaging myself - or I wasn't being heard, so rather than increase the clarity of my message, I just increased the intensity. Sometimes there was yelling. Sometimes there were tears. It was messy, but you know what it feels like to be misunderstood. You want people to get it. See, as leaders, we never just experience things. We always see a better way.


Leaders see a better way.

This is in the simple stuff, like getting out of the shower. When I get out of the shower, there's this mat that I step out on to; it soaks up water and I dry off there. Beautiful system. My wife, however, thinks when get out of the shower, dripping wet, you put a towel around you and then walk wherever. She leaves some wet footprints on the rug in the bathroom and she leaves some wet footprints on the carpet in the master bedroom, and then I come walking through and step in the puddles of water in my socks, and now my socks are wet. This is a very troubling issue.

See, as leaders, we don't just experience things, we go through them and we see a better way. I remember as I started to study speaking 20 years ago, I would have moments where I would be so moved by a speaker and think, "I want to do that." As I started to study it, it does take a little bit of the magic out. I have to see somebody perform at a very high level to really be caught up in the performance. Once you start to study and break things down, you see behind them because you're always wanting to pick it apart. You look at things, everything you go through, and you think, "This is how this could be better." When I worked at Chick-fil-A and I learned how the nuggets were made, they weren’t magical anymore. I knew how it happened.

As leaders, we're always experiencing things and we see how it can be better and we try to share that with others, and sometimes we're misunderstood. We want people to get it, and they're not, and this is frustrating. We want to move unhindered in this new direction, to dry off when you get out of the shower and not get water on the carpet.

Obviously, that example is minor. But big, life-changing things have to happen. Big vision has to happen. We want to move at a pace that is exciting to us, where we feel unhindered and we're able to run. How do we do it?

There's a thought that a lot of us have. I can move unhindered in the vision. I can blaze the trail if I can just get everyone taken care of and happy. If I lead perfectly, everyone will be good and they'll understand and be able to run with me into this new vision.

I remember thinking that when I was about 23. I was helping navigate organizational change, and we were leading a turnaround effort. I was leading with a new vision, and not everybody got it. Some people were upset and angry, even expressing that to me in violent ways. It was crazy. I remember thinking, "If I could just lead everyone perfectly, then everything would be okay. If I could just lead that well…"

Then I started to think about it. Who are some amazing leaders that have done amazing things in the history of this planet? Martin Luther King is one. He had a vision, and some people understood it. He wanted everybody to get it, but not everybody did, so he was a threat to some and his life was ended. I think of Gandhi. I think of Jesus. I think of Nelson Mandela. I think of people that led with a blazing clear vision and moved the marker of what it means to be a good human forward, but not everyone understood.


You'll only go as far as the lengths to which you're willing to be misunderstood.

See, here's the reality. You'll only go as far in your leadership to impact and influence others as you are willing to be misunderstood. You need to be aware of where you're misunderstood so you can still be relatable. It's smart to be conscious of what in your message and what you do might be off-putting or challenging to others. I know there are things about me that are just weird - some of the intentionality with which I live, my zero-drop shoes that I obsess over, the fact that I don't want to use aluminum for my deodorant, whatever it is. I know there are some things that I do that are weird, so I'm going to relax, people, and joke and be relatable, but I'm not going to give up the courage of being misunderstood.

Here's the skill that we want to learn to develop if we're going to be pace-setting leaders, we've got to understand it's okay to be misunderstood. In fact, I would say it this way. When everybody around you fully sees what you see as a visionary leader, you're no longer ahead, and it's your job to start looking ahead to get a long-term vision. And if you're going to have that long-term vision, as soon as everybody is seeing what you're seeing, you're out in front again with the next piece of the vision.

It doesn't mean that you, in an insecure way, put that in front of them, saying things like, "I see what you don't see." You're not reminding them of this. You're not beating them over the head with this. You're not trying to make this the hill that you die on. You're not just the leader. Healthy leaders will actually let others on the team stir up their vision and expand what they see, but there is something mysterious, I'll even say mystical, that when you are at the helm and it's on your shoulders. It just means that you'll see further than other people, and as soon as they start to feel like they may catch up to you, there's already something else that you're seeing that's next.


Stay with the vision even if you have to change strategies and tactics.

This isn't about changing the direction every few months. I'm not talking about an insecure leader who constantly is changing tactics and strategies and doesn't know how to sit with something and get the data and make smart decisions. I'm talking about the best visionary leaders that I've ever worked for. As soon as I start to fully see what they see, they then stretch my vision another distance out in front of the ground that we had just taken. If you're going to see beyond what others are seeing, you're going to be misunderstood, at least for a moment. Your job as a leader is to bring them along with you.

We're all wired differently. My wife can see a room from a decorating standpoint in a way that I never can, and she'll transform it. Likewise, just through real estate stuff and looking at houses, we can go into a place and I can see an old kitchen and how it can be transformed into something beautiful. That's not her gifting. Until I give her pictures and explain it, she's not with me. As a leader, we're understanding that it takes courage. It's a skill to sharpen our vision. As we take this courage, we're going to be misunderstood, at least for a moment.

Here's the thing. If we're visionaries and we're actually trying to move something forward, we're going to take some arrows. There are some people that aren't going to understand, but with the people we lead, when there's a misunderstanding, we're going to take the blame, and we're going to credit the wins. We're going to own that they don't understand it, and we're going to take the time to explain it, to catch them up to our vision without shaming them and making them feel like they are behind. We're just going to patiently tell stories, sharing results of our vision, showing the credibility of it through the small wins.

On our team with SightShift, I constantly share the wins with them - not because they need to be inspired, but because I want them to constantly be surrounded by the vision. I want them to feel it. When I mess up, they're not going to follow wholeheartedly if I'm not willing to say, "I was wrong. I lied. I failed. I don't know the answer to that question. It's a great question. Help me." Whatever it is that's happening, I want to be in that place that I say, "Yes, you can understand that I am not a perfect leader. I may see something you don't see, but it doesn't mean I do everything else awesome, and I need you to help me with this." This is healthy leadership. This is secure leadership.

Some of you who are reading this need to know that it's normal for you to go through a phase where your vision loses its sharpness. Maybe you worked for a leader long enough or have been in an environment long enough or you've tolerated something long enough that your vision has gotten sloppy at the edges. It's lost its laser-sharp quality. What I want you to do is stir up that emotion so that you can understand where you need to get out in front again with the vision.


If it was easy there'd be no need for leaders. 

The other day, I was driving by a Wendy's restaurant and a sign said that they were interviewing for certain positions. I was having one of those days where I felt like everything I put energy into did not do what I thought it would. Driving past that sign, I thought, "I want to just go into Wendy's and do that interview and see if I can nail it because it'll feel so good to win one." That interview wasn't going to stretch me. I wanted to do it just because it would be easy.

The vision that's stirring within you for what the next year of your life - or the next 3 months or the next 40 years - looks like, for the thing that you're facing resistance on doing today, it's going to be something that makes you feel like they don’t get it. That's normal. That's how you know you're actually taking the next courageous step - because if you don't have vision, it's like not having water. As a leader, you become dehydrated.

It's funny to me to watch my kids. They run in the house on a weekend. Every few minutes, it seems like somebody's coming in and needs water. I'm asking, "What the heck is going on?" Were we all this dehydrated as kids? They’ve got to have a bottle of water with them everywhere. They're coming in and getting water all the time.

Vision, it's like water. You've got to have it. You've got to see with hope what's out in front of you, and even if you can only see the next step, that's okay. When he was at GE, Jack Welch talked about how there were just some days when he would be done casting vision and think, "I can't share this vision again. I'm about to puke. I've said it so many times to so many people." That's how you know it's starting to get heard.

(iTunes podcast link here for more about being misunderstood as a leader)

4 movements of manipulative leadership

Audio of the below available by clicking here.

What I want to break down for you now is a process that's happening all the time that moves a group of people to a direction towards whatever that leader wants to accomplish. Now, the focus of this post is about helping you lead from a secure identity. If you're going to lead from a secure identity, you're going to be a healthy leader. You're also going to learn to recognize the ways that people attempt to lead you in an unhealthy way.

A lot of people have never tapped into this reality, but once you see it, you can't unsee it. Fear is the controlling narrative of so many different rhythms and parts and pieces of our lives. Credit scores, cable news, the idea that you have to get a college degree or you won't get a job. We'll talk a lot about some of these as we move forward. What I want to do is break down a sequence that happens. This is just from me studying movements. It's from me looking at a resource called The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. Dwight Eisenhower had his staff read this to understand different movements were happening around the world.

As I've looked at different resources, I've broken it down, and I want to show you four movements, four parts and pieces that make robot kingdoms. When you're secure in who you are, you escape the robot kingdom.

Let's jump in. The four pieces are you're stunned, then you're influenced, then mass hysteria kicks in, and then you numb out.

Let's talk about what it means to be stunned.

My mind goes back to when I was in college and had pledged a fraternity. One of the things that we had to do is we cleaned this cafeteria. It was nasty and it stunk. We came outside one by one, and they flicked a quarter into the trash. It's got all the crap from the meals of that day. There's water in there. It's a hot, greasy, nasty mess. But they flicked a quarter in there and they told us we had to dive in and get it. Everybody was surrounding you, staring at you, and you're stunned so that you'll get influenced into this action. Of course, people would dive into it to get that quarter. Some threw up in it, and some threw up when they came out, and it was nasty and you smelled that smell for month afterward. I don't care how much Palm Olive you tried to wash your hair to get all that grease out, it messed with your head because the scent is so powerful.

It's the same thing as going into the mall. This is something named the Gruen transfer. It was an unintentional phenomenon. When you would walk into a mall, you would be spatially stunned. Let's say your original plan was to go in and get some socks. But you go in and a mall disorients you, you're spatially stunned. Now you're getting a chicken sandwich and an airbrushed t-shirt. Your original plans are gone.

When they lay out these massive interior spaces, they're actually doing it in such a way to intentionally disorient you. The angles confuse you so that you can get lost, so to speak. You're stunned, spatially, so you'll be influenced to buy more.

A car salesman is trained to match your language. They're listening for cues that you give them so that they can speak in such a way that you feel seen, known, heard, and understood. If there is, in a retail clothing space, a bigger checkout counter so that you can fit more clothes, it's proven you'll buy more clothes. Most casinos don't have windows or clocks. Why? They don't want you to know what time of the day it is. They don't want you to know what's happening outside. They want you to get lost.

Now, let me just pause right here and say this real quick. Influence isn't bad. As leaders, whether we're in the startup world and we're trying to get something moving or we're in a corporate environment that has a lot of layers, we need to not be afraid to leverage all of our influence. We don't need to be afraid to be the most strategic person in the room. It's what we do with the influence that's so important. Are we helping people develop? Are we empowering them?

I want you to think about this a little bit. Look at massive movements where people have been lead astray in huge ways. An easy example to use is Hitler. What was Hitler doing? He was stunning them with the voracity of his ideas and the way that he argues them, the way that he staged military things to show Germany's might. I remember reading one time that he used every airplane light that he had, these massive lights that beam up into the sky, for a giant display. The idea was that if they had that many to waste on a display, how many more did they have access to? What does he do? He stuns a group of people and then he influences them and he moves them to mass hysteria, fear. Then he gets them to numb out while he commits these atrocities.

Beware the mass hysteria.

Disorientation is good. It's what you reorient to after that makes the difference. For a lot of leaders, a lie that they fall into is “The leader above me knows best.” This is just hardwired into some of our evolutionary thinking in regards to religion, thinking, "They're closer to the divine than me." What a lot of people are doing is they're projecting and transferring their fears and their past experiences into this leader. It gives them a way to find some kind of false certainty. "I'm just going to trust in this person." The first thing that we do when we get stunned is believe somebody in authority over us and we're not questioning things.

The second lie that we fall into that allows us to get stunned is that people are worth what they produce. We don't see human beings, we see objects, and we objectify them. Because we objectify them, then we can blame them for our problems. Brené Brown says, "What are we afraid of, and whose fault is it?" I love that. It's such a narrative that we buy into. This was what was happening in Germany with Hitler. We fall into this lie, and we blame them. Or the way that we interact and relate--I mean, this is a huge deconstruction of corporate culture. You're only worth what you accomplish today.

Now, I know a number of people that I work with where it's in two extremes. It's either in the startup culture or layered corporate environment. Maybe this could be a shout of understanding to those of you in layered corporate environments, and a little bit of a survival guide that the leader over you doesn't always know best. It doesn't mean you have to be aggressive or intentionally rebellious and press against their leadership, but it doesn't mean in your mind you're non-conformist. You're not allowing yourself to be stunned into just falling into step. In the way that you treat people around you, you're not just engaging them based on the reality that they're worth what they produce, you actually see human beings with real struggles.

One of the huge things that has to happen in our leadership is to separate people's personhood from their performance. Sometimes you've got to say to people, "I like you as a person, I like you on the team, but when you do that and it scares the client away, I don't like that. Let's talk about how to stop that and how to replace it with better behavior." Sometimes, though, people aren't going to fit on the team. Their repeated behavior means they self-select off the team. Either way, when you understand people are worth more as human beings than just what they produce, you will lead, coach, engage, and help them better.

A third reality that positions you to be stunned is to believe that the company or organization is your provider. Here's the reality with that. When you wake up thinking that way, it automatically locks your brain into a limitation. It’s much bigger than your company being your provider-- you are the provider. You get to go out and figure different streams of income and different ideas. You may be already doing that. If you’re in a layered corporate environment, that seems far off. It may be five or ten years from now before you start building separate streams of income, but you can't fall into that trap that the company is your only provider.

If you're going to not create a robot kingdom and if you're going to be healthy in your leadership, you're not trying to stun people into getting them to do what you want. Unhealthy leaders don't look at to see you and help you feel seen in a good way, they stare you down into submission or they totally pull back. They give you the silent treatment. They twist a story, they spin it to always make it about what they can manipulate or they play the victim card. They get you feeling sorry for them.

An unhealthy leader will stun you with some of these tactics so that they can influence you.

A healthy leader is a leader who empowers you. There's two types of leaders. There are those who want you to conform to the vision they have for you, and there are those who empower you. You need to know the difference.

Robert Kegan was an adult development specialist at Harvard. He's retired now. In his book that he wrote for the business sector, he talks about how most adults never move from a socialized mind to a self-authoring mind. A socialized mind is where you say, "Tell me how to believe and behave so I can belong with you." A self-authoring mind means you're not part of the robot kingdom anymore--you find and taste freedom. You get to build your identity around what you choose, who you are, and then you choose your beliefs and behaviors out of that.

A healthy leader is going to take you to empowerment. Yeah, they need you to play team ball, they need you to help accomplish the initiative, they need you to get the objective done, but as they go about doing it, they’re lookin to helping you develop. Think of the kind of leader you are and the kind of leaders that you're surrounded by. Everybody is influencing. It's going to happen. We're building robot kingdoms if we stun people to influence them. That's the tactic that's used to build robot kingdoms.

Let's talk a little bit about the difference between what it means to be an unhealthy leader, building a robot kingdom who wants to use influence to increase your influence, or a healthy leader, who wants to use influence to build others. As I talk through this, you might be afraid to bring influence. This isn't about being afraid. Again, we're all influencing. If we can recognize these distinguishing characteristics, we can use our influence for good.

An unhealthy leader is going to stun you so they can influence you. As they influence you, they want to focus on staying king of the hill. They fought for this top spot, and they want to keep it. They're focused on results over motive. All they care about is the bottom line. They're focused on what's being accomplished, not how you're getting there. The most important thing you can realize is how you go about doing everything in your life shapes you so much that it actually becomes more important than what you're doing. You didn't wake up this morning and think, "Am I going to go to work or am I going to rob 7-Eleven?" The choices you aren't making between bad and good, you're making a decision every day between good and great. You're doing good things--how you go about doing them gets you to the great level. A healthy leader focuses on motive over results. An unhealthy one focuses on results over motive.

An unhealthy leader will build systems to reward compliance and punish innovation. It's not about whether or not you're innovative, it's about whether or not you do what they say. All kinds of environments will say, "We want you to feel empowered and go make decisions," but the minute you make a mistake, they're not secure enough to let you fall off the bike and let you skin your knee. They're afraid about how that makes them look to their leadership. A healthy leader says, "No, you can skin your knee. I'm here to help coach and guide. I want to help you ride the bike."

A healthy leader doesn't focus on staying king of the hill, they use their influence to ask others to join them on the top of the hill. They use their influence to get you to think about motive. Motive is foundational. How you go about doing things becomes important in shaping your brain. It's shaping your responses, , it's shaping your mood, all of these things. A healthy leader uses their influence to build systems to reward personal development and team risk-taking. This isn't about being the most powerful person in the room.

A healthy leader isn’t afraid of being strategic. They're not afraid of using their influence. They're not afraid of being the most cunning person in the room, but their motives are in check and solid because they're using their influence to build and develop others. If you want to escape the robot kingdom, what do you do? You think through how you use your influence. Are you using your influence to accomplish the task, or are you focused towards developing others?

Now, people that are building robot kingdoms are going to stun you so they can influence you. Once they influence you, they get you moving as a mass in group with other people, afraid. Again, I want to break this down for you.

Take the example of the Betty Crocker cake mix. It had the egg already in the mix, and it wasn't selling. So they take the egg out. Now, a mother has to add the egg. She feels like she's doing something, and sales took off. What happens? They removed the obstacle of guilt and shame. Take Axe body spray. I'm going to spray this on, and it's going to handle the awkwardness andshame that I feel as a pre-adolescent. One unblocks it, one covers it up. All of these little things add up to move people in big ways.

Labeling is a huge part of moving masses of people into certain things. I don't know if you know how this works, but if you understand psychiatry, they have a massive psychiatric bible, if you will: The DSM. It's this massive booklet that's put out. When it's published, it's full of labels, and it's changing with each new edition because it's not a perfect science. It's not like we can look at the human psyche and break it down at a molecular level. Instead, it's people's best guesses. Somebody's coming up with these things. I think it's helpful, and it can move the conversation forward. It can also confuse and get people stuck in labels.

One of the things that I remember reading was going to go into the fifth edition was Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD). Here's how it read. "DMDD is characterized by severe and recurrent temper outbursts that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation. These occur, on average, three or more times each week for one year or more. " Do you know any kids like that? If you don't, you don't know any kids, I would say. What it would look like for a parent to read that and to be stunned, influenced, to mass hysteria, and think, "Oh, my kid has DMDD. I got to get this treated." Maybe they need to learn self-control. I don't know. Every situation is different. Some need help. Get help if you think that you need it.

What I am telling you to do is to peel back the layers here, look underneath what's happening. Just because the memo says it's this way doesn't mean you have to think it's this way. Just because this was proclaimed to you on the news doesn't mean it actually happened. I loved Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan where he pointed that out and how Saddam Hussein was captured, market goes down, but Saddam Hussein to stand trial, market goes up. All the false causation that happens.

Here is the reality of why branding exists. I think it was Douglas Rushkoff that talked about this in one of his books. I love the way that he phrases things. Code or be coded. Program or be programmed. He talks about this reality of branding that branding exists to create the perception of a relationship that isn't there. You go down the street to buy oats from your oat guy because you do that, right? No, this isn’t colonial times. As history moves forward and consolidation occurs, you're not going down the street to buy oats from the oat guy, but you need to feel like that. Quaker Oats develops this imagery that makes you feel like you're still going down the street. The name, the imagery, everything, makes you feel like a relationship is there even though it isn't.

Your brain wants a narrative. The smartest people that have the most influence on society give you the narrative that you need. We'll talk about what the narrative accomplishes in just a second.

The man who designed World War II housing said something like, you can't own a housing lot and be a communist. You have too much to do. One of the things that he worked on, as these guys came back from the war, was that it's hard to turn a warrior into a farmer because your brain gets wired for war, PTSD can occur, and all that comes with that. One of the things that was developed was this idea that everybody needs to own a home, and when you own a home, you have so much to do, you won't be able to be distracted and be a communist.

Anybody that owns a home out there, you know how much work it is--an endless list of all these things to do. My neighbors would be really happy if my yard got mowed right now. It is longer than theirs. I just don't have time to do it right now, and it is what it is.

What I want to do is help you be free of the robot kingdom. What does it mean to be free of the robot kingdom? You see where the fear narrative stuns you to influence you, to move the masses into a certain direction. This is why websites use psychographic typing, so that when you go there, they're positioning the text and the copy in such a way to trigger certain responses. The people that can see all this for what it's worth, that actually learn how to have a secure identity apart from the stunning influence of any leader, almost become mystical.

I love Josh Waitzkin in The Art of Learning, the way that he talks about what a mystic is. A mystic just sees things in a slower time frame than others, so they're able to respond in such a way that their actions seem mystical. They're just more aware. That's why I'm talking about awareness all the time. The mystic laughs when others panic. They'll go where others won't. They'll see, feel, and hear things what others don't.

We don't want to build the robot kingdom. We want to escape the robot kingdom as we look at our reality and say, "I won't fall into the trap of the fear narrative."

Now, if you're part of the trap of the fear narrative, what happens is a leader stuns you to influence you, which builds mass hysterics. This is the last piece of what it takes to have a robot kingdom: you numb out. The mass hysterics have to numb you out so the action can keep building.

Numbing Out

I remember reading accounts in Hitler's Germany where Christians would be in a church and would hear the trains going by that they knew had Jewish people on them, and they would sing louder to drown it out. You talk about using something to numb out--anything can be used. Anything can be used to numb you from reality.

What do you do? How do you escape this? We want to get to the point that we have a real courage to break out of the robot kingdoms and not build robot kingdoms for others. How do we get that courage? We know an abundance in our identity where other people are trying to trigger us with scarcity, and we learn that everything is a false threat to our identity. Everything. If you're just diving in this, listen to the first twelve episodes of my podcast, because I walk you through a sequence to understand that.

Then you get clarity in what you do because there's a peaceful feeling that allows you to not be unnecessarily stunned and influenced by unhealthy leaders. Then, you have compassion for others. You see the oppression of the robot kingdom, and you want to help them get free of that.

How do we recognize when we've gone into this fourth piece of the robot kingdom? We've moved from stunned to influenced to the mass hysterics to being numbed out. We allow ourselves to live lies. One of the ways is our affluence, what we possess. We can eat and spend our way into staying numb, past our pain and past the pain of others. We'll make future plans to distract us from any present pain. We'll believe the next purchase will make us happy. Here's the thing: You've got to feel that pain because pain means you're alive. Pain shows the gap between your current reality and what your future reality could be.

I think sometimes our political power allows us to dismiss the marginalized as weird and unambitious. It's their fault they're that way, so we stay numb. Self-help content hypes us up so that we miss the reality of internal despair and we miss the opportunity to actually experience a new identity.

How do we wake up? How do we wake up out of our numbness? It's not going to happen through managing our time better or managing our money better or trying to put some superficial Band-Aid on the situation. We're not going to relieve it, this numbness, by just doing something nice for somebody so that we can relieve our affluent guilt. We're not going to be able to hype our way to hope. This is why I think the zombie narrative is so powerful for today.

The college classes I used to teach were coming and talking about this show. I remember the first time I watched an episode of The Walking Dead, I'm just captivated by this storyline. I think the zombie narrative fits with today's reality, because we are totally numbed out. I had a college professor, a religious professor, I was talking to. He was making this point. He said we need somebody to breathe life into us.

What do we do? This sadness between where you are and where you want to be, between what you see that pisses you off and what you want to make better, wakes you up. The tears, the grief, the rage. Endings are real. They happen. The pain in the present can make the future exciting because you see what has to change. Passion breaks through the numbness.

My hope is that you recognize any robot kingdom you're part of. If you're in corporate culture, you see it and you can play the game intelligently and cunningly, but not lose yourself in it. If you're building something, if you're leading a team, or if you're starting something, don’t contribute to robot kingdoms but actually dismantle robot kingdoms. You don't stun people to influence them, to create mass hysteria, and get them to numb out. You break that cycle. How? By empowering others. You get empowered. You learn about your own path for development. Go back and listen to the first twelve episodes of my podcast for that. Then, you empower others.

There are two clear actions here. Number one, do not settle. Don't settle for anything less than growing and being empowered. You're either growing every day and becoming a better person and leader, or becoming a worse one. As you grow, secondly, you build kingdoms that empower others, not robot kingdoms. As you have influence around you, use that influence to dismantle robot kingdoms, even subversively, by empowering others and helping them learn who they are.

Audio of the above here. 


Should I invest in this relationship? (analyze someone's growth trajectory)

I want to talk about the idea of partnerships and relationships. There’s a business application here for some of you. You may use this for any kind of relational commitments you want to make, but really fly at a high level at what it means to be able to understand, "I only want to form partnerships, business associates, people that I bring on the team and make hires with or make relational commitments to people that know how to live from a secure core or a secure identity."

I want to walk you through some questions that I am processing. Maybe I don’t ask them directly, and maybe I do. I’ll give you a way to practically do this at the end so that you can do the same. I want to dive into those questions first and give you a sense of how this works for understanding someone at a real depth.

If I am interviewing somebody, whether to hire or a business associate or team member or partner I want to get into this issue, I ask these questions. Like I said, I may not ask it directly, but if it’s a relational commitment, I'm going to look for these things.

One: Do you know your pressure points and how to eliminate repeating mistakes in high-pressure situations? I want to know if you know yourself. What are those trigger points when you’re under pressure and your form breaks down? Do you know how to recognize that and eliminate mistakes in high-pressure situations? You’re a resilient person if you’ve always got that forward lean towards growth, and when you do, you’ll learn how to use mistakes to propel you. You’ll nurture momentum out of those. For a lot of people, what they don’t understand is what sabotages their life are lots of small choices, and these have an accumulative effect when the pressure is intense.

Life doesn’t tell you when the game is on the line. The movie reel doesn't stop and no one says, “Okay this is the intense moment, dig deep!” No, it just happens. Something goes wrong in a relationship you value, there is an unexpected curve ball you get with your business or with your startup or with the team culture you’re building, maybe there’s a health crisis. Usually what happens is a stacking of events. The phrase that I use is I’m trying to develop “powder keg awareness."

When are those moments when it starts to feel like it’s really building and that powder keg could explode? I want to know my pressure points and I want to know how to eliminate mistakes in high-pressure situations. I want to be on a path with those that are the same.

Two: Do they know how to recover under pressure? Because here is the reality. That pressure isn’t just going to magically go away. Most people think, "Oh, I’ll get all the pressure and all the problems gone, and then I can feel peace and rest."

That’s never going to happen. You solve problems, new problems come about. The key is, do you know in the moment of craziness how to recover under pressure? I want to know if they know themselves and what brings them emotional fulfillment, how they get margin in their lives to make sure that these activities are happening. For me, I’ve had to change my morning routine recently because of some other circumstances in life. It’s just changed. So I need to make sure that in the morning I’m doing three certain things, and if these three things happen, I can approach the rest of the day like it’s an adventure.

So I'm learning how to recover under pressure with a new rhythm, a new routine. I love lingering talks with friends, movies, being out in nature, whatever it is. I've got those things. You've got to find those things, and then build time for them. You read when your life is crazy, if that's what refills you.

Three: Do they know how to quickly recognize when others are being objectified? I want to know, do you know how to recognize when you're being insecure and others just become objects to meet the insecure needs of your identity? If you do that, you're going to put a focus on what they can do for you. You're not recognizing that there are interpersonal fears at work, you're not aware of everything that's happening around that. If you want more insight on this one, listen to my podcast episode on Mastering Conflicts, where I go deep into what it looks like when these fears are bouncing off of each other's insecurities.

Four: Can you articulate a time where you were being your own worst enemy and what you did to change it? Again, if I ask it directly or if I'm looking for this, I want to know that there's a trajectory of growth in their life, that they recognize what's happening when things start to break apart for them. It's just as simple as the word "awareness"--that they see it, they understand it, and what do they do to change it? I want to know about growth moments that they've had and I want to know that they can at least articulate one, especially if it's in a situation where I'm interviewing someone but a relationship could be forming.

I'm on the lookout for this because this changes everything about what it means to take a journey with somebody. Sadly, so much self-help stuff about relationships talks about how “you become like the five people you spend the most time with,” and the advice given in this sad way of saying, "If you want to change, you've got to change your friends." Well, they may be in seasons where they need your support, and yes, you do need to have a pro-growth trajectory for your life and that will often times either move relationships forward or the relationship changes. I want to know that I'm connecting with somebody who is viewing things from a standpoint of growth.

If I'm talking to somebody who is a possible business associate or partner or a team member or a new hire, I'm going to want to know two other things. The first four apply to all relationships, but these next two really gets specific with that.

Five: Tell me of a time you decreased your influence to step away from something you helped build or lead. Everybody is involved in something that they dove into and helped to make better or something that they started. If they're applying for something and want to be on the team with you, there's got to be something they can point to. Here's the thing that I've noticed in working with people. When people are insecure, they cannot step away from something that they've helped build or lead. When they're secure, they can let it go on to its next iteration. So I want to get into what they've helped build or lead, how they stepped away, and if they caused it to crash and burn because they needed it to only be successful if they were a part of it or if they helped nurture it beyond them. Not that it's a guaranteed thing that they could step away and it'd be successful, but I want to know what they did to try to help ensure that.

Six: Tell me of a time when you were frustrated with a team member and what happened so that you could lead them better--or did it break down? I want to know if they can get aware of their frustration in leading people. You can't lead people that you're perpetually frustrated with. All good leaders are going to see farther and move smarter than some of the team members at different points, but I want to know an example of how you handled that frustration well and what you did in the midst of that frustration. It doesn't mean you've handled every situation perfectly--this isn't a situation where I want them to feel pressured to prove--I just want to know that they're recognizing the inner workings of these things.

These are the questions that I'm looking for. I want to see where their growth trajectory is at, how they're structuring their thinking, their mental framework, their routines. The tips below will help you evaluate partners, team members, and relational commitments. Learn from the bad decisions I have made and save yourself some unnecessary pain. My worst decisions have been because I was covering up present concerns, chasing the future, and believing people just because they say they're going to do it. Through pain I’ve learned to recognize when people want to do a favor for me only to tie strings to me. Learn how to recognize trouble coming around the corner with the tips below and you start to see those strings coming

So here are some tips.

A - Do some investigating. Don’t let subjectivity get in the way and your emotions run crazy. I've been there and done that, and I should have asked more questions. A lot of people buy a house because they emotionally want it and then they use their logic to justify it. The times that I want to think fast, I need to think slow, the times that I want to think slow, I probably need to think fast. If you want some help on this, listen to my "Improving Decision Making" podcast episode, because I gave you a filter for it.

B - Know why they want to help or link up. Know their motive, and if it's a team member or associate or partner, ask about it.

C - Understand clearly what they expect to get from you and what you expect to get from them. Specifically in business partnerships and associates and team members, you want that to be as clear as possible. This is what I'm doing, and this is what you're going to get. This is what you're doing, and this is what you're going to get.

D - Ask somebody you trust; an advisor, a mentor. If you are married, see if it passes your partner's test. When I haven't listened to my wife's concerns, it's hurt our family, and so I've just had to learn to go, "What the heck am I doing, not slowing down and asking what she thinks?" Some of you may hear all these and need to make some changes and cut some strings or do some more homework, but there is a way. That is, you learn to live and lead and relate out of security and you can get a lot more intelligent and aware. Not perfect, though--we're still going to make mistakes about the relationships that we're forming.

Keep on this journey. When you're relating out of a secure identity, it's going to overflow into clarity about what you're doing and building the party that you want to build, not trying to break into somebody else's party, and it gets to be based on these different characteristics and qualities we've talked about. 

Listen to the audio here.


Real talk about why our best leadership is blocked up

I believe in the artistry of leadership. Leaders build and make. They build and make great cultures.

Great leaders build great cultures around them.

It's art and science. 

Let's dive into what blocks the artist from painting on the canvas or why leaders get blocked up in what their "artistic expression".

When you're secure in who you are, it overflows into what you do. As a leader, you're going to bring who you are to that. It'll be creative and artistic even if it doesn't look like some stereotype of what artistry or creativity looks like. 

What we want to do now is put some words to what blocks our ability to bring the full expression of who we are--our creativity, our artistic endeavors, everything that we do--so that we're living inspired lives, not tired lives.  
I was leading an event about a month and a half ago, and we were going really deep on identity. An elderly woman spoke up and said, "Now I know why I stopped making my art." I'm going to help you get that same insight that she had.

What we don't realize--and this is just a common lie that everybody believes--is that creativity is not something that's achieved or gained, it's unblocked. If you ask a room full of kindergartners how many of you are artists, all the hands go up. As you go up through the grades, less and less hands go up. Why? They start to believe a lie that they're not artistic or creative, or they're afraid to be creative because their expression is going to get shut down.

Whatever's happening in society, we have to fix that. What I want to do is help individuals really get clarity on what blocks their creativity--the reason their art is tired, not inspired. It comes down to one word. It's simple, but yet it's complex in how it manifests itself in our lives, and it's deep. Here's the one word: fear. It's fear. What happens is something hurts us and we begin to be afraid, so we don't bring the full unobstructed expression of who we are to what we do. Because we have a false understanding of ourselves, our art ends up expressing itself in a way that isn't the pure, unadulterated expression that it was intended to be.

When you know who you are, then your artistic expression will flow with beauty and clarity even as it includes the struggles of life. That's why we react so quickly to flat story lines where the character isn't changing--we know that isn't how life works.  I love helping creatives figure out who they are apart from what they do, because the more they understand their pain, the better gifts they can give the world. When your art is about getting a response for the needs of your ego, then you're manipulating. When you need a response more than you have something to give, your artistic expression is deluded and confused. The same is true of your leadership.

I want to walk through how you might be getting in the way of what you're supposed to be creating. Not what you have to do, but what you want to do. Maybe you feel like you have to do it. I know what that feels like. 

First confession: I manipulate others with my artistic expression to get attention. If you don't think that you're seen or known or heard for who you are, the basis of your creative expression is about how appealing you are or aren't. You could be doing things that are “in your face” and jarring just to get attention. You could also be doing things that are very blasé just to go along with the status quo. Either way, there's a lie that's at work. It fosters insecurity so that you try to get love from others, even if you have to manipulate them by giving what will please or infuriate your audience.  You're not creating out of an overflow, you're just seeking a reaction.  Again, I'm not saying things that come out of these lies don't happen artistically, make some money, or help a person develop a career. We're talking about being in the game consistently, from a creative standpoint, with all of who we are.

Confession two: I use the thrill of creating to escape. This sounds a little weird unless you struggle with this. The pain is there; it's like it's throbbing. There's this lie that you have to be self-reliant, and that suffocates you. You think nobody else is going to help you, nobody's looking out for you.  You've experienced abandonment and believe you have to take care of yourself, so this pain of isolation and loneliness becomes your only friend. Creating has become the companion to help you escape. That is awesome, in a sense, but until you can internally understand that you're taken care of, it's going to block your long-term ability to connect with your audience and really build the artistic pursuit that you want to build but the business around it.

I know that there's a lot of people out there that pursue artistic careers, and they're great at binge-working into their art but terrible at building the business side of it. Some can really build the business side of it but their art isn't that inspiring. Theirs would be a different fear they'd struggle with. If you have difficulty building the business side of things, it's possible that you feel like there's a disconnect from the people that you're creating for because they're going to abandon you at any moment. This also ties into the eighth fear, and I'll word it as a confession.

Confession three: I ignore problems today that will cripple me from creating tomorrow. Why would you turn away when you know if you ignore the problem you're having with the business or your work there will be a price paid tomorrow? Why would you kick the can down the road?  Here's why. When you feel like you don't matter or you're overwhelmed with a sense of disconnection ... "What's home for me? What's family for me?" You want to belong to that certain group. And if you just get to that place of belonging and others recognize you for being in that group then your problems will be solved. You look the other way while some part of you or your business deteriorates.

Confession four: I mask the pain in other parts of my life with obsessive focus on my artistic efforts. You could be hearing this and doing great from the standpoint of developing your creativity. You may have a positive critical reception to your work, but you still struggle. You may even be sage-like in your field, but your heart feels pain almost like an abscessed tooth. Maybe you resent some person ahead of you in your field. Tons of people would be grateful for where you, are but you can't help stop comparing. Maybe you can't get along with one of your kids. This isn't an attempt to take you down, it's just that you've bought into a lie. At some point, you've come to believe you're incompetent except in artistic expression and that you don't have what it takes anywhere else, so you've specialized in this one area of your life.

Why step into places you might lose when you can go where you'll always win? When this fear is at work, more than anything else you need to know that patience is available so that you can build a bridge from the way you're killing it in your creative pursuits to growing in other areas. There are going to be growing pains in other areas of your life.

Fifth confession: The quality of my artistic work communicates that I'm valuable and have worth. When this is the lie or the fear you experience, what happens for you is you wake up and you have negative points on your score board. You are a driving taskmaster. What eventually happens, and the reason you crumble on the inside, is because you can't separate who you are from your work or your portfolio. You look at a portfolio and say, "That's me. That's who I am." Your identity is more than your ideas. Your identity is more than your work. Your identity is more than your artistic expression. 
This is how people get locked in to their existential crisis as an artist--they look at things and go, "Ah, I want to pivot into something different or take a different pathway." It's hard for them to not only get their audience to endorse that, but for them to think in a way that produces a lot of clarity about the steps they should take. They're so wrapped up in defining who they are with the work that they've accomplished.

Sixth confession: I'm constantly critical of my artistic efforts. I mentally tear myself down for motivation.
This is based on a fear that you're defective. The tape playing in your head is constantly tearing you down, saying that you're bad, that there's something wrong with you, that you're corrupt. When you believe that about yourself and when you don't believe that you’re loved for who you are, tearing yourself down may work in the short term to motivate you. But it will keep you from sustaining the highest levels of quality output.
(When I say “The highest levels of quality output,” I'm talking about you being at the edge of your artistic abilities and being able to show up and bring that full expression consistently. Not that you don't have periods of rest and different rhythms, but if tearing yourself down motivates you in the short-term, you hurt your long-term ability. This is how you fry yourself and get burned out.)

Confession seven: I never accomplished enough as an artist that I feel peace. If you struggle with your mind always going to the worst case scenario, your pursuit of the artist you strive to be will feel like a hamster wheel. A crippling amount of anxiety means you want to believe if you accomplish the right goals then maybe you won't be a washed-out artist. Internally, there's never a sense of rest and you feel like the earth is going to give out from underneath you at any moment. What this fear blocks up is the ability to relax your way into your creative pursuits.

Confession eight: I am a lonely artist. If anyone gets too close, I end up creating conflict to push her away.
Here's the way this works. You've made some bad choices and you want to rebel against any relationship of interdependence so you can over-assert your independence. You've been betrayed; it sucks and it hurts. You don't want anybody too close because you don't want to get hurt again. I get that. You often create conflict to keep others at distance. You bristle at the thought of someone getting too close because it feels like they're going to have some kind of control over you. Yet, this isolation seethes underneath the surface. Because of this, oftentimes you may do work that gets a lot of accolades but are extremely lonely on the inside. Those are two related confessions, seven and eight, but still different expressions.

Confession nine: I maintain extreme discipline in my creative work, but binge with destructive behaviors for short seasons. When you think you don't have a unique identity in the world, you struggle with extreme self-indulging and behaviors that are an attempt to comfort your pain. I think of Richard Pryor, the comedian, who had all of this creative talent that he unleashed on the stage. He brought everything of who he was to the stage. He worked very hard at his craft, but when he came off the stage and because he didn't know who he was apart from his work, he would binge in his cocaine habit.

Now, yours may not be as dramatic as Richard Pryor's, but it's painful when you wonder if anybody really ever sees you for who you are. Maybe you feel like they're always looking past you or ignoring you. When you're seen for who you uniquely are, that you're loved right where you are for who you are, then you don't have to self-indulge. It unblocks your ability to navigate the difference between the works that you perform and the creative pursuits that you're involved in and who you are in your identity.

Want to figure out your fear with precision and what is blocking your expression? That's why I wrote this: 

6 questions to keep yourself creative and shipping good work


A number of years ago, if you would have saw me working on my computer and said, “Hey, let me hear what you're listening to,” you would have heard some combination of dub-step trap, something with a hard, driving beat that I could use to ramp myself up. There were a couple of times that I faced big deadlines of some writing projects, and all of a sudden I didn’t have within me what I need to get across the finish line at the high level of quality that I wanted.

What I learned through those experiences was that I was getting to the other side of those projects and I was barely skidding in into the finish line. I would be depleted, exhausted, probably numb. I get through the creative push, but I'm actually losing my depth at being consistently creative, of having an expansive creativity because I'm shrinking it because I'm abusing who I am, I'm abusing the gift that I've been given.

I'm often asked, “How do you motivate yourself when you want to work hard?” You've got to understand the difference between hype and motivation. Hype is when you use external pressure to force yourself into try to doing something. Motivation renews you. It's when you learn who you are apart from what you're trying to do so that you can enjoy what you're actually trying to accomplish. If it's not something you're enjoying, then you need to ask yourself, “Am I supposed to be doing this? Does somebody else need to do this? Do I need to wait? Do I need to take a break?”

If you want to really get into depth, that inner working, those guts of who you are, you have to pause the mental mechanism that kicks in and says, “If I don't get this done, then they will think this about me,” “if I don't get this done then this means this this is true about me. They will think I'm inadequate, I don't have what it takes, I'm not needed around here.” Whatever it is, whatever your fear is.

What we need to learn to do is to pay attention to how we're going about doing something. If you’re trying to hype yourself up into it, and then dub-step may work great for you, that's fine. But what I can tell you is this, if you want to learn to motivate yourself to work hard, you have to pause the mental mechanism that kicks in and causes you to confuse who you are with what you do and how others will treat your work.

When you know who you are and you can pause that mental mechanism, you can really reflect. You can know that you are you, regardless of how this project turns out, you are you regardless of what people think about it. Then you get really honest about what's happening on the inside. Find that ability to consistently renew, to get after motivation. We don't know this very well. We know hype, we know carrot-on-a-stick rewards, we know pressure, we know fear, and it's a lie to say that we need all of that to be creative. Because it gets us across the finish line, but we've become less of who we truly are, less of who we're meant to be, less of a human being because we are deformed while we were doing it. We want to learn to re-humanize what's been dehumanized by learning to pay attention to what's motivating us. Then we can tap into those places where we want to work hard.


How can you come up with ways to be more creative? None of us have reached the edge of our abilities or ideas. We constantly can come up with new combinations, new ways to tap into resources, new things that we hadn't even imagined.

I'm so inspired by people like Leonardo da Vinci. Throughout human history, people that have used skills to do something different. At one point, he asked, "What does this color sound like? What does this color smell like? Were you combining senses?" I'm inspired by people like that, because they've said, "I give myself permission to not tap into the pressure around meto take this path, do this thing, make this look a certain way." It doesn't matter what field you're in. The conventional wisdom is usually wrong. There's all kinds of “shoulds" around us--"You should do this, you should do that."

Lawyers go to law school now. It used to be you could skip law school--it didn't exist--and just take the test to become a lawyer. We deal with different regulations in educational standards. The idea of a credit score. All these things that we use to keep people afraid, and keep people in line, that actually stifle our ability to be creative.

How can we come up with more ways to be creative? It's recognizing the pressure that's around us and in us. The strong voice of tradition. The strong voice of the other, and these powerful voices in our lives, wield pressure on us, and they shape us in certain ways. I talk with people that have chosen certain careers, and they've been in them for twenty years, because they felt like they should. Whatever this pressure is, you know it.

When you can escape the “should,” the creativity will be there, so you'll be able to come up with lots more ways to be creative, because you're removing the false barriers. Some people find a lot of help in doing something like James Altichur talks about, where generates ten ideas every day. Well, what gets you to the place that you can do that is removing that pressure that says, "I have to do this a certain way." What this is about is waking up and becoming aware that the strong voice of tradition or the other in your life only have power because there's a fear that says, "If you don't do what they're saying, this is going to happen. You're going to be left alone. You're not going to be able to take care of yourself. You're going to be found lacking, and inadequate, and you're going to be found out to be a fraud."

These are all shame-based lies. This is deep, but it's simple. If you escape the “should,” the shame-based lie, then you can literally stare at a blade of grass, and get inspired. You stare at something and you notice it because your brain isn't internally distracted with all of the fear and lies. No more comparison. No more shame. No more pressure. Just you, right where you are, soaking up this moment. It doesn't fit our culture, right? We think we got to power up, we got to push through.

Sometimes the most brilliant thing we can do to start opening ourselves up to creativity is to take a nap, so we have the internal fortitude to not build our identity around what others think of us. Then we start noticing creativity around us. I was watching Harry Potter with my kids last night. My daughters are ages 9, 11, and 12, and it's hard because I get so many ideas with them around. I'm not even trying to be creative, but I'm just so in the moment with them that I know I won't remember them, so I got to capture them, and what allows me to get that creativity is I'm there. I'm present with them in the moment. So find things that you can do that call you into full presence. Whatever those are, where you feel fully alive, you'll watch that creativity flourish.



Creativity has an enemy. I don't know if you've ever had an enemy before. I had a giant business deal go south one time and I can't talk about it in tons of details, but I had a guy who I just couldn't eve stand to see. I would see the kind of car he drove—it wasn’t even his car, I was states away from him at this point--and have this elevated heart rate. All of a sudden, I want to drive irrationally because there was this feeling like this guy was my enemy.

What a lot of people don't realize is that creativity has an enemy, and it's not what they think. It's not something external. It's not the fact that you're in a cubicle when you wish you had your own office. It's not that if the client could really get the vision of your work, everything would be fine.

The enemy to our creativity is fear. I know we've heard a lot about that, more and more in cultural dialogue around this idea about what it means to not be afraid and to move forward, but here's what most people don't understand when they talk about fear and creativity and that connection. They think the connection between fear and creativity is project-based. Like creativity is going to be there if you pursue that thing that you're afraid of doing.

I want you to think about it this way: there's who you ar,e and there's what you do. Yeah, that thing may make you afraid to get out and do that work because you don't know how it's going to go, so you don't know if you'll be found lacking. You don't know what the reception will be like. But it's not really that you're afraid of what happens with what you do, and you're not really afraid of how they receive you. There's a core fear there that's something about your identity. This is why all brilliant, creative work that's sustainable comes out of a secure identity.

Sometimes there's this narrative that says to be creative, you have to be an artist in pain. There has to be some kind of angst. Those are the kind of people that don't live a full life. They may do some great work out of their pain, but it's a spurt. It's a shot. It's not something that's continuing. I want to continue my creativity. I don't want to become some cartoony caricature of myself in the future because I'm not at the edge of my abilities. I'm not doing work that scares me.

For a lot of people, when they get stuck creatively, what they don't realize is you can’t force your way back to that creative state. You can’t be rigid or try to hype your way into it. It's also not an approach that you say, "I'm just going to passively resign and let let the muse just wash back over me at some point in the future."

If you haven't read, The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, and his concept of resistance, I highly recommend it. What a powerful tool to get awareness of your fear. What blocks creativity? It could be something simple. You need more rest, some nutrition, your blood sugar's out of whack. It could be these underlying conditions.

At the core of what blocks a consistently creative state is how our fear is unknowingly driving us to try to do one of two things that blocks our creativity.

When fear is driving you, you have two responses that block your creativity. One is that you've got to prove something. You’ve got to get your respect. You have to earn your place in the world. You've got to tell them what they should believe about who you are and your ability to create. You have to prove it, because you don't believe it's true.

Or you're going to hide. You're going to disengage. You're going withdraw. You're going to bring the full weight of who you are into that solution. You know that you're creatively blocked up when you can't bring the unobstructed expression of who you are into what you do.

That doesn't matter whether you're being creative with something that people would look at as an actual creative enterprise, or whether it's solving the problems we all face day in and day out. What we want to do is get aware that when we're proving or hiding, our creativity is getting blocked up.

Now, how we get unblocked, is another issue. You  want to get awareness of the fear. "Hey, I'm proving or hiding. How do I come back to a state where I can relax my way into bringing who I am into what I do, into the solution part of that?" Some people say, "Well, I'm at the end of my creativity with this." Good. Get to the end of the creativity.

If somebody says to me, "I'm at the end of my patience with this issue," good. Get to the end of your patience. Then what? Don't try to reattach, don't try to get motivation for what you were doing five minutes ago or five days ago. All you can do is engage this moment as it is. This isn't some tactic that's hard to define. It is a real way our brain works.

I had taken my kids to the park one afternoon. In the area of Ohio I'm in, it gets cloudy and it can stay really gray in the winter. It had started getting warm and sunny, and the kids asked to go to the park, so I took them.

I have this zero gravity chair that I take, and I lay it out. It's like a recliner that you can take anywhere. I get some tunes playing, and I'm relaxed. It's like a zen moment. Basically, I'm fried, I need a little rest. I say to the kids, "Hey, go play, don't yell unless you're getting abducted or something."

They come back to the chair that I'm laying in about five minutes later and say, "Dad, Dad, we're hot. We want to go home."

I'm thinking, Ah, I just got to that state where everything kinda relaxed, and now they want to go. But I say, "That's okay," because I think I’ll go home and recreate this moment there. I take the kids home, and my wife wants to talk about some stuff. Which means I am not going to be having that moment anymore. Plus, seasonal allergies kicked up. The zen is gone.

This idea is that I couldn't go back and say, "I'm going to recreate rigidly and make this moment happen again exactly as it was." That moment is gone. All I can do is be in this moment.

Why we get blocked up? Because fear's at work in some way, causing us to prove or hide. Then how we get unblocked is by considering this moment now and bringing who we are, with nothing to prove, and nothing to hide.

What you can do is think about what you're working on, what you're doing. What are afraid of if it doesn't go the way you want it to? This fear is related to who you are. It blocks up you being you in this moment. You may be afraid that you're not going to be respected for your work. You're not going to get the attention. You're not going to be seen and known and heard for who you are. You're not going to have your place to belong. You're not going to be seen as special or unique. Maybe you're afraid that you can't be vulnerable in your expressions, in your creative work, because people will reject it. Whatever it is, that fear doesn't have to hold you back any more.

Props for you, working on your creativity. Look at this moment, no proving, no hiding, and engage.

How am I going to be consistently creative? It's not by just saying, "Oh, I'm afraid to tackle that project so I'm going to do it." It's about at the core of who I am, understanding that whether that project is completed or not, it doesn't change who I am.

If your identity is insecure, you say, "Well, if I get that work done and I get it done a certain way, or if people respond to me a certain way, then I can know that I am valuable. I can know that I'm loved. I can know that I'm secure. I can know that I'm not alone. I can know that my needs will be taken care of."

You can give yourself that gift now, and it's out of that abundance that you can continually innovate and be creative. There's a book called Creative Constraint, Beautiful Constraint. It talks about this idea that scarcity and abundance are an infinite loop. As soon as abundance is there, scarcity will threaten it. As soon as scarcity is there, you have a moment to find abundance.

You don't have to feel defeated. I can give to the world in abundance when I have a secure identity. Scarcity, I've given and I'm tired, right? It's an infinite loop. Every time you feel afraid in your identity, it's an opportunity to find abundance. When you find that abundance in who you are, you give that gift to yourself. You can say, "Hey, I may be physically alone, but internally I don't have to be alone." I know this sounds weird, but it's deep and changes everything when you get it.

I don't have to define my worth by the work that I do or by how people receive it. I've got to do the thing that's an extension of who I am. I want to bring the unobstructed creative expression of who I am into what I do. How are you going to get there? You've got to figure out who you are. The enemy of creativity is fear, but not a general fear in what you do or how people think of you. It's a fear about who you are.

Take a long walk in the woods and just contemplate this, wrestle with this. Think about this question: “What am I afraid of in who I am? What am I afraid of isn't true about me that I'd like to be true of me?” Then learn to give yourself that gift.



I had fixed oatmeal one morning for my kids. I have three daughters. Somehow, Saturday mornings have this expectation of a breakfast production. We were out of everything, so I thought I’d just throw some oatmeal together. Two of the three aren't really fans of the blessed oat, so I had to get creative. I put together a cinnamon oatmeal and I put it at the table and said, "Hey, guys, come get your cinnamon cookie oatmeal." I'm bragging to my wife and saying, "That's how it's done as a parent. You've just got to sell it."

My kids sit down, and one of them starts eating and she goes, "I don't like it." She didn't like oatmeal. It had the sweet stuff in it, but she still didn't want it and she was honest about that very quickly.

What happens when you're stuck creatively is that it allows you to get honest about what's actually happening on the inside. The power of “should” in our life is so pervasive. There are people that I know who are in careers, they have lots of school debt, and they're doing it because they should. Maybe there was parental pressure, maybe there was a societal narrative that they bought into, but they say, "I've got to do this job because of this."

Whatever that “should” is, you can even do it to yourself, and as much as you think you're a rebel or you're doing your own thing, when it comes to being creatively stuck, you have a moment to get actually honest about what is underneath. What are those desires, stripped free of the “shoulds?” The insight that can help us propel forward and get that momentum again is to think, "What if this is a signal to me about what I really don't want or what I really do want?"

My kids have played softball, and all of the parents had to share this rotation of working the snack shack. You've got to show up and work the snack shack once per season. I'm not signing my daughter up to play softball so I can go and serve lukewarm hot dogs. I'm at that game to watch her play and for no other reason. When she's up to bat, I'm not concerned with how well I'm delivering to the customer. Is their hot dog ready, am I even hitting the hot dog with the mustard? If she's up to bat, I'm trying to serve it, but I'm peeking around the corner the best I can to try to see what's actually happening in the game. My desires come through in that moment, regardless of any kind of obligation I have.

Here's what's happening right now. That project that you're in the midst of, that roadblock that you're at, that you're frustrated about--drop it and go play, just to change mental gears. That's pretty elementary as far as creative tips. But, here's what I want you to look for. You go play, you do something where you feel peaceful, where you feel safe, where you feel alive, or, all three of those, whatever helps your brain to actually relax and check out of the insecurity and anxiety of this creative project. You play, and then you come back to it and think about what you really want, what's the desire that's happening. It's manifesting itself, it's trying to break through that frustration that you're in the midst of.

Maybe you don't actually want to work with this client again, maybe you don't want to do these kinds of projects, maybe you don't want to take it in this direction. Maybe you have to go ahead and deliver it because the contract is signed. Maybe you can reach out to a client and see if a change in direction can happen. There's a lot of choices here. There's a lot of grey. There isn't necessarily black and white answers, but, every opportunity where you get stuck becomes an opportunity to explore who you are, what you're doing, and what's happening underneath the surface. Let those desires rage, and you get to be honest with yourself and be free of the “should.”



What's the best way to find other creatives like you? One of the things that I see a lot of people doing in creative work is they're insecurely trying to break into someone else's party, rather than building the party they want to be a part of and asking others to join it. Being ablut to create your own party comes from a secure identity.

A number of years ago, I was in a group and I had changed in the way I practiced something. This group didn't agree with it, so they asked me to leave. If I wouldn't have left, they would have kicked me out. It was a rude awakening to the fact that these were not my people and this was not my tribe.

You're not always going to get clear messages like that. Sometimes it just the feeling of being left out. What you want to learn to do is to live from your authentic voice. The more that you're not proving something and the more that you're not hiding, you will find people that you resonate with who also have similar authentic voices. The reality is, it's hard to connect and find your tribe creatively because a lot of people are so busy proving and hiding. They don't know who they are. They're insecure. They're discontented. They're distressed and they're afraid.

If you're going to take a journey of liberation, you've got to know that there's not going to be a large amount of people that are going to be able to get you at that level. You may impact a mass of people, you may lead a mass of people, but at that core, there's always going to be a need to build a group of people around you who get you, who get your shorthand texts, who know your weekly rhythm. I have that, and it's a beautiful thing. How did it happen? It happened by asking people to be a part of that with me. To join me. To know what it's like to take this creative journey where you're struggling and you're bringing who you are into what you do. As that group developed and as we spent a couple of years texting or hanging out and doing things, the relationship kept developing.

Here's how you do it: You put yourself out there. It's about stepping into your vulnerability. If you can do this relationally, then you can do this artistically. If you can do this artistically, then you can do this relationally. Just build a bridge between the skills. It's you being vulnerable and putting yourself out there, and not doing it in a weird way. Brené Brown talks about spotlighting, where you share too much too fast and freak people out. Find ways to look for places that you can develop connections with people and share with them your struggles. Share with them the struggles about what it's like to look for meaning in your work and to try to figure out who you are apart from what you do.

To share these kind of things takes time. You're not just meeting up for a drink and then BAM, dumping everything on them. You will find that the people that are hungry to take an authentic journey will resonate with you, and as you keep investing yourself in vulnerable relational work, you'll learn how to recognize where relationships can develop and flourish. You can foster things only where it's not going to last very long.

Find one thing you feel vulnerable about. Find a person that you think you'd resonate with and share it with them. You don't have to share the full intensity of it, but say, "Hey, I did this, what do you think? I feel afraid of this." Fill in the blanks. Take a stab at something. See what comes of it, and watch your tribe gather over time.


How can I overcome my fear of showing people my work or my ideas? It doesn't matter whether I'm making a request over email or whether I'm putting something together. Every time I leave a meeting where I'm coaching somebody, I ask myself, "Did I deliver value? Do they want to come back? Are they going to stop meeting?" It's recognizing that it is normal to feel vulnerable, exposed, and afraid when you put your work out there.

If you're going to succeed, if you're going to be able to keep doing the work that you love doing, you're going to have to put yourself out there in more and more authentic ways, but also being consistently creative in doing it. It's the ability to understand that you can feel two emotions at once that are the opposite. I remember one time I was talking to one of my kids about this, and I had asked her about an event coming up. She said, "Dad, I feel scared and excited." Whoa!

I went on a walk with her yesterday, and I'd had a little fight with my wife and I was trying to figure something out. I didn't realize it, but I felt two emotions at once. I was living out of insecure emotion, not paying attention to the fact that just I was excited about moving some things forward, but I was afraid of what it would mean for my involvement for stuff around the house. I realized I was feeling two things at once. I lived out of just that insecure emotion.

When I went on the second date with my wife, I was just nervous. It was three weeks since we'd had the first one. This is before Facebook, and I'm thinking, "I don't even remember what she looks like." On that date, I remember thinking, My heart's racing. It's learning to interpret or reinterpret your body's reactions. My heart can be racing before a big pitch or a big project where there's a lot on the line, and it was also racing on our second date. Both of those can be scared and excited moments.

For you, it's learning that you don't want to deny your emotions and stuff them. For the most part, people that are pursuing something creative are pretty good at that. A lot still struggle with it, but you also don't want to be dominated by it. You want to be aware and learning.

Take an emotional account of yourself as you put that work out there and what it feels like. "I'm excited! I hope they latch onto it. I'm afraid, and they may not." When you can learn to look at those emotions separate from who you are, then you're able to go, "Okay, I can learn from this. I can face critique. I can get insight on how to do it better. I can receive the feedback that I get and distill what of this needs to be rejected and what of this needs to be listened to, and I'm still going to know who I am separate from this work that I'm putting out. I get to look at it and understand that it's normal for me to feel both of these."

I think if we can just understand that it's normal that as we make it and after we put it out there to wonder how it’s going to be received. I still feel like that with the weekly emails I send out through my site. We can give ourselves permission to be in that moment, to not be dominated by it, to not stuff it, but to be aware and learning.

As we put ourselves out there and do that work, it is a depletion. We want to make sure that we're creating spaces in our lives that fill that emotional tank back up so we don't feel like we're doing anything that puts us on the line. I've got about seven or eight things I've listed out I need to have as a part of my rhythm, including reading and walking in the woods and trail running. If I have those as a part of my rhythm, then I'm able to gear up for the next time I'm going to put myself out there, and I'm able to recover from the times that I have done it.

Sometimes you just have to make something you want to make, market be damned. I released 2 books on the same day one time. One was a key piece of our deepest and initial coaching program. The other was an experiment narrative on 7 key mindsets. I'm so glad I made it. Here it is if you want to check it out. 

How to push through loneliness, pursue your mission, and make friends as you go.

I spent two years rabidly chasing my goals. A custom-built home at age twenty-two, a custom dream home for my family at age twenty-seven, a millionaire on paper. I spoke for large audiences and I led a nonprofit where I had a large team. And it all came crashing down. We were evicted, I could barely feed my family, and my wife sold her engagement ring. And I've spent the last eight years obsessively studying, teaching, and coaching others on what I have to remind myself of everyday. The key to finding sustainable happiness, that sustainable flow, is to unblock yourself from self-sabotage and be at your best. My goal is to guide you through fear by slowing down the moment to help you harness your energy.

Here's what I wish I had been told. I'm thirty-eight and I've been leading and building teams professionally as part of my job since I was twenty-one. This is something I've found to be true over and over again: that leadership, moving something forward, building something, and starting something doesn't have to be lonely, but yet will still feel lonely. There are going to be moments where you feel incredibly fulfilled. You've built this team, they know you, they get your jokes, and it's amazing how that feels when you've made a long climb with a team.

On the other side, there are moments when you go to bed and you carry something that nobody understands unless they've carried it, too. The tension of these realities is such that just giving voice to it is really helpful. I'm going to give you some practical ideas so that you can build powerful teams. At first, I just want you to notice this tension in your own life, what it means for you to lead something and to move something forward, to start something, build something, and that moment where you think, "Oh, wow, this feels really cool, look at these people around me, look at the people I get to hang with." There are those moments, too, where you put your head on the pillow and there's a little bit of sadness there.

I've experimented, unintentionally, with lots of different ways of interacting with and leading teams and being with people. A key mentor for me at one point, Mosey Millionaire, said, "You're too close to the people you lead." That shook me up. I thought, "Maybe he's right." He was right about a lot of things, but I came to a conclusion that he was wrong about that, which we'll get into later. For me an initial idea that I don't have time to unpack here but I want to address is healthy leaders learn the difference between an aching loneliness and solitude that can empower them.

How do you learn that? Learn what it means to sit with yourself, to explore your imagination. (Go here if you want more: http://chrismcalister.podbean.com/e/train-the-brain/) If you are the kind of person who can learn to tap into the power of your solitude, then you're not going to be internally distracted, you're going to be present and able to do what I'm going to lay out for you. There are so many stories I could share with you about times when I felt like I’d been betrayed and places I’d screwed things up, but for each of those stories there’s a hundred moments of deep laughter, drinks, meals, taking that effort that we're trying to make happen, doing that climb together, and the feeling the fulfillment of watching us make that thing go.

When you're in the beginning of building friendships or relationships, you're looking around and asking, “Where are there feelings?” If you're not internally distracted, you're going to notice little moments where you could follow a feeling to deepen a relationship. I'll give you a practical exercise at the end to do this. The closest community comes out of a shared mission built on secure identities. This is the big idea of what SightShift is about; a secure identity overflows to a clear mission and then attracts and builds healthy community. It's amazing to me that people don't understand how deep you can actually get with the people that you're pursuing a mission with. In my context, that's the people I work with and for with SightShift, it's the team that makes SightShift happen, and it's my family. Those are all shared missions.

When I jump into work with an organization, I share that mission with them. For our SightShift team, it's an adventure we're taking together, and for our family, the mission of what it means for us to enjoy life and hangout, be, relate, and develop. The first thing that you're looking around for is, where is there a feeling to follow? Where is there something that I want to reach out and ask someone something or offer something?  There's tons of different ways that feeling will surface. When you're not internally distracted, you can learn to pay attention to it. Thinking about that is a beginning point in relationships.

A middle point is as you hangout and you are with people, ask yourself where you see greatness in them. The people that I ask to join me in things are the ones where I've seen something in them that, even if they can't see it for themselves or others don't see it in them, I know is true. Ifyou're internally distracted and feeling insecure in your identity, then you're not going to be able to notice these things. You're too caught up in being distracted by the hype, and the bravado, and empty promises that people can make.

When you're secure in who you are you calm down, you see something there. There's some greatness. Then if you want to think about what makes it beneficial for them to join you in what you're trying to accomplish, they're going to pursue the mission with you. You're not just looking for the feeling, you're not just looking for the greatness, you're looking for who's around you. Who in some way is doing it with you? Who's contributing?

At the first overnight SightShift retreat, I remember being there and looking around and thinking, "Who's here helping me make this happen? Oh my gosh, so-and-so showed up and brought the food, and he cooked. He has enough success in life that he didn't have to serve in that way, but he did it because he wants to help make the mission happen." I was sitting outside taking a break and another now close friend, he wasn't at that time, came out and he sits down beside me and he goes, "How are you doing right now?" It was just an amazing feeling to pay attention to. I had already seen the greatness, and then I noticed who's around me.

I just want to say again, you will have moments where you feel lonely. You want to learn to make those empowering solitude. You also don't have to be lonely in the pursuit of the mission. The deepest relationships come out of the shared mission built on a secure identity.

Let's make it practical. How do you get started on this? What do you do? Let me give you a couple of items that you can put on a weekly to-do list and see all your relationships change.

Take out a piece of paper and at the top of the list, write, "Grow." Write three names under grow--these are relationships that you really want to grow, that you want to see something develop, that there might be something there but you're not really sure. Beside those names, write one thing you can do for them, one thing you can offer to do for them.

Look, don't make this complicated, it can be as simple as sending them a text saying, "Have a great day." Again, this is looking at the beginning part of relationships. Three names, three things to do. Now, check your motive here. This is no agenda, this is just what it means to invest and be. Seek to be a friend rather than gain a friend and you'll have tons of relationships around you.

Second, write on your list “Serve.” You're going to list the names of three people that have got your back. Now, you may not have three names you can write in there, and that's okay. In fact, it's very normal that you would have one, maybe two names. Don't write your family, don't write your mom or your dad, these are just friends. There's reasons you don't do that.

If you can't put three names down, let that be a wake-up call. This is something to struggle with and acknowledge you’re not moving relationships from an entry level point to a point of depth. Again, the more you learn how to live out of a secure identity, you will do that. If you can write three names, awesome. You 'have people who have got your back. They know what's going on in your life, they know your deep struggles, and they know how to be there for you.

Now for me, in the last ten years I have gone through three or four significant rebuilding phases. They were intense and crazy, wilderness-type experiences. During the most recent one, one of those people who I would say has my back would text me occasionally. He would say, "You still breathing?" Seven or eight years ago when I was through a deep struggle, he was reaching out then, too, asking,  "You still breathing?" He knows my battles, he knows my struggles, he knows if I go quiet I'm probably too deep in my head. This is a gift I want all leaders to experience. So many people I talked to confessed to feeling lonely. They feel lonely, they stay focused on performance, and they don't know just how to be human and let others in.

They feel that they can't share vulnerabilities, insecurities, losses, and pains. They deny their friends the honor of doing just that, being a friend. All great pursuits, missions, quests, and adventures are built on friends you can be vulnerable with. When you're moving away from proving and hiding, the desire for this will surface. What you're doing with these three names for “serve” is writing one thing you can do for them, one thing, same as the grow. It could be simple again, but you're just finding a way to keep investing in those relationships and strengthening them.

The third list I want you to write is “Share.” Under that, write one thing you're hiding and who you can share it with. This is where it gets risky, right? I talk about this in my eleventh podcast, where we go through our initial coaching program.

If you take these three lists--grow, serve, share--set this on repeat each week, and don't freak out week to week .. well, most people underestimate the power of the compounding impact of doing this weekly.

Hope this is helpful to you as you take this ten thousand step journey and enjoy the relationships, enjoy the moments that are quiet, and learn how to navigate and live in both. Peace.

You can listen to the audio of the above here. 


The 1 deep psychological reality team members are looking for

It isn’t external distractions that keep us from moving on our mission of clarity and building an awesome community.  It’s the internal distractions are the real root that we want to deal with. 

I want to talk about a universal internal distraction, why that’s there, and what to do about it.  A lot of people have had at least one experience—I know I have, and I bet you have, too—where we’ve been in an environment, a community, a group of people, where we wondered if we really fit in.  That can be your family.  That can be a place that you felt like you belonged, and then one day you wake up and make some changes and you don’t feel like you belong.  Or you wake up to the fact to maybe you really never did belong.

You can go study systems theory, but here is my way of wording it.  They would say it this way: “We need you to fulfill a certain label so we can all feel whole as a group.”  Now we can talk about that as a family or as an organization.  You know families do this all the time--you’re the tough one, you’re the funny one,   you’re the nice one …. So the idea is as if something’s stressing the family, the funny one cracks some jokes to help everybody relax.  Cause they, the funny one, fills an internal angst, about what’s happening at the moment, and they just want to help everything to calm down, they don’t want anything to fracture. 

People do this all the time, they label people, and in families the way it works is you get labeled.  And the idea is we can only feel whole as a family if you stay within your label.  Teams at work can do the same thing, companies do the same thing.  You know that this is who you are and we don’t allow people to be dynamic and change and try on different identities, roles, and ways of being.  And the reality is dynamic people are growing and changing and trying on different ways of being. 

I remember one group I was a part of when I started making some changes to the way that I presented to the group and spoke and taught and lead, and there were some people that didn’t like that. They liked the old me, they didn’t like the new me and who I was becoming.  So people would just get up and walk out when I would get up to speak, it was really, really crazy.  So I know what it’s like to be in big systems and organizations and make changes and to wonder, “How do I fit into this?”

Now the reason that happens at a fundamental level is because the company, the team, the family, whatever it is, if it’s not a healthy community then they can’t allow people to be dynamic.  And they say, “This is who you are, this is the role you’re going to fill, so stay here, run in this lane, don’t leave your lane.” 

This is why organizations, teams, and families lose their way.  Because you have to allow people to embrace change and become who they want to become.   

So I look at this when I study organizations, when I jump in with people and help them rebuild or turn something around or get something going.  The first thing that we’re looking at is what’s the motive of the leader or leaders?  It’s very easy for an unaware leader to have a mixed motivation and to make the moment about them, not the mission or not the empowerment and betterment of others. 

And so all of a sudden, now it’s all about how much they can take home, it's about how you make them feel about the job that they’re doing.   The way that the family or team is organized can lose a lot of their symbolic meaning.   When you were walking into work this morning, did you notice all the Microsoft Windows stickers on cars?  I bet not, because I have never seen a Microsoft sticker on a car.  I’m sure they’re some out there; I have seen a lot of Apple stickers on a car.  And it will be a different sticker for some tech device 10 years from now. 

Because symbols lose meaning, so do families, or teams, or communities organized around a mission and a symbol. If they are not dynamic and open to change, they get locked in and so then everything starts to lose its edge. 

Systems, organizations, families they not only lose their edge, they lose their flexibility.  They don’t understand the difference between the spirit of the law versus the letter.  Rules and hoops become things that you have to jump through, and rather than the systems serving the people, the people serve the systems. 

Politics come into play as things begin to degrade more, then you have more systems set up.  And people aren’t holding themselves accountable for results or moving their individualities, or growing, because they’re afraid of losing some kind of power.  They’re not worried about developing others; they’re worried about getting the spotlight.

Over and over, as a team or an organization or a family has degraded or loses its way, the collateral damage happens. The greatest price is the people.  The people get forgotten.  And that’s really the third distraction I want to talk to you about today. 

When you feel forgotten, why do you feel forgotten?  Because of all of what I just went through.  They never had a vision to help people.  Or they lost their way, or that family was dysfunctional from the beginning, whatever it is. And they basically were saying to all the people involved, “you’re an object, stay in your lane, be this kind of person, we just need you to do this.”  And then you either started making some changes, you start leading differently, or it was an unhealthy environment and you were just never noticed for who you are. 

I can get kind of weird about when I run into people at the grocery store.  Sometimes if I see people and I feel like my energy is kind of low, because I’m kind of an extrovert-introvert mix.  I will actually duck into an isle and avoid having a conversation.  Just because I feel bad just giving a, “Hey, how’s it going?” I want to invest a lot of energy into people. 

To duck into an isle hide like that … I grew up in the south, that’s a big no-no, you’re supposed to say, “Hi” to people, always.  And that’s a bit too syrupy for me.  So I don't judge New Yorkers, I get it.  When you’re boxed in with a lot of people, you have to save your energy, and not always making eye contact helps you do that. 

But here’s the thing: if you’re a part of a team that I’m leading, an organization I'm building, or a family that I’m growing, I will seek you out and I will give you energy.   Why? Because I don't want people to feel forgotten. At the end of the day, remember that people are looking for a home, they want to belong.  And the foundation of the team is a group of people who feel that they belong as they rally around a shared mission. 

If you're in a space where you feel forgotten, it will block up your ability to move at your mission and to build the community that you want to build.  Because you'll be worried about how you're being noticed.  And when you can learn within yourself to know that, no external group can fully say to you,” I see you, I hear you, and I feel you.”  So you know that you belong internally, and with your internal then you can create external belonging for others.  Then you can fulfill one of your main responsibilities as a team leader, as a builder of others. 

You can communicate your body language, your tone, your speech or facial mannerisms, your leadership diligence in preparation, “I’m glad you're here.”  It will feel awkward. When you're unlearning years of avoiding people at the grocery store, it feels a little weird sometimes to celebrate others.  But I promise you this: when you know how it feels to be celebrated, you will want to give it to others. 

Are there people that overdo it? Absolutely!  Are there syrupy grouse people?  Yes!  We’re not talking about doing that, but we are talking about doing whatever you got to do, so that you can learn to help people feel like they belong. 

I’ll go first: I felt that way about you.  If you're here reading this, I'm glad you’re here.  I want you to know it.

But why don’t more leaders do a better job celebrating others?  Because they’re distracted--their own need to be known has them internally distracted.  They’re suffocating, they fear that they are forgotten, and so they can’t give what they don’t have.  They can’t celebrate others until they learn to celebrate themselves. 

So today, give yourself the gift of being known.  Fully see, hear, and feel your current reality.  Talk to yourself about it if you need to,  in a kind gentle way, then give that gift others, try it.  Give one of these to one person today: “I see you, I hear you, I feel you.” 

Learn to listen to how they’re describing their life or their situation and in matching that language.  This is taught in other methods, it's called building rapport.  If you hear somebody describing something and they’re saying, “Hey, do you see what I’m saying?”  just say, “Yes, I see what you’re saying.”  If they’re saying, “Do you feel me?”  say, “Yes I feel you.”  Use the language that they are using and them help feel known.  You’re not forgotten; let others know they’re not forgotten.  Have an awesome rest of the day.  Peace. 

Listen to the above in audio here

Management exists because desire is missing

Management exists where desire is missing

My children have chores and passions. One of my daughters loves make up. One loves gymnastics. One loves video editing. They all work on their passions without me asking. And they have chores. If they don't do their chores they don't get their phones for the week. The system ensures we don't fight over them doing their chores. And I've never had to put a system in place for their passions. 

Management exists because passion doesn't. When passion isn't present, you've got to add all these layers of bureaucracy and infrastructure. Not only does that apply to corporations. It applies to your life. We're going to talk about both.

And this is about more than just "follow your passion". Frankly that feels glib. 

You may be in a space where you have tons of bureaucracy and infrastructure, and you really don't have a lot of choice in how your day goes. For some of you, you have so much choice, all that empowerment can be overwhelming. You don’t know what to do with this time or how to get really focused and move your business from a defensive position to an offensive position and do something that differentiates and makes the biggest impact on moving the mission forward.

How do we get to a place where we don't have to have lots of bureaucracy and infrastructure for our lives or for the ventures that we're leading? In managing a lot of employees, I can tell you that if it wasn't something they were passionate about, I had to add more reward and punishment layers, more structured systems.

I'm not saying systems aren't important. We like systems. They help us. I love building routines and adding flow to my life. As organizations develop, there are layers that need to be added that help everything stay focused so it doesn't drift.

It goes back to Dan Pink, the work that he did called Drive. It was a study that they found that everybody wants three things in their work. They want autonomy, mastery, and meaning. They want their work to have meaning, to contribute to a larger purpose. They want to be able to master a skill that they're passionate about growing in. And they want autonomy. They want freedom to structure how they grow in that. That's what we all want.

So much of the process is overlooked in how people develop, how they become truly aware of what their passion is. The fact is that you're going to gravitate towards your desires. If you don't get to live those out, you're going to be angry and unfulfilled.

This is what people skip over so often: You've got to figure out you. If you can't figure out you, you're never going to have that sense of awareness of what your desires are. You need to let your desires rage You might be in a job where you don't get to structure a lot of your time the way you want to, but you want to think through the margins. You may even have family commitments--and I don't even have a lot of margin there--but you want to build a routine around my passions.

You see I said that word “routine.” I'm not saying I'm anti-structure and -system, where you just wake up and you got to go, "I'm just going to go wherever I float." No, I'm going to build the routines around my passions.

Recently, my family and I moved. I've loved trail running for the last couple of years, but we're now further from a trail that I really loved. I tried road running around here, and it just isn't working for me for a number of reasons. I've changed my morning routine up. I'm picking a gym that has a sauna, sitting in 200 degrees for 20 minutes. It gives that feeling of going out for a six-mile run in the heat. I'm doing some other things, fitness wise, but I've tried to figure out what am I passionate about, where I want to be, and how I structure around that.

For so many people, they're trying to impose something they really don't want to do on themselves because they're not in touch with who they are. They don't know how to let their desires rage. They may do that with their fitness. They may do that with diet. They may do that with work. There's a ton of different ways do things. Everybody's trying to oftentimes sell what they think you should do.

Before I buy a book on Amazon, I'll search in the word search how many times they used the word “should.” I want to know if they found something that worked for them and they're trying to push that on me, or if they found something that worked for them and they're going to teach me the bigger ideas and principles behind it. The best books don't have lots of “should” in them, if any.

Everybody finds what works for them, and if it's really successful but they can't teach people the bigger principles and ideas behind it, they're going to limit the people that they're helping to the pathway they found. What is awesome about lifeis finding your path, figuring out who you are, and becoming free of the pressure around you that says you need to live your life a certain way. You're going to have that pressure. It's just finding an internal core that's strong enough to not be dictated by it.

I'm going to build a flow to my week. I'm going to think through it: how do I want my morning to look that sets up my day? How do I want to structure my week so that I've got time for things that I don't want to do? Maybe it’s running errands or admin stuff or just things that pop up in the normal rhythm of a young family. I'm going to have time in my week for that, so I don't get irritated and uptight, but I'm going to have time to create stuff. I'm going to have time to move things forward. It's going to be built around desire.

Now sometimes it's getting in touch with that desire in a way that's beyond the immediate. I could say I love helping people figure out who they are apart from what they do. I love that. I could jump in the immediate desire and just help people all day, every day, but not actually build things that are developing the business or creating the infrastructure, or developing future streams or channels of influence where I want to spread this message.

When I'm in touch with my desires, I understand that I'm doing this work that I love doing, but I also want to think about ways to do it at a scale that's beyond what's happening now. The desires could be competing within me. On Wednesday, I'm going to go do coaching meetings and have an absolute blast. It's going to be very fulfilling. Then Thursday hits. I need to do some work where I keep my butt in the seat and create some content. The immediate gratification may be a lot stronger, from a desire standpoint, if I just say I'm going to fill up my day with meetings again and hang out and help people. But I'm going to miss out on a long term desire that I have, which is some family goals, some financial goals, and some business goals.

If you want to get into the depth of that, let the desires rage. Whether you're in layers of bureaucracy, whether you feel trapped with so many failed attempts at structuring all kinds of good habits that you'd like to build into your life, learn who you are, learn what you want. Let the desires rage and build the systems and routines around that.

Learn about building your best morning here in a workshop. 

Figure out your desires in a book I wrote: 

5 daily actions to unleash an engaged and healthy team

(Check In With Their Personal Lives) 
Your team is made up of human beings. People have their own lives outside of work. 
It’s OK to be friends with your species. 
Give your team space to communicate about the joys, pressures and activities happening outside of the workplace. Give your team the gift of being seen and known for who they really are. 
One of my clients does this by spending the first 15 minutes of his meetings to simply check in with his core team. Another accomplishes this by setting a weekly reminder on his phone to check in with specific people about what’s going on in their lives. 
(Bonus: If you’re using your phone to communicate with your team, try using the BOND iPhone app to schedule check-in reminders with key folks). 
(Force Self Care) 
The better your team members are at caring for themselves, the more likely they’ll be energetic team members rather than draining team members. 
Has one of your team members been working hard? Buy something that will help them relax and care for themselves (massages, a cabin rental for them and their spouse or paying for a month of having a cleaning team come to their home goes a long, long way). 
A friend of mine takes special notice when a team is tired. He has them go on a walk together. Another friend of mine hires me (hint... hint...) to work with his team members to teach them how to be their own source of self-care. 
It’s no accident that standing desks, fresh fruit & vegetables, corporate yoga sessions and mid-day naps are all trending right now. All of the latest data and research demonstrates companies that help their employees care for themselves are more likely to keep high level talent. 
(Observe How They Engage Their Tasks) 
Does your teammate need to listen to Metallica to get excited about their weekly reports? Do they brag to their friends about how experimental and innovative their projects are? Is the pressure of a deadline (or a missed quota) necessary to motivate them to make sales calls? 
Finding these subtle clues will help you lead your team to be consistent in their execution. 
Once you pay attention to the way they best engage with their tasks, you’ll learn to give them space to work as they work best. 
Do they like to have a week to research and poke through best practices before creating a strategy? Do they prefer to work on everything in one creative burst? Do they find pleasure in checking-off small parts of a task-list OR do they prefer two or three large tasks per day? 
Paying attention to their daily rhythm will help you learn the right timing and tone to delegate to your team. 
(Scan Through Your Direct Reports) 
Who is directly reporting to you? 
Make a list in a simple text document and leave it on your computer desktop or print it off and keep it with you. 
Scan through this list on a regular basis - daily or weekly will do just fine - and allow the scan to serve as a prompt. 
If they’re not hearing from you the space will be filled in with negativity. Asking yourself “Does this person know what is in my head?” will help keep you proactive and keep communication channels open. 
(Invest Your Best In Those Responsible For Success)
Does your team know what metric is the largest indicator for success? Is it total sales? Or returning customers? Or net-promoter score? 
Make sure that metric is defined and agreed upon. Now ask, “Are the people responsible for this metric getting the best of my investment?” 
Investing in the people who are the core of your organization is key. Let them know they’re critical, that they make a difference and just how meaningful their work is for the company.

Ultimately healthy teams are led by healthy leaders. A healthy me makes a healthy we.

Learn to master yourself here: