Our perception is our reality.
Early in our lives and careers, we have not experienced enough to view ourselves in the context of our true potential.
It is only by stretching ourselves that we realize our capability and capacity are not finite. They grow with use – like any other muscle.
What experience and time give us is that realization. When we can look back on years of trial and error, to our accomplishments and the investment required to achieve them.
We gain perspective of our own ability and that of others.
Consider our talent to be like a scalpel. Early in our careers, it is in inexperienced hands and can yield unexpected results if used improperly or impatiently. Later, we can operate with precision.
Experience allows us to use our skills with purpose and intent, guided with an ability to recognize nuance, push forward or throttle back. We may start out with one speed – go, go, go! Experience allows us better maneuverability and control of our power.
Yet, if we are young and inexperienced, we do not need to despair. Mentors and insightful leaders are the key to focusing, honing and stretching our talents, until we are in the position to do that for ourselves and others.
Consider every successful person you’ve heard of. Every one of them looks back and credits mentors for helping them expand their perspective and tap into their potential. With the rise of social media, technology is an easy place to see young success stories. None of them got there alone, and they still have help today.
I met my first mentor when I was 16. He worked with my father, and I knew him as just another civilian manager at the military R&D facility.
When I began working for the Marine Corps at 19, he provided invaluable guidance on my education and job focus. Ultimately, I ended up working for him and he introduced me to my first projects to lead, as well as my first team to build.
Each step seemed like a giant leap forward. There was no one else on a path like mine and I was unsure I could succeed. His confidence in my potential pushed me forward, until I could push myself.
Mentors’ ability to perceive us as we CAN be, versus our current state, is that makes them invaluable throughout our journey. No matter how far we’ve come, someone else can view us with a different lens, seeing our potential horizons from a better vantage point.
At any stage of our life and career, we always have the ability to do more, to stretch the muscles of our capability and capacity. Mentors are the key to unlocking that potential until we can unlock our own. And even then, they may point us to new doors.
Are you just starting out in your career, or are you well on your way? Please share how mentors have helped you see yourself differently, or otherwise guided your journey, in the comments. If you found this article insightful, please consider sharing it on social media.
R-rated leadership? I’m not suggesting that r-rated behaviors or language are appropriate for the office (though I don’t know that the occasional F-bomb ever hurt anyone).
There shouldn’t be samurai swords or splattering blood. No flying body parts or burning folks with cigarette lighters.
Nope. Deadpool’s antics are not appropriate for young viewers or office parties.
Deadpool is considered one of the more foul-mouthed and mercenary of Marvel’s superheroes. While super, he’s definitely more anti than hero.
Yet he has a cult following, who were prepared to lift the recent movie to great heights, or watch it crash and burn. Given opening weekend returns, it’s clear the movie – with all it’s r-rated violence and profanity – gave fans what they wanted.
Deadpool’s Unexpected Learnings
Superheroes inspire. They represent the kind of people we want to be, even if we don’t wear a cape or have special powers.
Leaders are the superheroes among us. The best leaders, the ones we admire and want to emulate have similar characteristics:
- Helping people by putting the needs of their teams first
- Accomplishing the impossible, though more often through rallying and aligning others than via superpowers
- Possession of a strong moral fiber and work ethic; they do the right thing
Deadpool doesn’t fit the traditional role of leader. It would be easy to dismiss him as a bad role-model and an anti-hero, made for laughs instead of learning.
For a long time, the world wasn’t ready for Deadpool’s brand of hero. They are now. Only after years and score of humorous, attractive, clean cut or manageably off-center heroes. Now we have one that jumped off a cliff and flipped us the bird on the way down.
Deadpool may be an unusual role-model. But if you think he represents all that could go wrong in a leader, you need to look past the red suit and swords, to the man underneath.
There are tools all around us. The possibilities are endless to expand our toolkit. If only we can see the tools for what they are.
We can attend classes, conferences, tweetchats, or webinars. Read books, articles or blogs. Consume new methodologies, models, and templates.
They are all potential tools, and the day we stop expanding our toolkit is the day we limit our effectiveness as leaders and problem solvers.
Each of these tools offers an opportunity to create a new insight. The “a-ha” moments that often put prior challenges into context and open us to see and address new ones.
Every time I glean a new insight, I start to see related opportunities everywhere. While these insights are empowering, Maslow (of the hierarchy of needs fame) cautions us:
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
In order to see more than nails, we need more than hammers. There should be no “just” or “only” when describing our toolkit. Our tools must be as varied as the challenges we will face. To be prepared, we must invest ahead of those challenges.
No matter the method – reading a book or someone else’s synopsis of it, attending a conference or watching a live stream of it online – opening ourselves to new insights ensures we are not one-trick ponies. We are only as versatile as our toolkit prepares us to be.
In preparing for the new year, I recently ordered a few books*, mostly inspired by my trip in December to the Mass Conference for Women:
I’m following Michael Hyatt’s advice and moving away from my Kindle for my non-fiction reading. Why? To take notes, use them as visual reference, and put them on my bookshelf at work to inspire others.
After all, if each new insight spawns opportunity, someone I meet will soon need each of them. I have loaned out my physical copies of other inspiring books many times over the years. That hasn’t happened for those that I have hidden away on Kindle. Sometimes, our toolkit needs to stay old school.
What are you attending, reading or doing to build your toolkit this year? Please share your goals in the comments and, if you found this article of interest, consider sharing it on social media.
*affiliate links included
At the 2015 Mass Conference for Women, one of the interactive booths included an artist storyteller. She asked the question “What advice do you wish you had as a college freshman?”
Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about that question. I spent a lot of time struggling, during college and in the decades since, with interpersonal interactions.
I wish someone had been able to help me see myself accurately. Ultimately, to share one book, which made me a better leader and better human being.
An artful collection of advice at Mass Conference for Women
I have spent much of my life feeling like Cassandra. Cassandra was the daughter of the King of Troy, who predicted their fall to the Greeks. She was cursed by Apollo to know the future, but not to be believed.
Our mindset controls our reality, in more ways than most of us likely appreciate.
When we have a positive outlook, we invite positive people, interactions, opportunities and outcomes into our lives. The same is true when we have a negative outlook, only in reverse.
Recently, I was asked for advice from someone who feared she was setup to fail on a new assignment. As we spoke, she kept reiterating what she wasn’t getting, and that the math did not add up to success. She wondered if she should be looking for a new role.
I shared the following pieces of advice, that I feel serve me well in any situation, regardless of the level of challenge or complexity:
- Failure is how you look at it. It is not in my lexicon. I may stumble. I may fall. I will win or I will learn, but as long as I get up and keep moving, I have not failed.
- There is always another way to look at the problem. In projects, a given scope, at a given quality level, will require a particular amount of time and money. If there is not enough time or money, I get creative in how I deliver the scope.
- Engage, prioritize and be transparent. If the scope, time and money are all set and creative options seem impossible, talk with the customer to understand what is most important. I prioritize that work and am transparent about what I CAN do, rather than focusing on what I can’t.
- Success is delivering in the tough times. Anyone can deliver when times are good. Successful people are ultimately those that deliver when times are lean. Always try to deliver more than what is asked, earlier than needed, for less than expected. It serves me well when a company’s financial situation changes.
After all of this, I had one more piece of advice. Leave. If you are already convinced it can’t be done, and you won’t be successful…you are right. On the other hand, if you are convinced you can figure it out – which your leadership clearly thinks if they assigned you this work – then stay. It is only with that mindset that success is possible.
Your mindset is what determines your success, as much or more than your circumstances.
Have you experienced situations where your mindset made the difference between success and failure? Please share your experience in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it on social media.