Category Archives: Leadership and Success

Focus on Abilities, Not Obstacles – Trystan Willems

My friend recently shared the story of a professor who handed out an exam to all of his students – one plain piece of paper with a black dot on it. There were no questions – nothing but a black dot. He then told them to write about what they saw. At the end of the exam he collected all of the papers and started reading each one out loud. Without exception, every student was focused on the black dot, what it meant, how it was positioned on the paper, etc.

After all of the reading was done, he said: “I’m not going to grade you on this; I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same thing happens in our lives.”

We all have this tendency to focus on what is wrong, what is different, and all of the obstacles in our lives, rather than focusing on the enormous white space – our blessings, our potential, and our abilities.

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At a Life Convention earlier this year, a young man named Trystan Willems provided a true picture of what it looks like to focus on the “white space” of life. Trystan overcame an enormous obstacle when he spoke to an audience of thousands of people… without even having the ability to move his lips.

Trystan was born with Cerebral Palsy which is a neurological disorder that affects body movement, muscle coordination, and impairs motor function. It affects all people differently. For Trystan, it affects his speech, his legs, his muscle tone, and his trunk. For years, he has been trapped in his own body.

Trystan would have every reason to focus on his obstacles, but he chooses not to. Instead, with the help of an advanced communication device that detects eye movement using pictures and words, Trystan is now able to speak and inspire the world with his positive attitude and outlook on life.

“Once in a great while someone comes along who deeply inspires us; smiling in the face of adversity, overcoming obstacles, and choosing to live a life of contribution despite the circumstances. Trystan is one of finest in that class of people who make us better just by being around them.” – Chris Brady

At almost every junction on the road of your life, both personal and professional, you have a decision to make. Will you let your obstacles stop you and dictate your life? Or will you charge forward focusing on your abilities?

Trystan Willems is a true living example of a person who is charging forward and changing the world because he has decided to focus on his abilities. Here’s his story (in his own words).

(Written by Kristen Seidl on behalf of Chris Brady)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Leadership: Don’t Scam Yourself

“Sometimes You Need Outside Eyes”

Lead Yourself Through Life: Perspective

This talk was obviously part of a longer piece of teaching, but I think it stands by itself as a great reminder that we often are too close to a problem to find its answer.  When faced with a conundrum that appears to have you beat, try the following:

1. Attempt to gain a new perspective. Take a look at the situation through a different lens, or, as in the case with my 9 year old son, through someone else’s eyes.

2. Take a break.  As I said in my book, A Month of Italy, sometimes you need to get away in order to get a way.  This means that often, as soon as we break with our normal routine and take some time out, our brains, allowed the freedom to work on the problem in the background, will eventually pop out an answer.  So sometimes, paradoxically, the best way to solve a problem is to do nothing about it for a while!

3. Seek new combinations.  The late Steve Jobs once said that all innovation is really just creative combination.  So ask yourself what new things you can mix together that have never been tried. Often the solution is not a stand alone thing, but rather a blending of a couple of your best ideas.

Live Your life with eyes wide open

Mark Twain once called himself a “prodigious noticer.”  I love that phrase. It encourages us to make active observation a normal practice. When you look, really see.  When you listen, really hear. Try to take in your surroundings in a fresh way, opening your senses to things you might be missing.  And above all, live your life with eyes wide open.

So don’t scam yourself out of a rich and abundant life by seeing only what you are used to seeing. Remember these simple techniques and see and feel anew the world around you.  Not only might it help you unlock answers to nagging problems, but it will for sure lead to the living of a richer and more fulfilling life.

Rock on!

Chris Brady

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Keys to Happiness: A Life Leadership Commentary


Sincerely,
Chris Brady

Success in Networking: Finding the Right People

 

Sincerely,

Chris Brady

3 Lessons for Developing a World Class Organization

Life Leadership

Personal Management – The Business of Your Life

Your Life is Your Business

John Wooden, record-setting coach of the UCLA basketball team and one of the most successful coaches in any sport, wrote, “Activity – to produce real results – must be organized and executed meticulously. Otherwise, it’s no different from children running around the playground at recess. Time, used correctly, is among your most potent assets. For many leaders, however, it seems otherwise. The months, weeks, and minutes are ill defined and almost intangible in their minds, evaporating without leaving a trace of achievement behind. In the mind of those leaders whose organizations get things done, time is tangible, a commodity as touchable as gold. The success of my leadership was directly linked to using time wisely. Respect time, and it will respect you.”

This is personal management of the highest magnitude. Note that any consideration of personal management necessarily involves a focus on what you are doing with your time. But it also involves other aspects, such as how you think, the management of your attitude, and your overall hunger to accomplish your purpose.

There are a few practical things to seek out in order to maintain the highest level of personal management, and thereby keep yourself fully locked into productive life habits:

  1. Informational Reinforcement – to stay sharp and continue learning and growing, one needs to be plugged into a source of information pertaining to the craft at hand. Read all you can about your pursuit. Listen to audio recordings as well. Peruse trade magazines and familiarize yourself with any and all websites of authority pertaining to your field. Find out if there are events or symposiums, concerts or competitions that you can attend and use as educational experiences. Gathering and digesting all the information you can get your hands on for your particular area of chosen mastery will keep you fresh and be a shortcut forward in your development.
  1. Relational Reinforcement – There is an old joke that goes like this: “Two idiots and one genius go into a room together. After a period of time, out come three idiots.” Beyond being funny, it clearly demonstrates the power of association with others. Choose your associations wisely (as the wrong ones can be incredibly wrong). Make sure you are hanging around with people who are experts in the endeavor you are pursuing. Find yourself a Mr. Miyagi and wash the heck out of his car, sand his floors until they shine, and paint his fence like Tom Sawyer’s friends. The reinforcement you get from mentors and experts in your field will quiet the voices of dissent around you who don’t understand what you’re doing or why.
  1. Self-Talk – in one of the odder techniques available, many of the top masters in their fields long ago had to learn to stop listening to themselves and instead begin talking to themselves. This is because our minds are quickly capable of “going negative” on us, and, believe it or not, our own words to ourselves are very powerful. For this reason, practice the art of positive self-talk. This can be done through affirmation statements and memorized phrases of encouragement (Bible verses are also good for this) to keep yourself focused and provide a quick re-centering when your wheels begin to wobble.

Sincerely,

Chris Brady

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Originality: What Do You Have?

In 1923 a member of the board of directors for Lloyd’s Bank in London asked a literary expert at a party: “You may know of one of our employees who is, I understand, a poet. Mr. Eliot.”

To which the reply was given: “Indeed I do. He is a very remarkable poet.”

“I am glad to hear it. He is also most proficient in banking. Indeed, I don’t mind telling you that, if he goes on in his present way, he will one day be a senior bank manager!”

Thankfully for fans of literature the world over, T.S. Eliot didn’t settle merely for what he could become, but instead pressed forward to what he should become.

We have discussed the elements of meaning and scandal as they relate to leaving a legacy. These two opposite poles should be ever present in our minds as we live out our lives. We should strive to matter as much as we possibly can, and guard ourselves against the inevitable temptations that would come along and cheapen our accomplishments. But leaving a legacy is much more complex and multi-faceted than all of that. There are other elements that must be part of the mix. Primary among these is originality. There are many things we can do, but probably only one that we were born to do.

Your Personal Brand

It happened to you and it’s uniquely yours. No one else has your story. No one else has your particular mixture of experience and ability. Not only did God make you unique in all your parts, but also the life he lets you live is just as uniquely yours. Nobody else experiences the world in exactly the same way as you. These concepts are important to understand, because they form the basis of your personal brand.

What is a personal brand?

A personal brand is whatever you do or bring to the world that is entirely and uniquely yours. Perhaps surprisingly, the more you stick to what is uniquely yours and the more authentic you are in what you do, the more interesting it is to others and the more marketable it is.

Allow me to give an example.

My wife Terri Brady is a very interesting person with a compelling personal brand. Beyond all the foundational things that attracted me to her back in our college days (her love of the Lord, her values and her upbringing, her beauty, her courage, her playfulness, her native intelligence, her musical gifts, and above all, her undeniable wisdom in choosing me!), she has lived an incredibly interesting and inspiring life. Her list of brand experiences include prolonged infertility, surviving a life threatening brain tumor, engineering degree and work experience, home schooling four children, a consistent record of physical fitness, mastery of multiple musical instruments, dedication to serving in the name of Christ, leading and mentoring many other women, high level entrepreneurship and business ownership, fabulous public speaking to audiences around the world, a very popular blog, not to mention being married to a rascal like me!

In addition to these unique experiences, many of which were beyond her control, the way in which she carried herself through them is even more impressive. The trials came without complaint, and the victories came without conceit. If you wrap all these things together you’ve got one incredible woman with a lot to share. All of these pieces together comprise Terri’s personal brand. They make her interesting. They give weight to what she teaches. They give power to what she says.

Now, what would happen if Terri tried to teach people about scuba diving? Or produce a product focused on fashion? It wouldn’t work. It’s simply not her. It doesn’t fit her brand, and people would sense it subconsciously, rejecting it as false or insincere.

The purpose of this example (beyond a shameless ploy to get points with my wife) is to demonstrate that who we are at the core, in the most authentic version of ourselves, is what we should focus on bringing to the world. When you do precisely that, you will be the most fulfilled. It’s when you are doing exactly what you were built to do with the specific gifts God gave you that you feel the most alive. Any time you stray away from this reality you feel less yourself, less alive, less real. Further, though, it is when you strike this authentic chord that the world takes notice. People only want the best you have to offer, nothing less.

The Margaritaville Concept

Jimmy Buffett is an overwhelmingly successful musician and entertainer. He has attracted a following of fanatical fans who dress up in crazy costumes and follow him around on concert tours. He has sold millions and millions of dollars worth of music and books. He has a string of successful restaurants and a clothing line. He even has a channel on satellite radio! Over the course of more than four decades,

Jimmy Buffett has assembled a massive entertainment empire. And really, when it gets right down to it, he did it all with just one song.

If you listen to Buffett’s early music, you will notice that it doesn’t really match his brand. Most of the songs are serious, the topics are ordinary, and it’s obvious that in those early days he hadn’t really struck the chord of his true authentic gift, of his personal brand that would someday delight millions. Brent Webster, a musician friend from Buffett’s very early days, said about how badly Buffett wanted to break into the music scene: “The impression was, he was trying too hard. His exuberance preceded him.”

Twenty-six record companies rejected Buffett. Capitol Records executive Joe Allison said of Buffett in those days, “He pitched some stuff to me, but it wasn’t anything I could ever use. His stuff is so off the wall it’s hard to think of somebody else doing it. He didn’t write like everybody else, he was really different.”

As soon as Buffett released the song Margaritaville (originally to be titled Wastin’ Away Again in Margaritaville, but changed by Buffett at the last minute), he had found his authentic swing – an escapism genre that whisked people away from their cold, boring lives and put them in the warm tropical sun. According to Steve Eng, “Jimmy’s deepening commitment to Caribbean imagery was at once separating him from mere country-rock and from new-hippie folkpop. By the mid-Seventies, Jimmy was setting, not following, a musical trend.” The song Margaritaville would win the 1977 BMI pop award, the 1978 country award, and the “Three Million Air Award” for that number of radio plays that year. All of this was pretty impressive, but it was only the beginning. The most important part was that Buffett had not only struck upon his true, original gift, but he quickly recognized it. Ever since, with each and every album, song, book, restaurant, and clothing line, Buffett has exploited this very original personal brand.

The image we get here is of an ambitious young musician working hard to make it, searching for his particular and unique personal brand, and then gradually combining all the elements of his life interests into his music. Eng wrote, “Jimmy claims that the Florida Keys theme of his albums wasn’t planned, it just evolved naturally.” It may have evolved, but once it did, and he discovered this original niche, he built upon it relentlessly.

Imagine going to a Jimmy Buffett concert. You take in the enthusiastic crowd; you sing along with some of the songs, you feel relaxed and happy as you too escape to the islands for a few fun figurative moments. But what would happen if Buffett finished up his concert and failed to play the song Margaritaville? You would not only feel disappointed, you’d feel cheated. Buffett has to perform that song at every concert because it is the classic embodiment of his personal brand, and Buffett, being the consummate entertainer and crowd pleaser, knows this better than anyone.

This principle applies everywhere. How disappointed would people be if Stephen King came out with a marriage book? Or if Dave Barry released a serious novel? Or if Michael Jordan left basketball to play, I don’t know, let’s say baseball? These people, and every successful person in every walk of life, have succeeded by finding their true authentic gift and then giving it over and over again with gusto.

Which brings us back to you.

What is (or could be) your unique brand?

What are your particular foundational gifts?

What are your unique experiences?

How have you grown as a result, and what can you give out of it?

What innate talents has God given you that are yours?

What makes you feel the most alive?

What makes you feel the most fulfilled?

What things do you do that seem to bring the most accolades from people?

What could be your Margaritaville?

The key is to know yourself, to know what you have. You may not be able to answer these questions just yet, and as was true for the entertainers we have considered in this chapter, it might take years for you to discover. But I guarantee that if you answer these questions and package all of this together, you will be at least heading in the right direction. Knowing that you should be looking to discover this idea about yourself is a great starting point.

Whether this means you will write books, blog, create music, speak on stages, preach, start a company, paint, organize something, play sports, become a surgeon, lead a charity, invent a new technology, or whatever, if you line things up to be a product of who you are and what you uniquely can contribute, you will succeed. You may not be a musician, but you’ve got your own, original figurative song to sing. You may not do what you do in the public eye, but you still have a personal brand to be discovered and built upon. I truly believe that everyone has his own Margaritaville waiting to be discovered. By this, I mean that you will find meaning and fulfillment in contributing something that only you can contribute.

Don’t live anyone else’s life for even a minute. Live yours. It’s unique. Find your Margaritaville and then sing it with all you’ve got until you can’t sing anymore. Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, said, “. . . what this spun-out, overhyped world is absolutely famished for is a little genuine personality.”

I promise, there will be fans cheering for your authentic output. There will always be a market for your original best.

Sincerely,

Chris Brady

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