Tag Archives: Leadership

The Lesson of Discernment

The following excerpt was taking from Chris Brady‘s popular book, Leadership Lessons from the Age of Fighting Sail.

Leaders must cultivate the ability to make good decisions. This requires the ability to discern between multiple options that may all appear to have near-equal merit. It will also occasionally require going against accepted procedures or violating orders. Rules are a double-edged sword; great leaders understand both edges and make their decisions accordingly. Discernment comes with experience and a clear understanding of principles and objectives. Leaders who comprehend the bigger picture and their role in it develop the ability to discern between the challenging choices with which they are confronted.

Illustration: The Failure to Conquer Sailors’ Worst Enemy

To sailors in the age of fighting sail, there was an enemy to be feared more than rival combatants, cannon fire, musket balls, grapeshot, and cutlasses combined. Between 1500 and 1800, this enemy is estimated to have killed at least two million sailors. During the eighteenth century, this enemy killed more British sailors than enemy action. In George Anson’s voyage of 1740–1742, this enemy killed more than two-thirds of his crew (1,300 out of 2,000) within the first ten months of the voyage. During the Seven Years’ War (1754–1763), the Royal Navy enlisted 184,999 sailors, of which 133,708 were killed by this enemy.

If you were responsible for the lives of sailors during this time, you would think that conquering this enemy would be your number-one priority. But strangely, naval leaders put far more focus on tactics and strategies for capturing enemy ships and sailors than on this killer.

The enemy I’m referring to is scurvy. A disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which causes malaise, lethargy, skin spots, spongy gums and loss of teeth, bleeding from the mucous membranes, neuropathy, and, most important, death, scurvy has a fascinating history. Over the centuries, cures for scurvy have been repeatedly discovered and then forgotten.

The disease was first documented by Hippocrates as early as the fifth century BC. Crusaders in the thirteenth century suffered frequently from scurvy. In Vasco da Gama’s 1497 expedition, sailors understood that citrus fruit had a curative effect on the disease. In 1536, while exploring the St. Lawrence River in Canada, the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his men were saved from the disease by local natives, who taught them to make a tea from the needles of White Cedar trees, which are high in vitamin C. In 1593, Admiral Sir Richard Hawkins taught his men to drink orange and lemon juice to prevent scurvy.

Without being able to isolate vitamin C, doctors and scientists did not understand why these acidic substances cured scurvy but only that they were effective. In 1614, John Woodall, Surgeon General of the East India Company, published a handbook for apprentice surgeons aboard company ships in which he recommended fresh food when available and when not, oranges, lemons, limes, and tamarinds—and, as a last resort, sulfuric acid. (The belief was that the acid, not vitamin C, had the curative effect, and therefore any acid would do.) Physician Johann Bachstrom published a book on scurvy in 1734, stating that “scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens, which is alone the primary cause of the disease”3 and urging the use of fresh fruits and vegetables as a cure.

In the 1740s, James Lind began clinical trials—the first controlled experiments in the history of medicine—to discover the cause and a cure for the disease. By 1747, he had proven that scurvy could be treated and prevented with citrus fruit. He officially published his findings in 1753 and then attempted to sell lime juice as a medicine. But because the vitamin C in his juice became oxidized, it had no effect in treating scurvy, and therefore the Royal Navy did not adopt the solution until the 1790s. The belief that any acid would have a curative effect on scurvy persisted in Britain into the late nineteenth century.

The first major long-distance voyage without a fatal outbreak of scurvy was made by Spanish naval officer Alessandro Malaspina, whose medical officer, Pedro González, was convinced that fresh oranges and lemons prevented the disease. It wasn’t until the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) that scurvy was finally eradicated from the Royal Navy, due to the efforts of Gilbert Blane, the chairman of the Royal Navy’s Sick and Hurt Board, who implemented the use of fresh lemons. Interestingly, the remarkable health improvement that ensued among sailors played a critical role in subsequent naval battles, notably the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1867, the British passed the Merchant Shipping Act, which required all ships of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to provide a daily lime ration to sailors to prevent scurvy. The term “limey,” referring to British sailors, derives from this practice.

But even after the 1867 act, British sailors continued to suffer from scurvy well into the twentieth century. The reasons were because the belief still prevailed that the acid did the trick, and much of the lime juice used aboard ships was exposed to light and air, thus oxidizing and reducing the vitamin C content. In fact, in 1918, an experiment was performed using samples of the Navy and Merchant Marine’s lime juice and showed that it had virtually no antiscorbutic power. It wasn’t until the belief that scurvy was a nutritional deficiency, best treated by eating fresh food, particularly fresh citrus or fresh meat, became universal in the early twentieth century that scurvy began disappearing for good. The reason why was not discovered until ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was isolated in 1932 by Hungarian biochemist Szent-Györgyi and found to be the antiscorbutic agent (rather than mere acid).

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Understanding and Application

This may seem like somewhat of an odd example to use for the principle of discernment. But when you think about it, it’s actually quite a profound and useful example. When more sailors are dying from scurvy than combat, wouldn’t you think that you should pour resources into finding a cure for the disease?

One primary job of a leader is to discern where resources are needed the most to have the greatest impact on the objectives. This example is akin to a software company today pouring all its resources into creating superior technology when its people are leaving in droves because of a diseased culture. In this case, superior technology depends on a superior team; until the leader cures the culture, the technology cannot be created.

Perhaps one reason why Britain’s Royal Navy, or any singular country, for that matter, did not allocate resources toward finding a cure for scurvy is that the navies of all nations suffered from the same disease. In other words, if a problem is the same for you and all your competitors—if none of your competitors have an advantage when it comes to this problem—why seek a solution?

But this is where the discernment of a leader is critical. The fact that British sailors were  healthier and suffered less from scurvy than their combatants played a critical role in the Battle of Trafalgar. When leaders can find areas for improvement that their competitors ignore, superiority can be achieved. Sometimes, the place to focus is not where leaders traditionally focus (e.g. superior technology, greater capital, improved production processes, etc.) but rather on overlooked areas that can have a dramatic impact on productivity and results. This requires discernment on the part of the leader to analyze his or her organization and determine critical areas that must be addressed.

Summary

One of the most critical skills leaders must develop is the ability to make the right decisions—especially under fire. They must learn to see not just two or a handful of options but a multiplicity of them. They must be able to weigh the merits of each. Then, they must know which option to choose.

In many cases, this may require going against protocol, breaking rules, violating orders. Hence, a leader must also be aware of the consequences of his decisions and actions. It is precisely this awareness that allows a leader to break rules when a situation demands it; a good leader would rather face criticism from superiors than lose people and battles because he failed to make the right decision in the heat of battle.

Leaders are not rigid dogmatists but rather flexible pragmatists. They hold their integrity, principles, values, and ideals inviolate. But when it comes to strategies, tactics, and procedures, they do what it takes to achieve the objectives—even if it means breaking the rules. They do this because they understand the why behind rules. They see the big picture. They don’t necessarily flaunt rules, but neither do they worship them.

Great leaders make decisions that, in the moment, appear to others to be foolhardy and reckless. But when the smoke clears, their decisions are actually realized to be less a product of courage than a product of wisdom and discernment.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Embrace the Struggle

“When I look back over my life, the times I’ve struggled have not been fun. But they appear in broad relief, now, as the greatest moments of change and personal growth. I would not be who I am today without those trials and struggles that made me stronger and better. ” – Chris Brady

Most everyone has heard the phrase, “Dream, Struggle, Victory.” And it seems that there is a lot of literature out there addressing the first and the last of those three terms. But is it not interesting how little coverage is given to the struggle part?

Obviously, if we undertake some great endeavor we are going to struggle to accomplish it. What most people might not realize, however, is that the struggle is probably the most important part. It is the struggle that makes us grow. It is the struggle that reveals the character we have deep inside for continuing onward in the face of adversity. And it is the struggle that makes for any good movie or story of achievement.

One author I have read actually referred to it as the “gift of struggle.” Perhaps some would think it was going too far to call struggle a gift, but I believe it to be one. If you stop and think about it, the struggle is the only place in which we grow. It is the struggle that makes us stronger. No bodybuilder would be able to build muscle mass without weight or resistance. The pushing against or raising of the weight strains and pulls at the muscle fibers, which then need to repair themselves. Only in this repair process are the muscles made a little stronger than they were before. More lifting causes the cycle to start over again, until the muscles are bigger and stronger than ever before – all because of the “damage” of the struggle and the repair that was necessary afterward. Struggles in our lives works the same way. Just like lifting weights, they do not necessarily feel good. And they can and often do cause pain. But how we handle those struggles, and what we do to overcome them and “repair” our commitment to the dream, will build us stronger than we were before the struggle occurred.

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In Launching a Leadership Revolution, co-author Orrin Woodward and I even give special consideration to the topic of struggle in the section on mentorship. A good mentor knows that his protégé must struggle to become great, to grow, and to maximize, so he allows the struggles while teaching the protégé how to handle them, overcome them, and learn from them. Some might call this callous or cold; some might call it lack of caring on the part of the mentor. After all, who would let someone struggle? Why would one not want to swoop in and eliminate the struggle for the protégé and make his or her way easier? It is the same as teaching our child to walk. If every time she started to bobble we grabbed her and kept her from falling, we would appear to be helping her. We would appear to be caring. But actually, we would be hurting our child by trying to help her too much. One of the greatest things my parents and mentors have done for me is to give me the encouragement to try, and then allowed me to make my own mistakes and learn from them. By creating my own messes, and knowing full well that I had the responsibility alone for my actions and cleaning them up, so to speak, I was allowed to struggle and grow through those adversities. When I look back over my life, the times I’ve struggled have not been fun. But they appear in broad relief, now, as the greatest moments of change and personal growth. I would not be who I am today without those trials and struggles that made me stronger and better.

So embrace the struggle. It is not a bad word. Is is not to be avoided. And when you see it in the life of those you love and mentor, of course, do what you can to keep them from actual harm. But in the course of events, allow them to take responsibility for their own lives, allow them to struggle against the resistance, and therefore build their mental muscles stronger. For out of the greatest adversity comes the greatest opportunity, and in those moments the greatest leaders are made.

Ships may be safe at harbor, but they were not made for the harbor, they were made for the dangerous high seas. And leaders may be safe on the couch, but they were not born for the couch, they were born for the tumultuous waters of engagement.

Have a dream. Embrace the struggle. Capture the victory!

For more “tidbits” of wisdom like this, pick up a copy of Leadership: Tidbits and Treasures, written by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, article written by Chris Brady)

 

What is Leadership?

The following excerpt was taking from Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady’s New York Times best-selling book, Launching a Leadership Revolution

What is Leadership?

The concept of “leadership” is a complex one. Most everybody has a feel for what the term means, at least in a general sense, but generalizations about leadership don’t help us very much. In order to understand how to lead and why to lead and what it even means to lead, we’d better get clear on what comprises this complex idea embodied in this simple little English word.

Brady and WoodwardWe’ve tried this exercise of defining leadership with audiences large and small, and invariably the same thing happens. We begin getting word phrases that all sound pretty good, phrases like “taking responsibility” and “getting results,” or one-word descriptors such as “commitment,” “perseverance,” “charisma,” and “integrity.” These are all true in a sense, but somehow they don’t go far enough. So then we switch to attempting definitions by combining all these phrases, but it creates so much mumbo jumbo, like one big buzzword soup from a corporate boardroom. Somehow the words meant something to us individually when thinking about leadership, but when fused together, the life went right out of them.

At this point, it may be helpful to turn to some experts on the subject. Surely they can bring some congruity. The list that follows is just a short offering:

  1. James C. Hunter: “We define leadership . . . as a skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good.”
  2. Al Kaltman: “The successful leader gets superior performance from ordinary people.”
  3. Bill George: “The leader’s job is to provide an empowering environment that enables employees to serve their customers and provides them the training, education, and support they need.”
  4. Andy Stanley: “Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there.”
  5. Vance Packard: “Leadership is getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done.”
  6. Garry Wills: “Leadership is mobilizing others toward a goal shared by the leader and followers.”
  7. Alan Keith: “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”
  8. George Barna: “A leader is one who mobilizes; one whose focus is influencing people; a person who is goal driven; someone who has an orientation in common with those who rely upon him for leadership; and someone who has people willing to follow them,” and “Leadership is the process of motivating, mobilizing, resourcing, and directing people to passionately and strategically pursue a vision from God that a group jointly embraces.”
  9. Kenneth O. Gangel: “I consider leadership to be the exercise of one’s special gifts under the call of God to serve a certain group of people in achieving the goals God has given them toward the end of glorifying Christ.”
  10. Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

These insights and definitions are good and helpful, and some we like particularly, but John Maxwell gives an exemplary definition, quoted here at length from his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. People have so many misconceptions about leadership. When they hear that someone has an impressive title or an assigned leadership position, they assume that he is a leader. Sometimes that’s true. But titles don’t have much value when it comes to leading. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.

What, then, is influence? Our favorite explanation of influence comes to us from nineteenth-century preacher and author Albert Barnes: “Influence is that in a man’s known talents, learning, character, experience, and position, on which a presumption is based that what he holds is true; that what he proposes is wise.”

George Barna tells us, “To be effective, a leader must have influence. But influence is a product of great leadership; it is not synonymous with it. You can have influence in a person’s life without leading him anywhere.”

Perhaps there will never be a short, cute definition for leadership. We are certain there will never be one upon which all “experts” agree. This very difficulty in arriving at a concise explanation for the concept illustrates the enormity of the subject at hand. But all of the above definitions hit near the same mark. Any attempts to be more concise or specific are like trying to grab smoke. For the purpose of this study, then, we will fuse the above commentary into the following:

Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction
and is done through the example, conviction, and character of the leader.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Hunger as a Discipline

The following excerpt was taking from Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward’s New York Times Best-seller, Launching a Leadership Revolution

Those who take active responsibility to foster their motivation on a regular basis will outperform those who do not. It is the responsibility of the leader to keep him or herself hungry on a regular basis. Napoleon Hill, author of the world-famous book Think and Grow Rich, said, “One must realize that all who have accumulated great fortunes first did a certain amount of dreaming, hoping, wishing, desiring, and planning before they acquired money.”

All of leadership starts with hunger. At any point in time when the leader is not hungry, the leader is not functioning as a leader. This may sound radical, but it is true. Remember, a leader takes people somewhere. The moment the leader is not moving, the leader is not leading. And it takes ambition to keep the leader moving.

Picture success as a road that leads to your dreams:

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Along each side of the road are shoulders. Often the shoulders of roads are comprised of gravel. If a driver inadvertently runs onto the gravel, the sound serves as a warning that a course correction is required to resume traveling safely on the road. Conversely, sometimes that same gravel can grip the wheels of the vehicle and pull it from the road into the ditch.

On the left shoulder is comfort. Comfort is fine in small doses and in certain areas of life, but, like gravel, it can also serve as a warning. Remember, ambition flourishes in discontent with the status quo. Discontent and comfort cannot coexist. If a leader becomes too comfortable, ambition will die, and the soft gravel of comfort can pull him or her down into the Ditch of Complacency. Complacency is defined by Webster as “self satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Complacency pulls a leader from the road of success and halts all travel toward his or her dreams, as when a car is stuck in a ditch.

There is another danger in traveling too close to the Shoulder of Comfort: opposing traffic. Most people in life are looking for the easy road. They want comfort and will pay the price of mediocrity to get it, so they rush toward it like cows to the barn at feeding time. If a leader attempts to lead from a position of comfort, he or she will run smack into that mass of traffic heading in the other direction away from dreams and toward mediocrity.

Leaders, however, shun comfort and seek excellence instead. They subscribe to the theory held by author Al Kaltman: “Without meaningful work, life stinks.” They travel down the right lane in the diagram and away from oncoming traffic. The right lane is never crowded. There always seems to be a shortage of leaders but a plethora of people heading the other way. This is one thing that makes a leader so special. Also notice that being a leader means traveling close to the Shoulder of Frustration. In fact, this is the mark of any true leader. Being a leader is a study in managed frustration. How can one have ambition for a brighter tomorrow without being frustrated at the current set of realities? How can a leader be at war with the status quo and not be frustrated at the same time? The answer, of course, is that no leader can. Any real leader traveling the Road of Success toward his or her dreams will encounter frustration along the journey. Frustration can be healthy, but just like the shoulder on the other side of the road, this gravel of frustration presents a trap. Too much frustration can be a warning to the leader that his or her attitude is dipping and could pull the leader down into the Ditch of Discouragement. Discouragement is a showstopper because it robs the leader of hope. Without hope, the leader is trapped in the Ditch of Discouragement and makes no further progress toward his or her dreams.

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The only way to stay away from oncoming traffic, the Shoulder of Comfort, and the Ditch of Complacency—and the only way to travel near the Shoulder of Frustration but clear of the Ditch of Discouragement—is to focus straight ahead on the dreams in front of you. Having a dream focus keeps a leader safely on the Road to Success. The best way to stay focused is to manage that hunger.

So staying hungry is actually a discipline. Webster defines discipline as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties.” Hunger is certainly a mental faculty; notice that it needs training, molding, and perfecting. True leaders understand this and take the necessary steps on a regular basis to provide their hunger with the proper care and feeding. Many times, leaders don’t need to know more about what is to be done; they just need to find more leverage for themselves to do what they already know how to do.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

How to Become a Mentor of Mentors

In their book Launching a Leadership Revolution, authors Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward wrote about the five levels of influence, teaching that understanding each is an important skill for great leaders. These levels include:

1. Learning
2. Performing
3. Leading
4. Developing leaders
5. Developing leaders who develop leaders

Great mentoring is all about levels four and five. Brady and Woodward said, “When we wrote the book, we didn’t know it would become a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller. We didn’t know that many thousands of people would embrace it and use it to build companies that build leaders. But we did know that leadership is only level 3, and that even more important than leadership is developing leaders.”

CB and OW quoteIn short, the greatest mentors don’t mentor only those they work with directly. Rather, they think of the people their mentees will mentor and even those who will be mentored
four or five generations ahead, and they help their mentees become the type of mentors who can become great mentors of mentors.

For example, consider how this works in a family setting. Some people focus on their career as the center point of life. Ask most people what they do in life, and they’ll say they’re a doctor, attorney, accountant, businessperson, engineer, or some other profession.

Sometimes, in contrast, we meet people who answer the same question by saying, “I’m a dad,” “I’m a father to three great children,” or “I’m a wife and mother.” While this cheeky answer frequently indicates that the person has given a lot of thought to his or her life purpose and priorities, the truth is that there is an even better way.

On one level, we can focus on our work life as the center of our purpose.

At a higher level, we can make our marriage and parental relationships the top priority.

At an even better level, we can be the kind of parents who wisely and consciously raise our grandkids—even when our own kids are just little. This means thinking through what we’re really doing as parents. Are we just career people who happen to have kids? Hopefully not.

Likewise, are we spouses and parents raising kids to be confident, contributing adults? This is a good step.

Or are we, above all, future grandparents who are raising our kids to be fantastic parents who themselves will raise their children in a way that positively influences several generations to come? Those who see their role in such far-reaching generational terms will approach their marriage and parenting in a purposeful way.

The same applies to business mentoring. If we mentor only the people with whom we work directly, we won’t be as helpful to them as if we see our role as one of mentoring them to be great mentors of mentors.

(This excerpt was taken from the Life Essentials Series book, Mentoring Matters. Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Life Leadership’s “You, Inc.” Financial Hierarchy or Pyramid

Proper Financial Fitness begins with mastering the Defense, Offense, and Playing Field of money.  For the many satisfied customers (click here and scroll down for textual, audio, and video testimonials) of Life’s Financial Fitness suite of products and services, this is exactly what they have discovered and put to good use.

But there IS more.

Just what do you do with the money once you stop being scammed as a victim of debt and start to instead enjoy the thrill ride of having extra money at the end of the month?  Where do you put it? How do you go about determining which investments might be right for you?

In this quick video shot several months ago in the hot Florida sun, I try to give a quick fly-by of how we present the answers to these questions in our new addition to the series: the Beyond Financial Fitness program.  It covers the concept of the “You, Inc. Hierarchy” or Pyramid of priority for your money.

I hope you enjoy the video, and more importantly, that you find the information useful!

God bless!

Chris Brady

The information presented on this blog and in any of its videos is for general educational purposes only, and provides information the authors believe to be accurate on the subject matter covered.  It is presented here with the understanding that neither the authors nor the publisher are providing advice for any particular portfolio or for any individual’s particular situation, or rendering investment advice or other professional services such as legal or accounting advice.  If expert advice in areas that include investment, legal, and accounting are needed, please seek a competent professional’s services.

This publication may make reference to performance data collected over various periods of time.  Remember that past results do not guarantee future performance.  Performance data, as well as laws and regulations, change over time, which could affect the applicability of the information presented on this blog and its videos.  Any data presented herein is used merely to illustrate the underlying principles.

This blog and its videos are not to serve as the basis for any financial decision or as a recommendation of any specific investment.

No warranty is made with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein, and both the authors and the publisher specifically disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog and its videos.

A Rascal’s Battle Plan: The Productive Loop

In Chris Brady’s book, Rascal, he lays out the foundation of a leader’s journey toward success and some of the roadblocks that can happen along the way. Brady calls this process: The Productive Loop, and it can be found in greater detail in Chapter 4 of his book. Here is an overview of the Rascal’s Battle Plan, as explained by Chris Brady. May it bring clarity and encouragement to your leadership journey!


There is a pattern of success for any Rascal choosing to be a force for good and seeking to achieve excellence and significance. It is called the Productive Loop.

the-productive-loopRascals start out ignorant like everyone else. They simply don’t know what they don’t know about a certain subject, and they may not even realize they are Rascals. But then new information finds its way into their consciousness, either through a good book, a friend, a life experience, or whatever. This new information suggests a path toward accomplishment, a route of opportunity, an idea to be tried. Immediately, though, upon receiving this new information, most Rascals, being Rascals, are skeptical. They take a mental step back to consider what they are learning with a critical eye. Eventually, however, that new information starts to make sense. This leads to curiosity. The Rascal begins asking ‘What if?’ questions, considering possibilities. From there the Rascal digs into the learning process. The learning curve is steep because the Rascal is learning quickly, happily gaining knowledge in the direction of this new possibility. Learning becomes extremely fun, because it is so relevant. This leads to excitement. The Rascal can feel the enthusiasm rushing into everything he does. This excitement, in turn, leads to the overcoming of fears. Things that in the past, without this purposeful direction would have held the Rascal back are now no match at all. Small trees are smashed down in front of him, hills are scaled, rivers forded, and mountains climbed as the Rascal is now in hot pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.

This spirited action leads to progress. Progress is one of the best encouragers known to man. Progress builds belief, confidence, and momentum. Progress lets the Rascal know he is on track; his efforts are making an impact, and his learning has merit. Therefore, he learns even more. He applies what he learns, analyzes how it affects his actions, makes adjustments, does more, learns more, and accomplishes more. He is in the Productive Loop. He is in “The Zone”.

Life in the “The Zone”

“The Zone” is a concept that describes a peak performer in a moment all their own, where they are doing exactly what God built them to do, to the best of their ability, with all of their faculties aligned and intensely focused. It is Michael Jordan in the closing seconds calmly hitting the outside shot to win the game. It is those moments when a champion gets to call on all the hours of preparation, planning, and practice and put it all together. It is a rare, true moment in life.

“Being in ‘The Zone’ is when one’s actions are perfectly in line with one’s purpose.” – Chris Brady

bradyThose in my audiences who don’t understand what I am talking about can barely even relate to a Rascal. They don’t speak the same language, feel the same impulses, or have the same magnitude of dreams and aspirations. They don’t live in The Zone. Instead, they live zoned out, and it’s a shame. The great news, though, is that nobody gets to choose for you. It’s all up to you. Anyone can choose to do what it takes to be a Rascal and perform to such a peak as to find himself in The Zone.  Don’t think that Obstaclès isn’t actively at work trying to stop Rascals everywhere from succeeding as a force for good. He is poised and ready at every step of their journey to throw up barriers and dig potholes. Obstaclès particularly hates it when Rascals are in The Zone, because he knows that in those moments his weapons have the least effect. As the old saying goes, “A dog in the hunt doesn’t know it has fleas.” Rascals are not bothered by Obstaclès’ tactics when they are in The Zone, focused and entirely committed to their task.

The Wimpification Process

Obstaclès succeeds in coaxing a Rascal out of the zone. It could be any of his weapons to do the trick, from fear of distraction to low self-confidence, to a failure in character, relationship challenges, or any of the others. Where once the Rascal was overcoming fears and learning and doing with excitement and enthusiasm, now the Rascal caves in to fears and falls into inaction.

The less action he puts forth the more his mind intellectualizes, becoming some elite thinker and never accomplishes anything. This leads to paralysis as fear sets in even further. Paralysis then leads to frustration. The Rascal starts looking at his or her lack of results.

Frustration is the moment of truth, of peak danger, a fork in the road. It is at moments of peak frustration where many Rascals leave the path of excellence never to return. This is where Rascal “wanna-be’s” turn into Rascal “has-beens.” They slip back into old ways, embracing the old vices and convincing themselves that it really isn’t so bad.

The final steps are justification and blame. Losers must always provide an excuse for their lack of winning. This begins with justification. It is a search for an excuse plausible enough to hide behind, first for the quitter, then for everyone he’ll tell. This justification rarely involves any responsibility on the part of the has-been Rascal. It is always someone else’s fault, or at the very least, it’s a situation that’s to blame.

“People will justify almost anything to themselves, when it serves their cowardice and covers their failures. Justification is the door through which character departs.” – Chris Brady

There is a name for people who were once on the path to becoming an official Rascal, but instead succumb to the slippery slope of the wimpification process and scorn Rascals and the principles for which they stand: Jackals.

jackal-for-productive-loop-article

Jackals become the natural enemy of Rascals everywhere because a Rascal’s example eliminates a Jackal’s excuses; the bigger the Rascal’s accomplishment, the more obvious the Jackal’s failure.

Revisiting the Fork in the Road

Let’s go back to the fork in the road where it all went wrong to see that even when things appear their darkest, a true Rascal still has a choice. Remember that the Wimpification process was caused by inaction, over-intellectualizing, analysis paralysis, and peak frustration. That is what brought the Rascal to the fork in the road. But by definition a fork has two options. It’s the other option chosen by the Rascal that makes all the difference. Understand: there is no shame in getting frustrated, falling into inaction, or having doubts and discouragements. It happens to everybody. Champions, however, keep these moments to a minimum and always find a way to pull out of them. How do they do this? By taking the other side of that fork in the road. At this moment we see the courage of the Rascal tested to the limit. They remember why they started out in the first place and refresh those dreams and causes in their minds until they reconnect with them emotionally. Having made the choice not to Wimpify, a Rascal seeks the association of other Rascals within whose company he can be strengthened and rebuilt.

Rascals encourage themselves by remembering that the worse the odds and the bigger the opposition, the better the drama and the more fascinating the story.  He goes back to the basic reasons he began this journey in the first place. He plugs back in to the learning cycle and starts to gain new information about the fundamentals of what he does while learning new techniques and methods that can improve his performance over what he did before. This new information leads to renewed excitement and the overcoming of fears. Then, action steps invigorate him and he feels his old strength returning. The more action he takes the more progress he sees as evidence that he’s made a wise and courageous choice. This progress fuels further learning and the Rascal has chosen himself back into the Productive Loop. Taken far enough with enough commitment, his renewed vigor might even lead him back into the highest level of the Productive Loop, that wonderful place called The Zone.

At this point, the Rascal is back! Obstaclès is forced back to the drawing board in frustration, planning his next attack with renewed hatred. And so the cycle goes throughout the life of a Rascal. Always tempted, always maligned, a Rascal knows his path is fraught with danger. He is a Rascal, though, because he presses forward boldly.

Rascals wage their individual battles against Obstaclès gallantly, knowing that their fight in the trenches has a tremendous impact on the overall battle raging in society.

“Rascals know that one person can and does make a difference, and strive mightily to do their part.” – Chris Brady

This will involve criticism and resistance, and may even result in the opposition throwing fruit! Undeterred, Rascals become a force for good and attack the status quo, striving to leave things better than they found them.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, written by Chris Brady)