Practical wisdom…

A few years back, Socrates made a fairly bold claim  – “The unexamined life is not worth living.” For giggles, lets replace the word “worth” with great. The unexamined life is not great living. So, what is?

At BTL we propose great lives are lived by humans who know who they are (BTL core), where they’re going (OPUS) and are committed to productive action (PA) toward their aim. Socrates said you gotta commit to the examined life and he was right. You’ve got to commit to quality time reflecting too. This is far from stare at your navel and go silent. I’m proposing the discipline of phronesis here. Big word. Simple translation. The Greeks referred to phronesis as practical wisdom. This is the one we want to reflect our way toward. So, as you get busy getting after a life aligned within and aimed at your OPUS, you’ve got to set regular time to reflect, practically speaking, regarding your efforts and your aim. We’re referring to this reflective discipline as “Sunday discipline.” Sounds practical to me…

Sunday discipline. If you’ve built your BTL core and authored OPUS, every Sunday night sit for a few minutes and put a handful of PA on paper or computer. Use the unifying strategies as the starting point for this discipline. The PA you put on paper are PA’s you are making a “done so” for the week. Week two and every week thereafter you will rinse and repeat with a twist. Week two on you will also take a few minutes to reflect on what you did the past week. Look at your PA and grade it simply. Remember, Yoda here. There is no try or partial credit. Do or do not translates here to pass/fail – next to each PA write pass or fail. Good.

Slow down and reflect. Phronesis is built here. Think about the effectiveness of your PA. What could make it better. Does it belong on the following week or not and why. What kinda PA are you doing that another could do better? What kinda PA do you always put on paper but rarely knock out? Why? What PA is missing in action? Why? What PA felt great and left you energized? Why not more here? Slow down, reflect and write. Good.

Overtime, the Sunday discipline is going to open your mind to possibilities and even new ideas. You are going to see nuances if you remain open and persevere through obstacles and distractions. You may even change some direction or belief as you reflect on these quiet Sunday’s in your room, alone. Pascal would be so darn proud of you. More importantly, however, is what Socrates would say. Socrates would say you are becoming a better builder, planner, CEO, parent, producer, Chairman, and person of phronesis. Good.

The examined life is great living, isn’t it. Sunday discipline is a simple start. Do or do not. Keep us posted on your progress and don’t forget to share any “ands” along the way. I hope this helps you as much as it has me and a few clients who’ve bolted this baby on. The enemy to your progress is thinking you’ve arrived and moving on to an endless array of new. Phronesis reminds us there is nothing new, really new, under the sun. Go back and tighten your BTL core, friend. Go back. Keep going back. The real way forward is clarity. Clarity within and clarity of aim. And, clarity and consistentency of “left foot, right foot” as you baby step your way forward. And, like my friend DD in Chitown, feel free to take this process and make it your own. Everything within the BTL framework, remember, is transformed by the power of two. Do not be afraid to play and nuance. Good, DD.

Actually, great…

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Do less, then obsess…

Skill. Passion. Effort. According to Angela Duckworth’s research these are the three pillars of performance. And, Angela believes that effort counts twice. Galton (cousin of Darwin and author of early white paper on performance) would concur. In 1869, Galton published his first study on the origins of high achievement. Outliers, he believed, were remarkable in three ways: “they demonstate unusual “ability” in combination with exceptional “zeal” and “the capacity for hard labor.” I guess not much has changed when it comes to human performance. So, if we want to become elite, we had better get prepared for some seriously hard labor.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Here’s my observation of elite teammates in sixteen years of BTL. The elite in any system where we practice do not invest a ton more hours toward mastering their craft. I mean the majority of Lockton producers travel like banchees and attend mucho meetings. Every OSU grappler is in the gym for hour after hour after hour. The k-dev krazies on Warren don’t seem to sneak out early unless it’s to go to some event where they’re networking, selling, or learning. Choice has flexible hours but the difference between Ashley and the ones she’s leaving in the dust doesn’t seem due to lack of effort. So, what’s the lever?

Simple, really. The difference between good and great is not the hours worked. The difference is the effort in the hours. The elite exert more effort, a lot more concentrated effort. You see the elite start with a strong sense of self (BTL core), and a clear aim for their hard labor (OPUS). This clarity allows them to ruthlessly cut out the clutter.

The elite start their effort by doing less.

The world of work is filled with bs meetings, bs workouts, which lead to bs kinda effort. The elite do not have time for bs. They stop doing the stuff that lots of good folks don’t have the courage to cut. You see, the elite are performance aggressive. They get more out of an hour workout because they put more into it. Simple physics really. If you want to become elite in any endeavor, start by deciding what you’re not going to do. I don’t deal with public companies, as an example. Way too much bullshit for me. So, I don’t even entertain them. My focus is narrowed. I want to build my business in Cbus and KC almost exclusively. My focus narrows. I want to grow old but not tired with a few business owners, leaders, and high performers who believe in BTL, believe in themselves, believe in something bigger than themselves, and believe in going “full thrust” (Thanks, Grappy)! My focus narrows yet again. I want BTL to be a loosely held collaboration not some big company kinda crap. Nice and narrow.

I’m obsessed with creating greatness in a few. Do less, then obsess. (Thanks, Morten Hansen). Good…

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Be a pro…

Today, during practice 70 with a team of OSU grapplers, one of the stars admitted he’s an amateur. Well of course he is, you might say since they are all technically student/athletes. The admission, however, came from my question around their mindset. You see, friend, pro’s have a different mindset than the amateur. Pro’s prepare the same way for practice with 30 men on the mat as they do when they’re the only one going live. Pro’s prepare the same way when their opponent is ranked number 1 vs number 101. Pro’s prepare the same when they’re a starter or a redshirt. Pro’s prepare the same way for a BIG ten opponent as they do for non conference foe. Pro’s prepare, well, like pros.

Today, one OSU teammate came clean about his approach. He was an amateur this past year and he’s done with that. He called a meeting with his coaches and told them to kick his Ass. He went looking for feedback and is done waiting for it from his opponents. He’s going pro, at least in his mind. He will never be the same. This is a MOT (moment of truth). Today, Grappy (Coach Ryan) preached as hard as I’ve ever heard him. We had a ton of outsiders in the room and were missing Kyle, Bo, and a few other brothers. You see, Grappy is a pro. He brings his best business every time we gather for practice. Today was just another day in the office. Always is.

What does your team see, leader, when you show up? Are you a pro or just another amateur. Be a pro. Good…

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Occam’s razor…

Without realizing it, Lockton KC producers practice yesterday put Occam’s razor into play. You see, 700 years ago, Friar William of Ockham developed a really simple guiding principle which states that humans aimed at excellence should pursue the simplest way forward. French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery “anded” if you will – “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” Not to be outdone a more modern mortal (Einstein) reminded us yet again. “Make things as simple as possible, never more so.”

So, yesterday, a team of very productive producers simplified. There are some laws of physics that govern systems as they grow. Fact. But most of what complicates and compromises our ability to perform are human decisions, mostly ones we’re not even conscious of. Complication creeps in, almost like a theif in the night, and robs us blind. Yesterday, a few young performers opened their mouths and opened some eyes. They brought forward some ideas to simplify. It helps to have young eyes look at old problems, leader, if you’re willing to listen.

How can you apply Occam’s razor to simplify and focus the aim of your work? How can you simplify your goals, metrics, meetings, emails, and decision trees? How can you cull activities to create clarity? I mean, come on man, how hard can it be to track what someone sells?

Occam’s razor. Good…


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Master your craft…

Last night, I had a well meaning BTL practice participant tell me that I ought to offer a disclaimer of sorts. He told me that my message intimidates folks and that many think BTL is some sorta cult. He meant well and I thanked him for caring enough to tell me to tone it down.

I won’t, however, be changing a thing.

Your job, leader, is to initiate, get to the front, pave the way, and open peoples eyes. You’re a leader if people follow. If your aim is to create a massive following, you may have to dumb down your delivery. Fact. If your aim is to build a few elite into even better versions of themselves, your focus had better remain on the few. Many will miss your point and find your message of “keep working” a bit more than they want to hear and heed. Do not be discouraged. Focus on the few. Be the catalyst for a few 5X performers among the masses.

Master your craft because you love your work and you love the team that believes you. Master your craft because you love the work and love the team that believes in you. Master your craft because you love the work and you love the team that believes a little bit of what your preaching. Master your craft because you love the work and you are learning to love those that oppose you. Master your craft because you love the work and you love the gift of your calling and your caller.

Master your craft. Seek feedback like it’s the breakfast of champions, cause it is. Let it all in. Your strong, BTL core will inform what sticks and what flows right through. You will change even though you’ll appear changeless.

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Education. Energy. Edge…

Education. Energy. Edge.

Remember, the best communicators are not the best educated. They are, however, masters at connecting their message to the right audience. We buy from the human that is educated about us and our needs. We don’t need degrees and titles to tell us we ought to listen up. We need to sense they know their stuff.

We buy from the human that is educated around why she’s here and what her company is the best in the world at. When she connects her why’s to our needs, we tune in like a banchee. We buy from someone whose education creates a sense of belief. We trust the words from someone that communicates with the proper energy. We believe them when their energy is believable, it matches the moment, mood, and comes from some place meaningful, or so we perceive. We don’t buy when they use lots of words, especially fancy freakin’ ones. We buy, remember from the missionary man. We believe them. We buy their sincere edge. We can’t, oftentimes, describe it but we buy it nonetheless.

Education. Energy. Edge. 3E’s of master connectors. Build skill here, friend. Good…

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Education or entertainment…

We do not get better by being entertained. Most training, today, is mere entertainment. The teacher/presenter/preacher simply stands and delivers 30 – 90 minutes of entertainment. They know their stuff. We laugh. We think we’re learning. We are mostly not learning anything leading toward changed behavior. We remember whatever we’re completely immersed in. Our brain buys what we sell it, not what another try’s to get us to buy.

My favorite eastern proverb illustrates this in a very ccd fashion:

Tell me, I may listen.
Teach me, I may learn.
Involve me, I will do it.

We need leaders, teammates, and teachers who educate. We’ve got plenty of entertainers. Are you providing entertainment or education to your team, leader? Are you educating yourself and your team, leader? What are you reading that is educational? What are you doing to put your learning into PA (productive action). You and I get better when we study, learn, and apply. You and I get better when we raise the level of our conversation. We don’t get better listening to monologue. We get better when involved in healthy, challenging, educational dialogue. Good…

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