Author Archives: David Deck

Practice 29: CORE work

{This is my follow up notes from a practice with a client (modified to protect privacy) that I hope can help you too}

SoAndSo didn’t get the opportunity they wanted and that adds another step to the chess match you’re playing. Don’t mistake that to mean you’re playing a chess match with SoAndSo, you’re playing a chess match towards your OPUS, your big dream. You are becoming more and more clear, strong and convicted about who you are, what you believe and why it matters. It’s pointed you in the direction towards changing the path of SuchAndSuchInc. and potentially your industry in general. It’s a BIG STINKIN’ DREAM.

We watched a little Will Smith, someone I’ve studied and continue to watch because he’s an outlier. He’s a guy who seems to defy gravity, watch that entire clip and you’ll hear more about how. He speaks truths and beliefs more than most. He is unapologetic about his big dream and rests at nothing to accomplish it. He understands that with “hard labor, you will disdain as you tire. But with hard opus, you sustain as you tire.” Big dreams, wrapped around purpose and passion, are the ones that have a fighting chance.

Lastly you shared a couple of wins, thank you for doing so, I LOVE to hear of your success. You’ll be guest speaking in November. I want to know where and when because I may just have to come see for myself. Also, you were recently with a bunch of other people like yourself. You didn’t come in trying to prove your place at this table. You didn’t come in trying to be the big man on campus. You came in that humble fellow from SmallTownUSA who has worked hard to get to where he’s at. Who studies like a banshee and is as smart as a whip. And over time, people noticed you, people wanted to hear from you, people were attacked to you. THAT, my friend, is some serious freakin’ magic. THAT, my friend, is the scientific proof that like mass attracts like mass. I’m really proud of, and happy, for you.

And the best part of all of this, we’re just getting started! I’d like you to work on your CORE document and give it another rinse. I want you to keep looking at your Worldview, Identity, Principles and Passions and write them out. This is such an important piece of becoming and staying core-centered. Great work today…

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Back in the 1700’s, a pale-skinned, English sailer wrote a poem that ended up becoming one of the most well known songs of the English-speaking world. His story is not much different than yours and mine (relevant to the time) but the revelation he shared is powerful beyond measure.

John was headstrong, disobedient, vulgar and cruel. He was forced into the Royal Navy with hopes that some structure and discipline would do him some good. He went awol and joined a ship with a captain who didn’t much appreciate his profane nature. So during a stop in West Africa, John was purposefully left with a local slave owner who then made him a servant of the slaves. After being rescued 3 years later, John finally found his sea legs as a captain of slave ships. While taking inventory of his life some 30 years after he retired, he penned a poem that speaks of an unimaginable love, an amazing grace if you will, that freed him from the pain that comes when looking at ourselves in the mirror.

Grace, in it’s purest form, is love that seeks you out regardless of your worthiness (thank you LFC). This love can come from above, from you to me, me to you, AND from me to me. That’s right, you can (and should) give yourself some grace if you are a perfectionist, high achiever, hard worker, big hearted leader of anything. You see, these types of people tend to be their hardest critic and don’t typically let themselves off the hook so to speak.

God knows we could all use a little more love and less hate for each other AND ourselves. When is the last time you gave this love to another who didn’t deserve it? When is the last time you truly received such love when you haven’t earned it? Thank you Captain John Newton for describing the amazing gift of giving AND receiving grace. Thank you to those who set this poem, from a white slave ship captain, to a West African sorrow chant and made them ONE… oh how sweet the sound.


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Attention leaders with hearts…

…read up, this ONE’s for me and you.

If you care, it will hurt, fact. Believing in people is a messy business. Most avoid it because after all, it’s just business right? Not if its not, so therein lies the pain. I recently got reminded of this truth and thought I’d share how my brain and heart are in a battle royal with my CORE.

A client, who I deeply care for and poured myself into, suddenly went dark. Seemingly out of nowhere, we went from deeply connected to disengaged and distant. My brain was the first to jump in and point out the change in behavior. You see, the brain is wired to pay attention to things like this. Good brain, well done. However, the brain doesn’t stop there, it continues to do what any good brain should do: think, asses, question, rationalize, strategize how to ensure you don’t get hurt. This is perfect for when you are truly in a life or death situation but not so much when its not.

Picking up on the cues my brain is sending into the system, my heart (a.k.a. feelings and emotions) showed up. Confusion, concern and frustration eventually led to hurt. Yep, hurt. And we all know hurt really doesn’t leave any part of us very easily so when it gets together with our thoughts, more complex emotions join in on the fun like self doubt. Oh man, this caring stuff hurts like krazy. Why am I doing this work again?

{enter my CORE stage center} I pulled out a few decklarations from my CORE (listed below), that were written when my brain and emotions weren’t running the show, when I wasn’t hurt and full of self doubt. They’ve been vetted, challenged, rinsed and strengthened over the last seven years. These are the truths of me, my CORE strength, that I draw upon to guide my way through irrational thoughts and feelings. Thank you Chet for pushing me way back when, when I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And then again and again. Always growing, embrace the pain, do the work. Good AND oh so hard.

I believe…
– we all have fear, some are controlled by it, some face it and work hard to overcome it – the choice is ours.
– the more I lead, the more I tend to feel alone even though I know I’m not.
– you can change your behavior much quicker than you can change your mind.
– integrity and honesty are two of the most important traits a friend of mine can have.
– learning about and getting to know your self, is one of the hardest things to do. Accepting what you discover is even harder.
– peace comes when you’ve done all you can do.
– I cannot control anyone or anything but myself and even that is arguable.
– love is magic and painful.

I am…
– a distinct individual whose deep connection to my work is rooted in integrity, driven by passion, committed to purpose.
– a ‘thinker’ about my feelings even though I also make decisions with my heart, funny nuance to me.
– someone who has so much more to learn about pretty much everything.
– an active challenger.
– a beautiful ruin, a passionate fool.

I will…
– use my strength in relationships as courage to stand and control that which I can.
– make my life an open book.
– worry about my reputation with me.
– choose responsibility over empathy. Serve every client with a singular focus on making them do what they can do.

I love…
– deeply connecting with others.
– people who exhibit real effort to grow and become better.
– music and am inspired by the artists who write their “songs” AND “play” it


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Surviving or Thriving?

At the start of practice today, my client couldn’t speak, he couldn’t look at me, he was barely holding it together breath by breath. I asked a few questions and quickly realized his brain was on tilt. He’d lost the battle of living an unaddressed, stress filled, anxiety ridden life. He’d been avoiding pain for so long that his emotions took over and his self control was gone. I’ve seen this look before, I recognize those tears, I know that breathing cadence. It was me 8 years ago.

In 2006, my wife and I decided to adopt a second child from Guatemala. Life was going really well, I had good control on things, and in general, our days were predictable and manageable. Any little blip out of the norm was no big deal because we could usually get everything back in order fairly quickly. However, when my son came home at 8 months old, I realized this might not be a blip.

I joked with people that two kids felt like three. I’d lost the ability to course correct and create a predictable and manageable life. Over time, my wife’s feedback got more and more hard to hear. “Why are you always on edge, what’s wrong with you?” was the melody line. Naturally I received this feedback incredibly poorly and redirected the blame to her and my son. We grinded our way through the pain with a don’t ask, don’t talk, avoid at all costs, approach.

Like all well ignored problems, it disappeared into a new norm of numbness, so we decided to adopt another child, but this time from Ethiopia. As the trip got closer, I grew more and more nervous about traveling to a third world country. It started with, “What if I get sick? Wait am I feeling sick? Is my throat sore, I think I might have strep.” And grew into “What if our daughter is really sick and really hard to care for?” On the official travel day, Christmas Eve 2009, I made it all the way through security and half way down the terminal before I began “surviving” breath by breath. I lost the battle, my brain went on tilt. I started sobbing uncontrollably and refused to get on the plane.

Somehow my wife managed to call the orphanage in Ethiopia (Christmas morning there) and get confirmation she could come without me. My brother had bought a ticket to travel with my wife and pick up my daughter for me. My sister-in-law was waiting for me outside of the airport and gave me one of the most loving hug I’ve ever received. The road from there was a painful one and started with me admitting I was not doing well.

My stigma of mental health was obliterated when my doctor told me he sees more patients regarding stress and anxiety than any other issue by a mile. From then on, I chose to embrace leaning into the pain, seeking out what it was that was messing with my head, literally. I can’t pin point any particular moment when I “got better” but I can tell you that I did. Day by day, brick by brick. If you’re still reading this rant and my story hits close to home – take action my friend, take it now before you’re just “surviving” breath by breath. Surviving or thriving? The choice is yours.


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Quit Day

I sent Chet an email on November 30th 2015 at 3:35pm that said, “Quit Day: 5/5/17”, the day I would quit my job and live my OPUS. This decklaration shook me to the core but I did it. I did it because I needed to put myself on the hook. I did it because if I didn’t make it official, it would always just be a dream or something I’d eventually do.

I remember sending the email and feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety in the moment. I remember telling my wife and her reaction was as scared as I was. I remember telling myself it’s 18 months from now and thankfully I’ve got plenty of time. I remember this day like it was yesterday.

Conversely, I don’t remember the specific time I started to believe living my OPUS would actually work… funny huh? However, the simple act of picking a date started the clock ticking in my head and helped me recommit to building my CORE, creating a new OPUS and PoP’ing it out. And everywhere along the way, brick by brick, I grew stronger.

After 2 months of doing this REAL HARD WORK, I couldn’t wait any longer and set up a meeting with the CEO to share my OPUS clearly, concisely and directly. He not only believed me, he also helped me get started earlier than I planned. Freakin’ magic.

As I sit here today and write this little rant, I can’t believe how important making that decklaration was. How important it was to believe in myself and my OPUS. So what are you waiting for my friend? What are you dreaming of and eventually planning on doing? Pick a date and get working. Good.


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Memory Makers

In 1997, Steve Jobs ranted for 60 seconds on TV’s across the world about his admiration and appreciation of what he called “the crazy ones”… the misfits, rebels, round pegs in square holes… the ones who see things differently… the ones not fond of rules or status quo.  I still find it incredible that he ran an advertisement for his company that shared his worldview and not a product.  Who in their right mind would do this?

My favorite chef and restaurateur is becoming a crazy one.  She believes that the experience of dining at her restaurant is as important as the food itself.  Her aim is to create kairos moments for her guests, those special experiences in which you lose track of time and memories are made.  So she recently shared her belief with her team and challenged them to think differently about the type of people they want to deliver this experience and here is the job description they just posted online:

Memory Makers: we are not looking for servers.  We are looking for amazing people that want to help create the ultimate dining experience for each and every one of our guests.  We are looking for passionate individuals that strive towards achieving and setting a standard for greatness.  We are looking for leaders that are positive, energetic, motivated and not afraid to coach, mentor and educate other’s in understanding that greatness can be achieved by all.

Does this sound crazy or what?  Ironically, but not surprisingly, the last line of Jobs’ digital oration is just another version of our worldview that leaders are believers: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ONES who do.”  I believe Katie’s Pizza and Pasta Osteria is going to change the world because Katie believes. AND, I can’t wait for my next memory there.


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DD OPUS version x.0

Here’s my distinct and deeply connected OPUS…

Build a small army of leaders who are core centered, committed to purpose, and ONE with their teams.

Help people become “fully alive” in alignment with St. Iranaeus’ incite.

— 20 hours a week is the expectation, lean towards the playbook
— Weekly practice & monthly shadow w/ my builder
— Choose responsibility over empathy
— Serve every client with a singular focus on making them do what they can do
— Prepare for every client practice as if they won’t grab the reins AND be open / encourage them to take control
— Weekly connect with people who support and understand what I’m doing regardless of if they are paying me

… writing words of affirmation to themselves
… doing the real hard work
… taking action in alignment with their OPUS
… grabbing the reigns and leading a practice
… referring me to someONE else



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