While most of the kids in my elementary school wanted to be sports stars growing up, I wanted to be a Jedi. I ran through the woods around our country home training to be a Jedi. During the summer, I would burn a whole day watching all three of the original movies back-to-back. I was certainly all in. I just needed a real lightsaber to cut down trees and through rock and I would have been set!
The Star Wars movies are certainly loved by millions across the world. Previously we covered Star Wars twice in our Findling Leadership series. Even still, I think there are still a few things we can learn in leadership by being a Jedi.
Be mindful of the present
Jedi are very intentional about being in the moment. They tap into everything that is going on around them to make the ultimate connection to the Force. That can be really hard to do in real life!
Today’s world is full of distractions that try to pull you away from the moment. Your phone, of course, social media, troubles, and stressors you have going on at work, school, or at home are just a few of the things that can pull you out of the moment.
You won’t be able to meet your fullest potential in leadership or in life until you can begin to appreciate and become fully involved in the moment in front of you. Distractions pull your engagement levels down with others, which impacts your relationships in a potentially long-term manner. Being pulled out of the moment also makes you miss the important things going on around you that will soon pass you by.
One of our more popular shows came from a listener question that centered around the question: Is the desire for more time really a desire for more meaningful memories? (EP 243) One of the themes from the show was that the lack of being in the moment made people feel like they needed more time or at least better time management in their day when in reality they needed to slow down and enjoy the day as it unfolds.
Qui-Gon Jinn tells Obi-Wan Kenobi, ” Don’t center on your anxieties Obi-wan. Keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.”
It’s a great reminder as we focus on getting our to-do lists down today while fully appreciating the moment in time that you are in.
Let go of fear and its power over you
Fear is a common underlying theme for nearly all the Jedi in the movies. Anakin chases fear that leads him to become Darth Vader. Yoda warns about its grip and power several times. Luke and Rey both faced fear in different ways as well. One of Yoda’s famous sayings is, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”
Isn’t that statement true?
Fear can turn into the driver of our life if we let it. Think about people that you know or perhaps times you yourself hesitated because of fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown was always the biggest obstacle for me when I was running competitively on the obstacle course circuit. Those were certainly more mentally taxing than they were physical.
Fear of failure. (PTB 283) Fear of rejection. The list can go on and on about fear and its crippling power over both our personal and professional lives.
Actively combat fear cut off its hold over you. Do research ahead of time to help with the fear of the unknown. I would download course maps, go to the site early, and lay out all my clothes the night before a race to help ease the unknown.
Take small steps towards conquering your fear with the first goal of just stopping it from increasing space in your life. Once you gain some small victories, celebrate and move to start shrinking and ultimately eliminating that fear in your life.
In over 300 shows, there are a few underlying themes that we always come back to. One of those is the emphasis to have balance in your life. It’s certainly a trait the Jedi strive to have in their own lives. The phrase “a balance in the force…” is referenced or said many times as the Jedi teach each other. They are so attuned to balance that they famously get a physical reaction when things become unbalanced or there is a disturbance in the Force.
Is there a disturbance in the Force around you today? Are you off your game a little because you are unbalanced? It happens to all of us.
Self-reflect on the different aspects of your life today, from home to work or school. What’s taking up too much space? What’s not getting enough space? Those two simple questions can help enlighten you about opportunities to get things back in balance. Sometimes the demands of a project can take up more space in your life, which is ok as long as you don’t allow it to permanently occupy an unhealthy amount of space in your life.
I love willow trees. It stems from my early childhood when we didn’t have much, but we did have a huge (to me) willow tree that grew in our backyard. They are found all over the world, but the one in our backyard was the only one I saw as a child. It was unique, beautiful, and tree uniquely it’s own. Something that I also wanted to be growing up.
Here are a few things that willow trees can teach us about our own leadership and life walk.
They grow very quickly
Willow trees are one of the fastest-growing trees on earth, producing large amounts of biomass in as little as 4-5 years. It’s a tree that truly puts all of its efforts into growth and expansion. Willow trees take full advantage of the day, and so should we.
The idea of living a life full of personal growth, adventure, and experiences has been a huge personal driver for me in my adult life. Don’t let time be an excuse to put off something that you want or need to do. 15 years ago,
I lived in Birmingham, AL, and had a goal to visit every county in the state while doing some geocaching. I remember vividly when some of my friends stop me and commented how crazy I was for traveling so much when the price of gas was so high. My response was, “Gas is never going to get cheaper.” The price of gas then was about $2.30 per gallon then.
Another ambitious goal was to run all the Disney races in the US in one year. 29 races across both coasts. People thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy! We saved up some money and we were able to make it happen. Two years later, all the West Coast races were canceled, and it wouldn’t be much longer before COVID would shut down the East coast races as well.
If you have a goal, don’t put it off. Life happens and will throw a curve or downright destroy the path to realizing your vision. Maximize your time like the willow tree to grow to your fullest potential.
Their presence adds value to others
Willow trees hold quite a bit of symbolism for different cultures. Some associate hope, compassion, a sense of belonging, and safety to the tree, while ancient Chinese culture believed that willow trees warded off evil spirits and brought good luck. There is just something about willow trees that bring people a sense of calm and security.
How are you doing in bringing calm and security to those around you? Do you inject drama and stress into the room when you arrive or do you give people a sense that things are going to be ok? Be mindful of how you carry yourself around others and reflect on the energy and value that you brought, or didn’t, to the gathering that you attended. Some people are great at either life or work scenarios but may struggle to carry the same level of commitment and excitement across both. If that’s the case, check your personal calling (EP 161) and your level of commitment to each part of your life.
They aren’t perfect
As beautiful as the willows are, they are not perfect. The fact that they put all their effort into growth, means that they are more susceptible to catching a disease and dying. Their roots are also aggressive and can be bad in residential areas that rely on underground and ground-level amenities like water pipes, drain lines, and buried cables.
Nobody should expect you to be perfect and if they do, you may want to check that relationship. Even though the willow tree looks healthy, it’s the flaws just underneath the surface that could get the best of it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself in leadership and life. It can feel like you are letting your team or your family down…and maybe you did, but that’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up, and keep growing. Remember to lean into the power of accountability partners (EP 191) and mentors (EP 171) when things get tough, or you just need an ear to listen.
Embrace your flaws as you grow in your leadership and life walk. Put time in its place by being intentional and actionable towards your goals, be the luck maker for those around you, and remember to be a calming presence in both your personal and professional life.
Our family loves glow sticks. We typically keep a pack of the sticks and some of the necklaces and bracelets just in case a need arises on a trip, campout, or just a fun time in the backyard. Our kids and friends are always pleasantly surprised when we hand them out.
Whether you had fun with some over the weekend or used them in the distant past, you’ve likely encountered glow sticks at some point. Simple in design, but I’m sure there are a few good reminders that we can learn to better our personal and professional lives.
They have to break to work
A glow stick that has yet to be used….is kind of boring. It’s very muted and the shape itself is typically uninteresting. It just sits there and exists. You know how to make the magic happen though; you take it, apply pressure to snap it, and then give it a good shake. Then the glow stick comes alive!
Sometimes things in our work and home lives have to break in order for us to reach a new level of potential. The breaking is not the fun part; think of a loss of a job, a relationship ending or relocating to a new area. As you go through a tough time either by choice or not, focus on the positive that is sure to happen on the other side of the change. It will help you as you move to your new normal.
Be on the lookout to break things in different parts of your life to various degrees to find new and exciting ways to accomplish your goals. Maybe there are processes at work that you have done the same way for years, that need to be re-examined. Perhaps you’ve been living in the same location for a long time and have gone blind to all the updates that need to happen. Don’t go about trying to wreck your life, but look for things that could use a fresh approach and perspective.
They live out their purpose & light the way
A glow stick has one purpose. To provide light for its owner. Singular in focus, the glow stick always does its job well.
We talk pretty consistently about finding your life calling (EP 161) and finding purpose in your work (EP 312) Today may be a good day to do some self-reflection in this area. Are you following your calling and purpose? I know that it can be a challenge to step out in faith and do, but the long-term benefits vastly outweigh the short-term fear and discomfort. In the business world, I emphasize the concept of finding your job (Find your job series) instead of just going after the first opportunity in front of you. It’s a joy to see leaders embrace the concept and process to truly find and enjoy their purpose and it’s also frustrating to see another leader continue to go after just a job and job hop from one thing to another. They are wasting their valuable time and doing a disservice to the organizations and people that they encounter along the way.
Find your purpose and calling and live it out wholeheartedly in all that you do. You’ll light the way for others as a result and become a guide for others to find their own purpose.
They are fun
I haven’t run across anyone that had an awful time with a glow stick. In fact, it’s usually the opposite! No doubt glow sticks are fun to play with. They simply bring joy when it’s their time to shine.
How have you brought joy to others this last month or week? Are people happy to see you or could they not care less? Some of that dynamic rests on their shoulders, but the rest is your responsibility. You don’t have to be an extrovert either to light up a room. Be authentic, genuine, and caring. Those three things always bring joy to others.
Remember that Leaders don’t have bad days (PTB #13) and to leave your baggage at the front door of your work and house. It will be there for you to pick up and your way out if you want to! Shake off the crummy parts of your day and be intentional about having a great time with others, however, that looks for you.
When you think about geese, there may not be a lot of positive things that come to mind. They can be mean, very territorial, and leave a mess everywhere.
Many years ago when I lived in Birmingham, AL, I would go on runs around these beautiful little lakes in a large business complex. The only problem was that geese also loved hanging out there. Between doing the endless amounts of goose poop and the geese themselves at times, running started to be a little bit of a chore.
Despite all their flaws, there are a few things that we can learn from geese
Everyone has time to shine and lead
Geese fly in the class V formation while migrating from one place to another. They are well known in North America and the idea of the V formation can be found in many different leadership courses and discussions. When asked where a leader saw themselves in the formation, some would say the front. They wanted to be the person leading the team. Others would argue that they wanted to be in the back, letting others shine on the team.
The truth is that each of the perspectives is right when they are put together. Sometimes you need to be in the font, and sometimes you need to be in the back. That’s exactly how geese lead each other. They rotate who is in front to give each other rest and time to take a break.
Geese share the load and step in and lead when it’s appropriate.
They are very loyal to each other
Geese are extremely loyal to one another. If one becomes injured or sick during one of their flights together, the hurt goose will drop out of the formation while two other geese will stay behind to protect the hurt goose until it can fly again. Mother geese are famously protective of their little ones and will chase humans and other perceived predators away if they sense that they are getting too close. In both examples, the goose is willing to give up its own security in order to protect another goose in the group.
While we may not need to yell at every human who gets near a hurting friend, we are better friends, family members, and co-workers when we do life together and look out for one another.
Keep in good contact with your peers and other co-workers so that you know when something is off. Oftentimes people could use some help and don’t communicate it to others. Be a helping hand or a hero for someone when they are down.
As family members, it’s important to protect each other as we grow in our life journey. It may be by physical protection or helping someone younger (or older) navigate the internet in a safe way. Help guide your family with your unique skills and abilities.
Good friends are often times where we are the most loyal, especially for those that are younger. As life continues to change the dynamic that you have with other friends, be intentional in staying connected and in each other lives. You may be the perfect ear for someone as they share the hardships that they are going through.
They communicate…. a lot.
Sometimes you can hear the geese overhead before you can see them. They honk, a lot and loudly! Scientists believe that geese honk so much when they fly together in order to communicate with one another mid-flight. Get too close to a goose on the ground and it will likely start honking at you and maybe even open up its wings and start flapping them at you. Even in the mundane, it seems like geese are constantly communicating with each other and those around them.
People love their routines. Once we get into a great groove and routine, we can often drop off our level of communication. People should know what to do and how to do it, right? It’s important to stay engaged and keep the communication going across all parties even in the small things. This keeps informed and gives you both an opportunity to share any changes that may have larger implications later.
Despite their flaws, we can learn a thing or two about teamwork from geese. Give others a chance to step out of their comfort zone and bask in the spotlight, communicate well and often and hold true to your loyalty to others. Just be sure not to leave a mess wherever you go.
I really admire boxers for their dedication and commitment to reaching a goal. Think about all that goes into a fight that can last as little as a minute long. They thoroughly watch what they eat months ahead of time, They are constantly training, and they sacrifice other non-essential items that distract them from the upcoming fight.
From the prep, to the fight and recovery; a good boxer can teach us a thing or two about leadership.
They are constantly improving and preparing
Watch any boxing movie and the vast majority of the time of the film is focused on the training and planning as opposed to the actual fights. A boxer quickly loses their standing and reputation when they stop furthering their experience.
When I talk to successful and well-respected leaders, one of the most common traits that they look for in other leaders is the act of being a continual learner. On the flip side, I’ve seen and coached many leaders that plateaued in their careers. At some point, they had a sense of arrival and stopped pushing their personal expertise and lost the desire to continue to change.
If there is one trait or ability that I would recommend to keep sharp, it’s this one. Being a continual learner feeds so many other aspects of your leadership. It keeps you agile against a constantly shifting environment, helps you stay relevant, and helps you relate better to others.
They know how to dodge a punch
Boxers practice dodging punches just as push as they do on focusing on their hitting skills. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit if you are constantly taking punches too. While you might not be in a physical fight on a regular basis, there’s a good likelihood that you face verbal and emotional fights on the regular.
Some people easily fall into these traps and find themselves in fights that they know that they shouldn’t be in. Dodging these proverbial punches heavily ties back into our EQ series.
Self-management – Ok, you got hit, now what? How you react here makes all the difference. A good boxer knows that they are going to get hit and have to keep dodging if they are going to be successful. Understand your hot buttons and work to control those in the heat of the moment.
Social awareness – Boxers learn to quickly pick up on the non-verbal cues of their opponents in order to react quickly and last longer in the fight. Hone in on the social cues around you to anticipate when things are about to take a turn for the worse. How does the room feel? What is the demeanor of the people around you? Who is not acting like their normal self?
The ability to dodge a proverbial punch can save you and the other person from a painful interaction.
They get back up after a defeat
We get knocked down in life. Sometimes it may be a smaller thing like feeling down and disappointed with someone close to you, to something big as suddenly losing your job or a family member.
A boxer with any worth doesn’t quit and walk away after their first defeat. They take time to re-assess the fight and then work to heal and start training again. Don’t give up because you have had a setback, no matter how big or small it may be. Take time if needed to heal mentally, emotionally, or spiritually and then get back on the road to recovery and growth.
Put the work in ahead of time, be agile in the moment, and take care of yourself along the way.
As a kid, you may have loved playing with magnifying glasses. As an adult, you may need one to function a little better! Whether digital or in the analog world magnifying glasses are something that we can take for granted but can teach us a thing or two about leadership and life.
It obviously magnifies
The primary function of a magnifying glass is its ability to help you see things better, bigger, and clearer. Think about your team, those you work with, and your friends and family. As a leader, you should magnify their lives in many ways.
Magnify their talents and general awesomeness: Showcase, call out and recognize the talents, skills, and accomplishments. This helps your team feel more confident in their role and creates more personal buy-in to your leadership. Take time in the real and in virtual meetings to highlight and celebrate others. This is also a great way to model the behavior that you want to see in those you interact with on a daily basis.
Help others see themselves: We speak often about the power behind strong emotional intelligence. The foundation of EQ is self-awareness and it’s also an area that many leaders struggle in without even knowing it. Do your part to help others see aspects of themselves and how they come across to others. Take an empathetic and caring approach so that the person accepts the feedback well.
Use your talents to magnify the situation: You have unique talents, abilities, and skill sets that others don’t. Leverage those skills to show others the bigger picture and impact of what’s going on around them. If you are great at technology, you may bring up how a project impacts a system and explain the larger implications. In your personal life, you may use your talents to help a person learn a new skill or to understand a situation better.
It can be used to bring the heat
When focused under the right conditions, a magnifying glass can literally bring the heat. Certain types of magnifying glasses can even start a fire with enough precision.
In Facelifts, overhauls, and funerals we talk about the need to assess your life and situation and make adjustments accordingly. Shrubs and plants can be pruned so that they grow healthier, fuller, and stronger, Burn out the dead parts of your life and your leadership so that you can continue to grow.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to help others excel in their role and meet their career aspirations. This often means helping them refine their own ways and behaviors in order to make it to the next step in their career. Bring the heat when needed in a concentrated way. You don’t want to come in and scorch the earth! Be precise and intentional in your approach.
It magnifies only what you want it to
Most magnifying glasses are relatively small and while they are great at doing what they do, it only works where you point it.
Make sure that you are magnifying the right things in your life. It’s easy to get down on ourselves and then have a confirmation bias to affirm the negative situations currently happening to you. For example, maybe you got reassigned to remote work during the pandemic and didn’t like it. You missed your friends, the perks of the office, and getting out of the house. If you keep magnifying the downside, your confirmation bias will only keep bringing out negative things that catch your attention.
Be aware of your current mental and emotional state. Are you focusing on the right areas? It very well could be different depending on what aspect of your life you are looking at. Maybe work is going well, but you’re struggling in a personal relationship. Move your focus when needed and point it in a positive direction. There is enough negativity out there as is, without us needing to overfocus on it.
Focus on the right things, bring out the best in your team, and be willing to burn away the things holding you back.
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