The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are only forward looking. How many years have you made a resolution only to find yourself in March without having truly put yourself into the resolution? It’s a well-known phenomenon. Health clubs count on it. It’s there biggest revenue boost – found income without expenditure. Membership rises but class sizes stay the same. It’s intention without commitment.
What’s up with this lack of follow-through? Resolutions tend to miss one key point. We can’t change ourselves if we don’t know where we are going wrong. We need the awareness of our stumbling blocks in order to stave them off.
What about last year disappointed us? How would we want it to be different? What blocked us from getting to that result last year? What do I need to do differently to achieve my desired outcome this year? Am I willing to do it? What am I willing to do? How can I find support in order to fulfill my goal? What will I do if I begin to revert back to my old ways?
Formulate a real plan based on awareness of your past.
In Judaism we always look backward. Many people do not understand this fascination with the past. Study of ancient texts and law systems does not seem at first blush to be relevant to our current condition. We are “living in the past.” Yet, these critics miss the most crucial element of moving forward. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Studying the past allows you to analyze what has worked and what has not. We learn the behavior we need to ensure the outcomes we desire.
Leadership Lesson: This is a lesson for life and leadership. Constant looking over your shoulder for lessons of cause of effect, while remaining optimistic that different inputs will produce different outputs is the most critical element of adaptable leadership. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, calls for leaders to look at the present – confront the brutal facts – and I am asking for one step further. Don’t just look at the brutal facts of today – accept the brutal facts of yesterday. That way you can make tomorrow a success.
I know many of you out there are just waiting for an update on my P90X progress. Yes, I am nearing the completion of day 90. As I sit here munching on blueberries where a few short months ago it would have been cookies or crackers, I am struck by how much we can learn from our bodies.
When I began the program I talked about the joys of discomfort. As leaders we need to embrace the pain that comes from leading change. Now sitting here after months of hard work, I can say that it does get easier. My muscles are fatigued now after a workout, but not painful. I gently get into bed as normal – not the crash into the mattress after struggling to stay upright in the shower that marked my first weeks. As I continue to push my body harder, it isn’t revolting anymore by seizing up and “screaming” NO MORE.
Sure, some of the enthusiasm has died and I’m not watching everything I put into my mouth quite the same way. I’ve relaxed into a “normative” mode.
But it’s a new normal.
Two and a half months and I am back to a “normal” I haven’t seen in at least five years. Not that I hadn’t tried other methods of getting back there. Just nothing had worked. What was different here? Intensity.
The P90X program brings a level of intensity and challenge that fuels an
attainable vision of your future.
We all know deep down that change comes with hard work. So if a program promises results without the work, we don’t really buy into it. If someone floats a vision to you and says “it will only take a little focus on our part to make it happen,” we don’t really buy it. Tony Hawk (P90X-man) says right up front – if you want this, you can have it, but your gonna have to bring it. Every day. Every time.
This kind of intense program comes with warning after warning – this is not for everyone. There is nothing wrong if you want to take a year to achieve the vision you have for yourself – or if you don’t want to put in the work at all. Some – much to our collective chagrin – don’t need to work at all to maintain fitness – and more power to them. But the select few (and there are more than you might think) who can thrive in this challenging environment can achieve great things, fast.
Leadership lesson. Leadership should come with a warning. This is not for everyone. Great leadership is intense. If you step up to this plate, accept the challenge, revel in the discomfort, knowing that soon you will create a new normal. Push yourself and others consistently – every day, every time. Let’s do this together. Our new year’s resolution – BRING IT.
WikiLeaks has brought up a lot of interesting conversation lately. Are we better off with more knowledge or less? Do we have a “right” to know it all? More importantly to me – do we want to? All this looking behind the glass – has it gotten us better leadership? No. How many good people out there want to subject themselves to the media’s level of scrutiny? And that’s just on the personal level. We have corroded the meaning of authority to the point where our children don’t even recognize it. We are creating a “Cheers” culture – where everybody knows your name, and your business – oh, and has an opinion about it (which I guess is hypocritical of me since I am writing this in my blog – the ultimate destination of the opinionated).
Not everyone believes this is a problem. My colleague, Anton Goodman, our shaliach from Israel, argues in his blog today that Israel has a public fascination with uncovering the inner workings of higher authority. Certainly as a native Washingtonian, there is a local fascination with being “in the know.” But the knowledge was limited. People in positions of authority were trusted – at least a little. Many blew that trust. But creating an environment of no-trust is losing the war for ourselves.
Without trust there is no respect.
We need a healthy respect and maybe a little dose of awe for our leaders to succeed. Anton uses the Israeli experience of familiarity to argue for a more personal relationship with the state. Really? How many times do Israeli governments collapse under a vote of no confidence? I would challenge that young Israelis today feel more distant from Israel, viewing it as a place they happen to live in, able to leave it behind in a heartbeat if the right opportunity arrives. “Personalizing” erodes respect and then we become buddies – people I could find in any other bar in the world.
Parents struggle with the same issues. Do you want to be their friend or their parent? How many friends will they have? How many parents? When we lose the respect and authority that comes with a position, we compromise our ability to function in that position. The White House Chief of Staff might be the President’s best friend, but in the White House he still calls her “Ms. President.”
Couples struggle as well. In order to maintain a strong relationship there are boundaries to set. I don’t always need to know everything, or experience everything. I need to experience trust. No people are as close as a couple. But over-familiarity will erode the relationship.
Let’s not be bamboozled by the conspiracists who want us to believe that they are doing us a favor by pulling back the curtain. We put the curtain up for a reason.
Chanukah. This is really a leader’s holiday.
Chanukah celebrates the victory of the smalll handful of Jews over the Assyrians (or Greeks), a world power at the time. Yes, it is also about the menorah miracle, but the liturgy is replete with “few over the mighty,” “weak over the strong,” and “righteous over the sinful.” The real miracle was that we survived at all.
And isn’t that what all leaders really believe?
It is a miracle we survive. We are the few, the weak, the “right.” (How different that is than the “few, the proud, the marines.”) We are few in number. Most people would rather be led than step into leadership. We are weak – not in resolve – but in strength of numbers and many times in position. We are “right” – I put that in quotations because I don’t want anyone to think there is only one right here. There are always many right answers to a predicament, but a leader finds at least one right answer and tries to steer the community toward it. But what is the power of being right? Not much!
Chanukah says to all of us – you CAN succeed. Not always, but hopefully when it counts.
We center an entire holiday around this concept. Why so important? If we are but a few, why make a holiday for everyone?
Simply, because leadership is essential.
Where would we be without leaders? Not very far. There is recognition of the paradox of leadership – people need them, but rarely do they want them (as evidenced by the way they are treated). Examples? Leaders in the Bible. Leaders through history. Leaders today. We can be pretty embarrassed by our subpar treatment of leaders. And yet, we recognize that someone has to take initiative, take the risk, forge forward.
So, leaders celebrate that there is a chance at success – that it is all worth it in the end. And followers – celebrate that people still step up to lead, even given the position we put them in. There’s something in this holiday for everyone.
Can you believe it? This week is Chanukah already!
Mostly due to my exhaustion from Thanksgiving and a family celebration, I am committed to a low key week this year. Typically, we pack a lot into Chanukah. For many people this is one of the few (maybe two) Jewish holidays celebrated in a year. But for my family it is one of many and actually one that can tend to be overlooked if we aren’t careful.
All other holidays come with a basket of rituals – from feasting to fasting or building funny tents in the backyard to eat in.
Not so Chanukah.
All we have to do is light a few candles every night. We still work all day, have homework, basketball, guitar, choir, teaching, meetings – well you get the picture – your life is probably filled to the brim as well. In fact, just lighting candles can be difficult. This year I am working the first night of Chanukah and my kids have tennis lessons that will bring the family together at 9:30pm for the first time. A bit late to get started with a holiday that should begin at 5:30.
So, in order to carefully mark the holiday, every year I typically sit down and plan out a theme for each night. There’s been movie night, community service night, dreidel night, visiting the sick night, game night, latke night, and one of my favorites – clean out the closets night (desperate times).
This year – no themes. Fueled by my sheer exhaustion, pun intended, I went back to the basics. Chanukah is the holiday of light. It’s placement in the winter solstice is meant to clue us into the supreme value of a tiny bit of light in the vast darkness. What is that light?
We are. Each one of us has a spark of light inside of us. It seems small sometimes – almost extinguished at times – but it can be nurtured and it can grow to shine for the world to see.
It’s basic and it’s deep. Not such a little holiday anymore.
Leadership Lesson: As leaders we always need to keep an eye on our unique light. Let it inspire. Let it ignite. Let it shine.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."