Powered by Puppy

I share my life-lessons learned on this blog each weekday. Here is today’s lesson…


Want a great exercise tip? Borrow a puppy.

Puppy Power- 151117

Being the proud puppy stepfather of young Oliver, I have learned that puppies have small bladders. And we live on the third floor. That means every hour and a half or so I am taking a trip downstairs to empty the puppy. Empty puppies, by the way, make great playmates. They chase (which means you run), climb (which means you bend and flex), and entice you to rub their bellies (which essentially means you do a lunge 20 times a day).

It’s not 3 hours at the gym, but puppies tire you out while you try to tire them out. We have had Oliver a little over a week and I have already lost 2 lbs on the “Puppy Plyometrics Plan”.

You should try it. Unless you hate puppies, in which case you are the Devil and probably stay slim from the heat down there.



What Is Your Super Power?

Know why others should pick you (to lead, to help, to be on their team, etc.).


“Why do people really hire you?”, a friend asked, wondering what quality sets me apart from everyone else when I am looking for work (or when work is looking for me).

I thought about it, then said, “You know, I think people hire me for one reason but end up finding my real value is in areas they did not expect. They hire me because my resume looks pretty and I have experience managing people. I think what they find after I have been on board a while is that my real super-power, as it were, is to help people think differently. It is not a quality you look for on a resume or in an interview but when it shows up, I think it is powerful and has served me well throughout most of my career.”

“Yes,” he said, “I can totally see that. Now I have to figure out what my super-power is!”

I didn’t say anything, but I smiled and thought, See? I just used my super power.

I love both questions, though, and I invite you to spend a few minutes thinking about them now…

Why do people really hire you?

What is really your secret super-power?


How To Find Out If You Are A Bully

Before you get mad about bullies, you might want to take a look in the mirror.


Rainee (my cat) has a habit–no, a ritual–of annoying me every night between 3:00 and 4:30am. She paws my face, walks across my body, and licks my ear lobes and eyelids until I give her attention. When she uses the litter box at night, she likes to announce it to the apartment by yowling and jumping on the bed. To top it off, she consistently wakes me up a half hour before my alarm so I can feed her.

Sometimes, I just ask her to leave me alone because I am trying to sleep (and, surprisingly, sometimes she does). Sometimes, though, I react instinctively. Something furry suddenly falls on my face–I swat at it! Often, she gets pushed or kicked off the bed for pestering.

Last night was no exception. I swatted her away out of half-sleep frustration but I heard a bad landing and instantly jolted awake, worried I had hurt her. She was fine, but I was not. I realized I could have hurt her (she is an older cat) for nothing more than annoying me and wanting to play.

I grabbed her and apologized (as if she could understand me) and invited her to lay back down next to me, which she did. After thinking about it today, though, it occurred to me that animals can give us particular insight into our selves. I bullied my cat. That is a fairly petty jerk-move, even if I was half-asleep.

The way we treat others–especially those with less power in a situation–is a clear reflection of our own self-actualization or folly. In other words, the best person you are is not who you are when you are at your best. The best person you are is the best person you can be when you are at your worst.

This might be a work in progress and take some patience but I will be sure to work on how I express or (suppress) power when I have more of it than someone who can do nothing about it, human or otherwise.

I hope you will, too.


That’s Life

Today’s Lesson: Life is coming at you and it will never let up. Who are you going to be about it?


Maybe the best advice I have ever received came from a quirky French guy named Alan. He was a Landmark Forum leader (basically a high-end Life Coach) and, among many nuggets of wisdom he shared, was a gem that has never left me.

It serves as a regular reminder for me whenever I face what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. When I do not know what to do or where to turn, I hear Alan’s accent sharing what sets heroes apart in the world. I don’t remember if he said it exactly like this, but it is pretty close. Alan said:

“You know the saying, ‘Shit happens’, yes? Well… that’s it. Shit happens. Life happens. There is nothing you can do about that. Life is going to happen no matter what. It’s not going to stop happening until you are dead. It’s not going to be easy on you today because it knows you are having a bad day. Life is not going to spare you bad news until tomorrow because you are having such a good day and it does not want to ruin it. No, it doesn’t care. It’s Life.

Life happens. What can you do? You can’t stop it, can’t pause it so you can catch your breath and think through it. It’s happening now. Always now. It’s happening, happening, happening. That’s it.

Life happens.

The only power you have–this is very important, listen–the only power you have is in choosing who you are going to be in the face of that.”

Life happens. The only power we have is in choosing who we will be when faced with the tough parts. 

Thanks, Alan.



How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (2 of 5)

Question from a reader: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, we have 5 now!


((Read part 1.))

I have been there. My boss asks me to do something that seems bad for business, for my team, or frankly, just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak up (and my peers are counting on me to) but I am not sure how to approach my boss without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, of course, but I can offer five tips that helped me keep the peace while challenging the status quo so far in my career:

2 (of 5). Keep your emotions out of it. When your boss asks you to do something you think is stupid or not in your best interest, probably two things are happening. The first is, your boss likely struck a nerve that makes you feel intimidated by the request or demand (which probably means it will lead to personal growth–something we all react to with initial resistance). The other thing that happens is it becomes an interruption to your emotional comfort zone, which means you are going to feel emotional about it. The problem with acting on your emotions is they are sometimes misplaced or out of proportion to the actual problem.

We sometimes become irrationally mad at inanimate objects that do not act differently than they have acted before (I am prone to be angry at my phone when it runs slowly–something it sometimes does yet I am always surprised and angered by until I reign in my emotions). When I react emotionally, I am giving away my power and authority to random chemicals and inciting the other person to do the same. Soon, any actual conversation has ended and we are both only trying to out-emotion each another (whoever seems angriest wins). The actual problem is never solved. The only resolution is the contest of emotions is over and ultimately my boss has the trump card on that anyway.

You can not control or dictate the emotions of someone else but the calmer and cooler you remain the more you signal the other person to do the same and the more power you gain in the conversation.


Today’s Lesson: Some people think power is loud and boisterous. Power is the opposite. It is the quiet, calm collection of thoughts and precision placement of words and influence. Before any storm, there is always the Calm.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what your boss can’t or won’t.



Should You Be the Life of the Party?

Everything was going great until SHE arrived…


At a party, I noticed how adept the host was. She held herself confidently and expertly kept the room engaged and having fun for several hours. She clearly had a strong presence and was viewed as “the leader of the party”. Then someone else arrived on the scene and everything shifted.

The new person was a business mentor of the host and was clearly used to having authority. She literally and figuratively commanded the room’s attention. Many of the guests began fawning over the new arrival and the host of the event gracefully slipped into the background, letting her mentor steer the energy and focus of the party.

It was fascinating to watch the shift in power and I realize that I have seen it before… when my boss visits my stores, for example, there is a clear (to me) shift in the energy and focus of the store. There is also a clear shift from the store’s normal manager to me when I visit.

Today’s lesson is: recognize when you are playing to your strengths and the world is with you. Be aware, also, when you are taking the limelight from another leader and unintentionally undermining their authority. It is okay for you to lay back and let another less experienced leader practice leading. Also, if you are going to a party and realize you are in command of the room, be gracious enough to step back and let the host be the host, even if they are gracious enough not to call you a jerk.



Today’s Lesson: Don’t Borrow From Tomorrow [141022]

There is a saying in Nicole’s local yoga community, “Don’t borrow tomorrow’s problems.”

James Altucher, one of my favorite speakers, says to “avoid time traveling”–either to the past or the future.

When we remind ourselves of the painful lessons we have learned in the past, it is important to remember the lesson but forget the pain. All of the dumb things we did we can not change. All of the tragic things that happened to us can not be reversed. The past has passed. There is no point carrying it around with us like unwanted luggage.

We do not have to suffer with anything we have no power to affect.

The same is also true, then, of traveling to the future in our minds. Dreading something that has not happened yet is also pointless. You might not even live to see it, even if it is something that might happen only a few seconds from now. You might be about to give a speech and suddenly have a heart attack. How dumb would you feel about dreading the speech if you unexpectedly had to deal with cardiac arrest?

The point is, the past has been written and can not be changed. The future has yet to be written and can not be known. Therefore, the only time to live in is the present. You have absolute power over the moment you are in now. You can choose to read the next sentence. You can choose to change the world. You can choose to go to sleep and hope to wake up again.

But the only time you can choose is now. Right now.

Choose wisely.




Today’s Lesson: Seeing Definition [141002]

I was dumbfounded by the question.


“I’ve been wanting to ask you this for years,” one of the senior people at my workplace said. “How do YOU define ‘Leadership”?


I have written and spoke about leadership for many years, developed manuals, led top-performing teams, and read countless books on the subject, but in all this time I had never developed my definition of “leadership”.


I stumbled through a half-answer trying not to steal any of the many definitions I have read by other authors but the question stuck with me. It is still sticking with me.


There are lots of pithy quotes and sanguine quips that define Leadership in memorable ways, but the more I think about it, the more I think defining leadership is like defining “romance”. It is different things to different people.


Indeed, there are probably as many ways to define leadership as there are leaders!


In the end, we settled on something like, “Leadership is impacting others through the power of relationships” but it is definitely not a keeper. I am not sure there is a perfect definition but I will work on having a pithy quotable one for the next time I am asked!





Today’s Lesson: No Rest For The Wicked [140901]

Technology is a two-headed beast. Thanks to things like email and FaceBook, it easier than ever to connect. Interestingly, today is Labor Day in the U.S. (a holiday to celebrate workers by giving them the day off) and I enjoy seeing how friends and family are spending their day on FaceBook, Twitter, and other social media sites. The down side is I also had 13 work emails before 1 o’clock, plus text messages and instant messages.

Before the proliferation of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other connected devices, a day off was just that. A day “off”. There was no way for your bosses or peers to inundate you with reports, kudos, or questions while you were at the beach with your family or sleeping in to celebrate not being tethered to your alarm clock.

There is no denying the magic, power, and marvel of an always-connected world but it is clear we are still in the infancy of the Technological Revolution. We are figuring out how to use technology to enhance lives but I am not so sure we are very good (yet) at leveraging technology to improve life.

(In case you are wondering, the irony of using technology to complain about abuse of technology is not lost on me… but it is a daily blog about one lesson I learned in life so you were probably expecting it, right?)