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Vulnerable Dog

Strength Through Vulnerability

When it comes to thinking about great leaders, I’ve been conditioned to immediately zero in on characteristics that reflect a strong personality– traits like confidence, decisiveness, vision, and fortitude. But are these “strong” traits enough to be successful today?

 

There are countless leaders across industries that match this description of strength – from Steve Jobs to Jack Welch to George Patton to Vince Lombardi, and Mark Zuckerburg. There’s no emotional coddling coming from this group – only an expectation of greatness and drive.

 

But over the course of the last few years, these strong personality leadership traits have started to feel incomplete. Command and control leadership has fallen out of favor amongst the creative class. In the creative space, intrinsic motivation reins supreme, making one thing crystal clear: Modern leadership demands more than traditional traits of strength.

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Hoos Racing

Stop Looking Ahead and Start Racing To Right Now

Back in 2009, I made the trek from Chicago to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl college football game between my beloved Michigan State Spartans and the Georgia Bulldogs. I’m not a Disney guy – so what’s a man to do with extra time in Central Florida on a hot day in December?

 

Go-Kart Racing. Really fast Go-Kart Racing.

 

I knew I was enjoying my time navigating the track when I started shouting with glee to nobody in particular. And even once I was conscious of what I was doing, I still screamed. It felt amazing.

 

I was completely focused on what was happening on the track: stepping on the gas emphatically to get every mile per hour possible out of the engine, maneuvering the steering wheel with authority to beat the guy next to me without hitting him (at least not too hard) or running into the wall, and strategizing how to pass the car in front of me.

 

My time on the track was so blissful that I’m still talking about it six years later.

 

Here’s why: It was the first time in way too long that I actually left my worries & ambitions behind to focus 100% of my energy on living in the moment.

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Tee shirt city background

Learning From the Dingy Undershirts In Your Dresser Drawer

“You’re only as fashionable as the oldest white undershirt you still wear.”

 

Many years ago, I read this quote as part of a fashion piece in my favorite magazine, Men’s Health. Rifling through the clothes in my dresser on a recent Saturday, these words came racing back into my conscious mind.

 

While I can’t say that I typically spend a lot of time examining the white undershirts in my dresser, there was something insightful that came from taking the time to look at these tee shirts through the lens of the Men’s Health quote.

 

I discovered that over time I had let it become normal to have and use old yellowed shirts. Without ever making a conscious choice, I’d come to accept dingy shirts that didn’t reflect how I wanted to dress or present myself. Not cool. It was downright embarrassing looking at some of the shirts in my drawer that day.

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Seats

When 20 People Walked Out of My Presentation Before It Started

I’m a big believer that with everything you do – you either win or learn. If you take the time to process information and make yourself better, that’s a learn – not a loss.

 

Welp. I definitely learned recently.

 

For the second year in a row, I joined forces with a good friend of mine, Adam Brown, to speak at the Michigan Business Professionals of American conference, a gathering of 2,000+ top high school students launching their business career. As part of the conference, students present to a panel of judges and attend a handful of talks called Legacy Launchers. Adam & I delivered a Legacy Launcher presentation as part of the conference.

 

The presentation itself went spectacularly well. Our content was top-notch and we were locked in with our delivery to the two hundred high school students in attendance – using examples that resonated and the right balance of fun & professional. Adam & I left feeling like we nailed it thanks to a long line of students that came to talk with us after the presentation, most armed with excellent questions about their career and plenty of compliments on the talk. Students even used social media to share they learned a lot from our talk & said it was “thought-provoking” and “really inspirational”.

 

So where’s the problem?

 

The title of our talk was terrible. It didn’t resonate with the audience and when we projected our title slide on the screen, about 20 students actually walked out of the room. That’s bad. They thought they were sitting in a room where a history lesson was about to start.

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Deck Stacked

Safety to Start-Up: Stacking The Deck in Your Favor

While it’s appropriate to emphasize the need to understand the fear that’s holding you back from pursuing that amazing new endeavor, it’s equally important to understand how to maximize success for first-time entrepreneurs. So, let’s change the narrative away from fear and learn from the brave souls who dive into the shark-infested waters of something new and different.

 

What motivates new entrepreneurs to move away from a safe career and to invest his or her precious time in a new bold crazy venture? And even more importantly, how do these entrepreneurs maintain that ambition once a new reality – and one that’s not always so rosy – is created.

 

From countless conversations with people thinking about starting something new and countless meetings with emerging and established entrepreneurs, a few common themes have started to emerge for predicting success. There’s no secret recipe for having the fortitude (read: insanity) to successfully start something on your own, but here are three telltale predictors that fear might be in the rearview mirror and success in front of you.

 

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Woman Dancing

Conquer Your Fear and Move On With Life

Fear is a paralyzing beast that lives in all of us. It spends every hour of every day working to keep us locked inside the soul-sucking cage we call our comfort box. Dramatic? Maybe. Just don’t dismiss the impact fear can have on your life and how fear can stop you from doing the amazing things you’re capable of.

 

But how can we conquer this fear? How can we be comfortable in an environment where we expose ourselves to fear? We get there by believing our true job is to expose ourselves to fear. We get there by believing that you’ll only be good at your job once you’re comfortable enough to not only dance with fear, but move beyond fear. Here, in the world where we are comfortable with fear, is where innovation, creativity, and infectious positive energy live.

 

Over time, I’ve identified a few tangible ways to get more comfortable overcoming fear. You’re guaranteed to feel awkward as you try these activities, but that’s a sign of personal growth. And I promise that over time these activities will become more comfortable. And as I like to say: with discomfort comes growth.

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