Part 2: How can I do better?

by Sam on July 19, 2011

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are for. ~Admiral Grace Hopper

The Admiral gives us a central theme for this three-part series that we are in the middle of. For much of our lives you and I are ships in port. Let’s venture out to sea together! Which one of these eight directions map an attractive new course for you?

1. Dig the well before you are thirsty. This Chinese proverb is a good word picture of “strategic thinking”. Foresee the impact of today’s behavior on tomorrow. Prepare yourself for the demands of the future. Establish the lines of credit with people now that you may need to call on down the road. Know you’ll pay some price tomorrow for getting your way today. Anticipate! Anticipate! Anticipate!

2. Climb back on. In the movie The Replacements, Coach Jimmy McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) asks his quarterback Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves), “Do you know what separates the winners from the losers?” Reeves: “The score.” McGinty: “No. Getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.”

3. Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence. The corollary to this aphorism is that people who make your life miserable don’t do it because of who you are but because of who they are. In other words, most personal attacks you suffer can be traced to misinformation, pain, fear, emotional instability, or mental illness inside the attacker.

4. Burn high-octane fuel. Eat right, drink right, and sleep right. Not sure? Consult a physician, nutritionist, or personal trainer.

5. Become a master questioner. Great leaders don’t worry about not having the right answers; they worry about not having the right questions. Questions are “magic.” They turn confusion into clarity, resistance into receptivity, conflict into consensus, and silence into speech. When well stated, they cause listeners to rethink their positions, to reflect on their behavior, and to open their minds to new possibilities. You’re not always in a position to make an authoritative statement; you’re always in a position to ask an authoritative question.

6. Exalt people, not positions. Others are drawn to you by the compassion you show when you see them (and consequently treat them) as human beings with feelings, wishes, desires, ambition, weaknesses, and needs for love and acceptance. Do you sometimes make the mistake of distancing yourself by, instead, slotting them into roles in your life? A test: When in conversation do you refer to a loved one who may be sitting by your side as my wife, my son, or my friend or as Carole, Cameron, or Chris?

7. Get on the right side. John or Mary? Republican or Democrat? Conservative or Liberal? Union or Management? I was taught a simple and reliable test that reveals who to believe in a conflict, disagreement, or exchange of ideas. Here it is: When side one, by and large, advocates issues while side two responds principally with personal (”ad hominem”) attacks, side one is mostly—if not completely—in the right.

8. Serve. Jesus of Nazareth, by his account in the Bible, presents himself as God. His followers call him the King of Kings. Yet in his own words, he came to earth not to be served, but to serve. He went so far as to say that those who want to be first must be slave of all (Mark 10:44-45). You and I have been placed here for the same reason. When was the most recent time you put someone else first? When will be your next opportunity? Will you do it?


How can I get people to want to follow me? A class is forming right now for the second Sam Deep Leadership Academy at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Hotel. Registration is limited to 20. We begin with a two-day session on September 29 & 30 followed by five one-day classes in November, January, March, May, and June. If you want to discover what it takes to win the commitment of followers, call Sam at (412) 487-2379.

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