Dancing with Fear

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph...

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph is a publicity photograph illustrating Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire in a vaudeville act entitled “A Rainy Saturday”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hills above my town are filled with trails for running and hiking. Rolling green hills, creeks, and beautiful canyons invite the adventure seeker. By day, its beauty pops and inspires, by night, it is hidden in the mysterious shadows, barely visible in the moonlight. What made me decide to shake things up and run into the dark? Forty dollar headlamps and a desire to conquer my fear. Running this the first time, two years ago was scary. Today, it’s a walk in the park.

 

Fear comes in many shapes and forms. Physical fear of the dark, inner city gas stations, or rattle snakes is your body’s way of protecting itself from dangers. Seth Godin refers to the Lizard Brain, the amygdala. This is the survival portion of your brain that only cares about the NOW and protecting you from immediate dangers. In our civilized society, we don’t face the same dangers humans did a million years ago. Our brains, however, don’t know the difference. Stephen Pressfield wrote about the Lizard Brain in a his brilliant work “The War of Art”. He calls it the resistance. I have written extensively about this subject throughout this blog. The resistance lurks in the comfort zone of your psyche, trying to pull you away from greatness and into the safety of mediocrity. Your brain works much like a parent who in an effort to protect his child from embarrassment or disappointment tells him not to try out for the school play. Like a child, we tend to listen to our Lizard Brain/resistance. Sometimes, like a rebellious teenager, we push away the resistance and end up with something amazing. Pressfield has articulated one of the most fulfillment zapping phenomenon in modern history; writers’ block, procrastination, distraction, self-doubt etc. Whatever shape or form you may experience, you WILL see the resistance. Pressfield suggests a WAR; a fight. Perhaps he’s missing an opportunity to dance.
In his recent work, Seth Godin challenges the notion of a “war”, in which we challenge the resistance. He instead, suggests that we must dance with it. I nearly drove the car off the side of the road (listened on Audio) when I heard this. The WAR concept is etched in stone in the creative world. Godin, however, is becoming the William Wallace of creative battles. Perhaps, instead, he would rather be the Fred Astaire. A day of writing without distraction is typically considered a good day. Not anymore:
The resistance (in its many forms) doesn’t show up when we are busy average.
I have never procrastinated sleeping in. Never has my Facebook exploration been interrupted by the desire to pray, or write, or do something meaningful. The opposite, of course, is a daily occurrence. The resistance, like the oppressive government in The Hunger Games, only comes after threats to the status quo. All the other “things” are safely locked behind a fence, unable to affect change. If working toward your fulfillment does not yield any resistance, no “Peacekeepers” coming in the night to take you away, there is no threat to the status quo.

Unless your status quo is complete fulfillment and you’ve achieved everything you were designed for, “status quo” is “status NO”.

You must pose a threat to invite the resistance. Start making progress and you’ll see resistance in its many forms lurking. Mother Theresa faced almost an entire lifetime of spiritual dryness known as the Dark Night of the Soul. The warm and fuzzy we get when we go to church was replaced with numbness. Mother Teresa was a real threat to the status quo of the poor being poor, body and soul in Calcutta. She did not fight the resistance, she danced with it, and many souls are dancing toward heaven for it. Replace the warm and fuzzy, the desire to do something else, the urge to question your ability, with the new dance of fulfillment. It’s coming whether you like it or not. Give up now and be average or put on your dancing shoes! Embrace the desire to procrastinate. If you feel it, you’re on to something. Welcome the inner voice that says you’re not good enough. Laugh a giddy laugh at the desire to check Facebook while your halfway through marathon training. You are a threat to the status quo. That, my friends, is moving the needle toward awesomeness.
I overslept and almost didn’t write this article today thinking inspiration will be here tomorrow. I chose to dance instead of procrastinate. How will you dance today?
Rocco De Leo
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Your “Why” is Much More than Bacon

I didn’t want a Mac computer.  I knew Windows very well and have owned numerous computers, all with Windows.  I was buying a new one every few years. Not so much because the technology need, but of necessity as my computers would get so clunky with spyware and viruses.   Last September, I found myself shopping again.  I decided to reflect on WHY I wanted a new computer before I decided on WHAT I would buy.   Instead of trying to get the most features for the least amount of money, I decided to start with the reason I hated the computer I was getting rid of.  It took approximately 11 minutes to start it up, and needed several re-boots per day.  That’s it.  I wanted something that simply worked.  I wanted the increased productivity and ease of use I dreamed a new computer would deliver.  Mac, not necessarily known as the most powerful computers (I don’t care), was known for simplicity.  A coworker showed me that his Mac Air rebooted in approximately 1 second.  My “Why” sold me because Mac’s features (at least one of them) aligned with it.   I am  much happier with the my Mac.

English: Slow down?

English: Slow down? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Understanding why we enjoy certain things can open us up to much more fulfillment.

Never is this more important than where we spend our careers.  Many employers assume we are motivated only by money and maybe promotability (because of money).   They miss out on so much.  Author, Ken Coleman talks about our “sweet spot”.  That spot where our passions and our skills intersect is where we are most valuable.  Imagine going to work doing work you love and excel.

The problem is  too many people are oblivious to their own passions.

They know some of what they are good at, but don’t know their passions.  Expecting the company to provide a road map of career development leaves employees feeling empty, regretful and underutilized. What will you do if you get promoted to the next “step” and you hate it.  Or SUCK at it. There are other roads to success, but you have to look in the mirror first.

Ask yourself Why?  Why do you do what you do?  Beyond the common need to bring home the bacon, you have a purpose.  Whether you can or can’t articulate it, something drives you.  I write this blog to get better at helping with  “tools” for people to get better at finding and achieving purpose in life, thus leading a more fulfilled life. This applies to my day job as well.   I have to remind myself that “followers”, “likes”, and “re posts”, are not my goal.  Knowing this allows me to continue with my work and not sweat things that don’t matter to me. I recently wrote on what happens when we forget the “why” . Our why is what makes us valuable and keeps us going when we feel tired and beaten.  Be intentional and reflect on why you are doing what you are doing.  Be honest and make sure it aligns with your morals and your over goals for your life.

What are you going to do TODAY to discover your sweet spot?

Rocco De Leo

You Are An Impostor And Everyone Is Going To Find Out

In a recent  movie, Batman was called upon to “sacrifice” himself to save Gotham city from a ruthless and powerful tyrant hellbent on exploding a nuclear device in the middle of the city.  Superman will soon be on the silver screen again saving the world from assured destruction.  Who can forget ‘Spidey” flying around saving the pretty girl on flying skateboards?  Who is Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, or Peter Parker? These guys are my hope on my struggle from mediocrity into awesomeness.

Runaway

Runaway (Photo credit: Cayusa)

As a man wearing many masks (Dad, full-time employee, writer, husband-to-be, etc) I am constantly assuming many “superhero” roles.  Over time, I  have developed a pretty good work flow to manage the things that need to get done.  That has opened up many doors on my journey toward awesome. It was easier to complain that I didn’t have any time to do things rather than face the learning curves (and many of them) I face on a daily basis.  Now that I have figured how to move forward rather than treading water, I face new challenges everyday.  Managing a household and a full-time job while still making room for myself comes with a lot of  “awe”.    I get a compliment on how well I am doing with my kids, I think “if they only knew”. “Sure my son said please and thank you. But I forgot to feed him breakfast, he didn’t brush his teeth, and his lunch money is sitting on the kitchen counter and he’s already at school”. “Good job with that account, the sales are looking good”.  Of course, the customer needed my product, I was just the right guy at the right time.
I am just a big faker and afraid every one is going to find out!
Are these words of a crazy man?! Certainly not. I’m hearing a similar story from many artists, including one of my heroes, Seth Godin.  The fact that I am consuming content from these artists implies that they  have succeeded enough to be relevant and have a large enough platform to reach me.  That is awesomeness! My guess is that guys like Seth Godin, Dave Ramsey, and Rick Warren all have feelings of doubt and feel like they are faking it too.  Godin speaks directly to this in the Icaraus Deception. What separates me from them (besides a bunch of New York Times Bestsellers) is that they have mastered the art of singing along with the voice of doubt and have learned that they have something important to say.  Like the superheros, I must wear my different masks, and say what I have to say because it too is important. Batman, Superman, and Spiderman are not superheros because they are fearless or never doubt themselves.

They are superheroes BECAUSE they have fear and ACT in spite of those fears.

I will continue to be the superhero my family needs me to be.  I will be my own Superman and soar toward awesomeness.  You are reading this because you are either my mom and  are obligated to read it, or you are on your own journey toward awesomeness.  Well, my friend, you are not alone.
What things are faking your way through today?
Share this post. Tell your friends you are an impostor and you don’t care who knows because at least you are showing up!
Rocco  De Leo

How the Connection Economy Unlocks the Mystery of Sushi and the Kindle

Sushi is one of those things that draws people together.  Like the comraderie in the trenches of war, eating sushi with someone instantly builds rapport.  Sushi is a cultlike experience.  Maybe its the co-worker who is grossed out or the relative who calls it bait that makes it an experience rather than a meal.  Whatever it is, I love it.  My only problem with sushi is that I can’t order.  I’m not intimidated by the non-tranferable names such as the “santa-monica roll” or the “Vegas dynamite”, names which mean completely different things at Joe’s Sushi and Sushi on Fire.  The variety gets me.  Too many choices.  I’m the same way with Christmas presents.  I am convinced that you can choose something for me that I’ll enjoy much more than I can choose.  I’ll analyse my choices to death, agnogizing missing one joy by choosing another.

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle (Photo credit: inju)

I am a typical, albeit neurotic, consumer.  I am over saturated, underwhelmed, and looking for assurance that I will make the right choices.

As marketers, how do we capture the hearts and loyalty of consumers paralyzed by too many choices?

My recent journey to choose the Kindle Paperwhite over Nook Simpletouch with  Glowlight was a snapshot of the connection economy at work. Like a hungry patron at Mika Sushi, I was looking for someone to tell me what and why to buy.  The old economy would have me going to a store asking a sales person about each model, then making a choice.  Typically the choice was dumb random luck; like the last store I happen to walk in to. Economy 2.0 had me comparing company websites and reading reviews.  Better, but still predictable.  Nook would champion Nook, and Kindle would champion…guess who.  The reviews usually point out terrible products well,  but comparison of multiple products beyond specs are rare from a website that just sold one particular product. The connection economy is different. It seeks advise from  and true compatriots.  I’ll trust you if you tell me the Miso soup tastes like rotten mushrooms if you are in the restaurant experiencing it with me.

 The connection economy  with tools like Facebook and Twitter is much like the Sushi place with countless mysteries on the menu.

Searching for clarity, I reached out to people I trusted would provide detailed considerations in chosing an e-reader. ultimately, my tribe pointed me to the Kindle.  Not so much endorsing the Kindle as superior, my tribe of writers, entrepreneurs, and leadership experts have more “experiences” on the Kindle.  Amazon has connected with its users by understanding why they use an e-reader.  At least in my tribe, the Kindle is a partner in delivering the fruits of many dreams of people I follow.  Rebels of publishing pushing out unconventional products on a mainstream device through the Kindle.  Amazon affiliate programs at the grass roots on blogs, an ultimately the fear that I would have a Nook and a desire to read a Kindle only book, forced my hand.  The connection economy is real and is growing leaps and bounds everyday.  Individuals, now more than ever, have the capability of building a tribe of trust and influencing customers. Will you be driving influence or watching from the sidelines?

Rocco De Leo

Swimming Greatly into the Unknown

Scuba Diving in Mexico at Clint's Wedding

Scuba Diving in Mexico at Clint’s Wedding (Photo credit: Mark & Andrea Busse)

The trails around my house are inviting and adventurous for the running type. Several of the trails exceed 10 miles with high elevation gains into forest and massive peaks with views of Southern California that will take your breath away. I have traversed most of these trails seberal times. A few weeks before Christmas last year, my buddy and I ventured an early morning run in sub freezing temps (very rare in Southern California). The run was ultimately around 17 or 18 miles. We didn’t know exactly where we were going, and that’s how we wanted it. It was one of the best trails we have discovered to date. As a type A personality who always wants to know every little detail, I run the risk of outsmarting adventure. My buddy has all the confidence in the world that he can point us in one direction and we will discover great adventure. I have learned to trust him to take me into running ambiguity and deliver me home safely.

This ability to embrace the unknown is what separates “good” leaders from the “great”. Ken Coleman, in his new book One Question asks Jim Collins about leadership and he digs deep with his answer. The fear of the unknown paralizes the “good not great leader” as he attempts to cross the bridge to greatness. The challenge, as Collins puts it, is not that leaders are risk averse, they are ambiguity averse. This is a commen thread in today’s literature. Seth Godin in the Icarus Deception discusses the idea of “playing it safe” as out dated and destined for failure. Brene’ Brown talks about the need to be vulnerable to failure in order to succeed.

If everything is safe, nothing is safe.

Is knowing this any help?. “So what?”, you say. “Don’t be afraid of the dark anymore?”. What do we do with this information. The current pop psychology is repeating a resounding “just go out and do it” mantra. There is something to be said about the act of “doing”. Most people will “plan”, have “ideas”, “wait until a better time”, to move toward their greatness. This is just fear winning the battle.

The first step is always the hardest…then it really gets hard.

Face your fear of the unknown by experiencing it. Like a child learning to swim. You might need to start in shallow waters. This blog is my shallow water. I’m learning in a low stakes environment. As you begin to adjust to the unknown, you will feel comfortable again and the unknown will no longer be the unknown. This is yet another trap. As the child must eventually swim into deeper waters, you too, must move away from comfort in order to move toward greatness. This is a truth many people never want to hear. Greatness is not a destination. It is a constant tidal ebb and flow of moving away from comfort and into uncomfortable ambiguity. It is not just a simple “face your demons” and “meet challenges”, that would be too easy. Greatness comes with the challenge of anticipating comfort and moving away from it when everything in your nature says to embrace it.

What are you going to do TODAY to learn how to “swim” greatly into the unknown?

Rocco De Leo

My Failure to Act: A tale of doing nothing while asking for it all!

Digital Mission

Digital Mission (Photo credit: Benjamin Ellis)

Coincidences only happen by coincidence.  They have an unusual way of opening up windows in our hearts. I keep a growing list of books in my que to read.  I hear podcasts or interviews about books and I put them on paper.  Recently I was listening to Michael Hyatt talk about a book that made an impact on him.  A book called Chasing Daylight. A few weeks later, I went to order it and discovered that there were several books with the same title.  I could not remember for the life of me which book or why I had been drawn into it.  I noticed Erwin Macmanus’ version was published by Thomas Nelson.  Michael Hyatt was mentioned in the acknowledgements (as he was the CEO of Thomas Nelson). Voila, problem solved. I ordered the book and started reading it immediately after it showed up. The subtitle of the book is “Seize the Power of Every Moment”.  His purpose is to teach us all that we are given opportune moments by God to actively live our faith.  Some moments are larger than others.

The Sunday after I started reading the book, I was confronted by my hypocrisy (a recurring theme lately). Praying in the front pew after communion, I could see a little old lady struggle to walk back to her seat.  It was awkward as I was praying for humility and holiness, she was trying to lean against the front portion of the partition I was praying on.  Very distracted and unable to focus on my vast holiness, I got a little frustrated.  Someone from across the way walked over and helped her back to her seat.  This is where I should insert a sound file of a loud SLAP in the face, my face.  I missed a moment to let God answer my prayer that would also have provided a great example to my children and the poor woman who was struggling just to walk.

As Christians, prayer is a part of who we are.  I have written recently about intentions and the role they play.  If we intend on changing the world, we must act.  Christian or not, this speaks to you.

Whatever your change you must actively seek and seize opportunities.

This is a habit that we must work develop.  The more we “do” the easier it will be to “do” more.  If I had a habit of helping little old ladies, I would have jumped at that opportunity.  Today, I will go out, be intentional, and look for opportunities to hold more doors, say hello, and be helpful.  Tomorow, I will do it again. Perhaps next Sunday, I will help a little old lady to her seat.

Ironically, the version of Chasing Daylight Michael Hyatt was referring to was by Eugene O’kelly, not by Erwin Mcmanus.  Both books are well worth the read.
What will you do today to be intentional about becoming the person you want to be?
Rocco De Leo

God Doesn’t Care How You Finish

This is the season for the SAT test.  As I sipped my cofee Saturday morning waiting for my 17 year old daughter to finish getting ready for her second round with the SAT, I openned up Feedly to read Seth Godin’s post, Measuring without Measuring.  In his witty, and for the moment “timely” manner, he states that the SAT is the best measure to see how a person will do on the SAT.   In two weeks we will have results showing kids who showed up and “fell” into great scores, kids who showed tremendous effort and growth to get “average scores” and very smart kids who struggle through tests only to get bad scores.  What are we hoping to gain from making hundres of thousands of kids take this test?  Colleges want results. They want to stack the odds in their favor that accepting more freshman with higher SAT scores will provide better results (ie, grades, student involvement, graduation).  The measuring stick of our life is results.  This is not one of those egalitarian posts about giving every kid a trophy or the self esteem movement anyone in thier 30s can remember.  We must measure results because we are not God.  We get paid to deliver results.  God is all knowing and measures something greater because he is reading the entire story.  He measures intentions.  He knows your heart. He paid the price on Calvary 2000 years ago to guarentee the results. All he asks for is you to love him, to have faith like a child (Luke 18:17)

Praise God

Praise God (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

What God gives us that the rest of life doesn’t, is a place to put our heart where we are guarenteed success.

We can put our efforts on sales numbers, amount of blog posts, and the soccer score. Yet It doesn’t matter. The results don’t change the core of who we are. In a world that will accept results regardless of intentions, we will never accept intentions without results. Only God will do that. True purpose is aligning your results with your intentions. In other words, you are not only good at something, but you want to be good at it as well. As I push through the self doubt about my writing ( I am not good enough, not writing enough, etc. ) and my parenting (who am I to raise these kids?) and my work results (numbers are down again?), I am comforted by the true measure of who I am by my heart.  This fuels my ambition to take on the self doubt through intentionality and  consistently “showing up”.

 
Only you and God know your true heart.  What’s your intention with him?
 
Rocco De Leo

Intentions Are Everything on the Road to Purpose

Recently I asked my boss for an opportunity to develop my leadership skills. I was given an assignment to teach a short workshop at an upcoming sales meeting. I began putting together some thoughts. Immediately I went into “impress” the boss mode. This is a ridiculous self aggrandizing exercise of compiling how much I know and finding a way to look good. The “what’s in it for them” is getting schooled by me. This misses the point. My purpose is to provide value; to do good. I was focused on looking good. Zig Ziglar said You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. Unless the room is full of groopies rather than my co-workers, I have been working with the wrong intentions. This happens. You may have experienced a lapse in your purpose as I have. By our nature, we think of ourselves first. After all, no one cares more about you than you. You must leave it at that step away from your inherent nature if you live in any society that involves other human beings. You will create more influence. You need other people in order to function and succeed. You need other people on your own journey to find happiness and to live with purpose. Fortunately, I was able to discover my mistake before delivering disastrous results in front my peers. Here are a few take aways you can use to make sure you are “doing good” while “looking good”.

Bumpy Road

Bumpy Road (Photo credit: donrul)

1. Have Purpose: Back to basics. Is your success associated with influencing others to find success?
2. Stay Golden: Remember the Golden Rule? Are you leading in a way you would want to be led?
3. Find happiness in helping others succeed. Helping others bears such wonderful results. Often times, the person sharing learns as much if not more than the person being taught.
4. Be good at what you do. Intentions are nice, but if you don’t have anything to offer, you can’t help anyone.
5. Start with the end in mind. Ask WHY am I doing this. What do I hope to gain? The answer may be startle you to the core.
6. It’s never too late to refocus your intentions. A bumpy road to purpose is better than a straight road away.
How are you going to DO GOOD today?

Rocco De Leo