How the Road to Awesome Goes Through Jury Duty

A few months ago I received terrible, earth shattering news.  News so impactful, it stopped me in my tracks.  I was being summoned to jury duty.  I understand the shocked pause you just had as you read this post.  I am busy, work in sales, and get bored easily.  I simply cannot serve on a jury.  Or so I thought. My recent experience as a juror, more specifically, the foreperson, opened my mind to this amazing experience.  It was an education and an honor to serve.  Yes, cliche’, I get it.  Read on…

This is Swampyank's copy of "The Jury&quo...

This is Swampyank’s copy of “The Jury” by John Morgan, painted in 1861, and now in the Bucks County Museum in England. More information about the painting can be found here: [|inline= (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are hard working at the business of becoming and maintaining your awesome. Also at making a living. One of the common themes among successful people is the ability to understand the big picture.  This can be understanding their overall corporate impact, or a societal impact, such as how my Jury duty fits in the  American justice system.  Realizing that you play a subordinate role in the larger picture, invokes either a jaded response of not caring, or a sacrificial response of giving with open arms to the experience. Appropriate engagement in things such as Jury duty are key to maintaining a free society and are key to your personal development.  Experiences you may not volunteer for offer you the opportunity to step away from the comfort zone and grow.  Simply showing up is not awesome and limits the experience .  I chose to give it my full effort.   While I learned a lot more than what I’m sharing here, I chose the three most pertinent to our discussion:.

1. Dress for the part:  This may seem basic, but is so often forgotten.  Understanding your environment and what is the norm is so valuable.  Dressing too high or too low can kill and interaction before it even starts.  With the internet, twitter, and a little (I mean little) effort, you can figure out what is acceptable.  No ties in Hawaii, and no shorts in court.  You’ve hear it a thousand times, “control the controllable”…this is something you have absolute control of.

2.  Confidence and Decisiveness in Persuasion:  Being confident and decisive brings so much weight to a negotiation.  Being awesome involves an intentional approach to lining up the facts and understanding the parameters of a decision.  Confidence and decisiveness is not a closed mind to dissenting opinions.  It’s actually the opposite. With all the facts lined up, you can stack dissenting facts right up against your facts.  In a persuasive environment such as a jury room or the board room, having the knowledge of where you can give a little and take a little is key to gaining the edge in persuasion. This, in turn, moves things forward toward awesomeness.

3.  Debrief to maximize learning.  Being intentional with your time opens up opportunities to pause between situations.  Taking a few minutes to a few hours depending on the specifics, to chronicle the preceding events and gain valuable learnings is so important to becoming awesome.  The awesome person is a PHILOSOPHER (lover of knowledge)  in the truest form.  Whether your role was as a leader or passive player, be a “curious sponge”.  Engage in the experience of learning.  You must be intentional by taking some time to ask questions of yourself and others if appropriate.

Share some experiences that surprised you with positive impact.

Rocco De Leo



Focus on the [Blended] Family?

Christmas with The Brady Bunch

Christmas with The Brady Bunch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kids are a lot of work.  They demand tons of attention and care.  Not the level of attention a fine rose garden needs, not even the level of small house pets. Kids need that special kind of attention and care that involves focus and of course love.  This need never goes away.  In fact, it has an inverse reaction to the parent’s ability to give. The less you have, the more they need.  I found this unforgiving truth to be my reality 5 years ago when my ex wife made choices that removed her from our lives.  As a single dad  of then a 12 year old girl, 5 year old boy, and 3 year old girl, my attention was well spoken for.

For 5 years I have learned to survive and now thrive as a dad, focused primarily on being a dad.  Now I am engaged and this focus must once again change.  My focus must  be on my wife; my new wife.  Many people believe divorced parents should not re-marry until the kids are adults.  It’s a reasonable opinion and I disagree. The value a mother and father (biological or not) bring together is exponential when compared to solo parenting.  I have been thinking about the necessities and managing this dynamic for a while. Here are a few important things to consider as you move into remarriage with kids:

1. Money: It’s not your money, it’s not her money…it all belongs to the kids. Kids break their arms, get the flu, need cars, college, birthday parties, etc.  Don’t keep score, you will lose.

2. Be careful with opinions of his/her ex spouse.  She has emotional memories that don’t include you.  She experiences moments (arguments, misunderstandings, etc) with different perspectives than you.

3. God:  As a person of faith, I can’t imagine having a blended family with different religions in the house. Some people can manage a multi faith home, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

4. Discipline: However you dish it, talk about it early and often.  Disciplining someone elses’ child feels very different.  Children, bring “history” into every situation, as a “late arrival” the new step parent hasn’t shared those experiences.  Discuss this with your partner and periodically check in.  Be courageous and don’t sugar coat.  Resentment can build between you if you feel like you have to “defend” your kids or someone isn’t carrying his or her weight with discipline.  There’s no perfect formula, but at least have a one.

5.  Labels suck.  Don’t stress over things like “my kids” or “your kids”.   A lot of new experiences, emotions, and worries are coming forth, stressing labels is ridiculous.

6. Sex:  You better have sex!  Do everything possible to keep the kids from interrupting intimacy.  Bed time routines, consistent rules, and communication are key here.  Establish early on that sex occurs when either partner wants it.  Don’t wait for perfect moments or for both people to be perfectly aligned and in the mood, that rarely happens.  Mark and Grace Driscoll wrote a great book on this called Real Marriage: the truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life together. Buy two copies and read it on date night.

7. It’s not supposed to be easy. Don’t worry that it’s difficult at times.  Good things are worth working for.

The common denominator here is communication and intimacy.  Our kids are special and a huge part of who we are, but they grow up and leave.  My spouse should be my best friend.  I plan on sitting on rocking chairs watching waves hit the beach on my 90th birthday. I plan on my wife being there with me and us actually having something to talk about.

Rocco De Leo

Intentional is the New Cool

The 1990’s were an interesting time.  From Parachute pants to Al Bundy, it was a decade of personality.  Bill Clinton made smoking cigars cool again, although I heard Bush relegated them back to the status of “cancer causing”. This was a decade of mullets and grunge. Sad was the new happy.  I must have had the entire collection of the Bart Simpson “Aye Carumba” T-shirts. The 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street asked the ever nagging question of which is cooler, “back-pack on one shoulder or on two shoulders”.  I think the answer is two…two shoulders. What’s it mean to be cool.? Cool is trendy and fleeting. Cool 10 years ago is just stupid today! Cool is what people who haven’t defined their own “awesome” seek to become.  In essence, cool is someone else’s “awesome”.

The problem is that “awesome” is not a one size fits all…

pondering life

pondering life (Photo credit: Chimpr)

“I recently wrote about being influential rather than known.  While many people are known and influential,  too many are simply known (usually by chance) and do nothing with it.  Starting with your “why”, your actions must remain constant with your purpose.  It’s human to fall away from your purpose and your “why” in the heat of battle. Your purpose is clear and doesn’t change.  Trends and procedures change, but the ultimate goal does not.

When you live your life trying to be cool, you are living on someone else’s agenda.

If you like Guess jeans and a tight shirt, wear them.  Be yourself.  Don’t wear them because it’s what’s “cool”.  Nowhere is this more important than in your art.  Whether it be your writing, singing, crafting, or teaching, your art has value because it is YOUR art. You have a talent that should stand on its own.  Stay true to your purpose.  My purpose is to become Awesome by helping as many people themselves become awesome.  When I feel like my actions are being motivated by a need for validation, or anything other than my purpose, I stop. This is a dream killer. Living intentionally gives you the opportunity to filter these moments and get back on track.  Falling from your purpose and being so blinded by busy-ness to notice…that is not an excuse.  Living intentionally involves time for honest review and reflection.  Be on the look out for your motivations.  Inevitably they WILL get out of control.

What have you done in the last week that you did because it was cool?
Rocco De Leo

Managing The Tyranny of the Mundane

Every time I go the mall (which with 4 girls in the house is way too often), I get turned around and frustrated.  I go to the giant cube in front of JC Penny and look at the map to find the store I am looking for.  Then, I look for the red star that shows “You are here”.  Then, with a simple geometric shape of directions, I draw a path (avoiding as many toy stores as possible), to my destination. I usually get distracted by a candy store, two diaper changes, and a spilled soda along the way.  With a “diaper-dad” diaper bag, I make the changes, clean the messes and approach my destination with clean children and smiling faces.

Whaddaya Mean I Don't Do Enough Housework?

Whaddaya Mean I Don’t Do Enough Housework? (Photo credit: las – initially)

What is important to you? What do you want to accomplish?  Do you plan on becoming the VP of Marketing, publishing a Novel, releasing a hit album for your Polka band? Your goal is your goal and nobody else’s.  It is up to you to do the steps to get there. Where is your “you are here”?  Life is a series of seasons that change your approach toward your goal but not the goal itself. Tasks such as laundry, vacuuming, homework, and bedtime routines are just as important to achieving your dream as the focus time you spend on your dream. These are like a solid foundation to build upon. If not managed (note, I didn’t say finished) they can be a potential source of distraction, frustration, and even dream death.

There is a time for cleaning and there is a time for dreaming.

Many of these things seem mundane and even time wasters.  They are…if you let them be.  Stressing over simple tasks (although many) while working on your dream, or stressing on your dream while working on your tasks is a sign that you may need to re think a few things.  Usually it’s not a matter of doing less.  A tweak here or there such as waking up 15 minutes earlier 1 day, or being more realistic on how much time things take may do the trick.

Mastering the art of managing the mundane may be one of the most important things you can do to achieve your dream.

Yes! Vacuuming and dishes will get you to the corner office! Be intentional about your time checking  boxes so you can be intentional about building your dream. I recently wrote a “how to” on productive relaxing ( read here) .  Being intentional with your time is knowing you are safe doing what you are doing NOW because you aren’t supposed to be doing something else. Build a list of the boxes you need to check in order to keep your foundation solid.  Agree on duties and fair timeliness with those whom you are accountable.  Be present in every moment, including the mundane.  Those tasks should never be interruptions to your dream and should never cause tension in your family.  Enjoy the journey, not just the dream of the destination.
How do you manage the unending list of tasks that can steal your dream?


How Osama Bin Laden Will Help Your Mission Statement

It was May 2011 when an elite team of Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden.  It was a simple mission where a bunch of SEALs decided to hop on a helicopter, fly into Pakistan, and kill the most notorious terrorist in the last hundred years. Afterward, they stopped off for 2$ off lattes at the Abottobad Starbucks.  This, is of course, absurd.  The successful execution of the mission to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden came after years of careful research, planning, practicing, and even failures. The CIA team  and later other key players charged with this mission knew the ultimate goal.  They had a “mission” to achieve.  The mission was so well articulated, understood, and believed by those engaging, that through failures, thousands of miles, and a helicopter crash, Seal Team Six was still able to achieve mission success without loosing a single American Life.

English: Osama bin Laden Compound Italiano: Il...

English: Osama bin Laden Compound Italiano: Il complesso di Osama Bin Laden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you living the intentional life, A mission statement is your guidance for daily living.

If the US Military can achieve mission success  thousands of miles from home, traversing hostile lands and facing brutal enemies, why do we find it so hard to achieve our mission here at home? Most people simply get through the day  in a “survival mode”.  A day becomes weeks…becomes months…becomes years…Steven Covey, wildly popular for his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says in habit number 2 to “begin with the end in mind”.  Imagine traveling without a destination, or even direction.  At best, you would be treading water, at worse you’d run backward.   Your career, where your live, investments, behavior, children, the books and movies you consume, and what time you wake up everyday will be measured by your mission statement. Writing a mission statement can be intimidating.  In fact, I believe this is the number one reason why people don’t write one.  As with so much in life, the hardest step is the first step.  I have put together an 8 step list to help you get started writing your mission statement:
1.  No rules.  It’s your mission.  Grammar, time lines or no timeliness, too long or too short…don’t worry.
2. It can evolve.  Remember number 1.  Things in life change and so do priorities.  Don’t feel like you have to wait until you have everything figured out to write a mission statement.  Feeling “locked in” to a mission statement that cannot change is fuel for procrastination.
3. Brainstorm your values.  Write down your values.  Values such as faith, health, education, and a spirit of togetherness, help focus your mission.  After all , a mission statement is a clarified goal to live a life achieving your values.
4. Be intentional.  Writing a mission statement takes time and focus.  Spend some time reflecting upon yourself and your family.  Being intentional to write a mission statement that works for you can take several months.  Build space in your weekly planning for focused time for your mission statement.
5.  Don’t limit yourself.  Your mission statement is a goal to build upon. Later, you will take each value expressed in your mission statement and build a strategic plan on how to achieve it.  You’ll once again “begin with the end in mind”.  As a guide for living your life, it may seem “far-fetched” and “perfect world” today.  That’s normal.  Don’t aim for the ordinary, target the extraordinary.
6. Be honest.  Write a mission statement that works for your life.  This is your life, your chance to succeed by being intentional.
7. Pause. Do not rush to finish.  Being intentional is not about simply “finishing”.  Resist the urge to simply finish and “check the box”. Take a week or two to reflect, pray, and discuss with your spouse.
8.  Have fun! life is fun, enjoy!
Imagine a life without excuses.  Your daily living is the foundation of your future.  Share with us what a perfect day looks like.  How does this related to your mission?
Rocco De Leo

Uniqueness Is Overrated: Authenticity vs Unique Overload

I remember the excitement of Krispey Kreme coming to my town a few years ago.  As a sales guy, I love to bring treats to my customers, and nothing sounded more “treaty” than a dozen of the finest warm donuts my corporate American Express card could by.  I was going to make a splash with my customers.  Pulling up to the drive through, waiting nearly 20 minutes for donuts, I could hardly contain myself.  As I finally picked up 8 dozen (one for each planned stop of the day), I was ready to deliver some tasty smiles to go along with my unique treat.  As the story goes, I wasn’t the only sales rep being unique that morning.  Several of my offices had piles of Krispey Kreme boxes stacked in a corner.

Unique (Photo credit: Goldmund100)

My “get unique quick” scheme didn’t work so well.
 Today. nothing has really changed.  A few years ago, someone began using the hashtag on twitter as a means to organize and monitor trends.  Facebook is following suit with hashtaging.  Everywhere you look online is hashtags. The problem is once hashtaging reaches a critical mass, it will cease to be useful.  Several hundred, maybe even several thousand references to Iphone 6 (#iphone6) can draw attention and add value to the reader, several million is just plain stupid.  If everyone is hashtaging, then no one is hashtaging.
Uniqueness has a tipping point where it becomes boring and no longer unique.

Where do we go from here?  Here’s a quick guide to help you stay authentic in an attempt to be unique (I argue that many times the attempt at uniqueness is enough if you are authentic).

1.  There are no shortcuts to being Unique.  Delivering Starbucks to the office is not unique.  There are 10 Starbucks within a few minute’s drive of my house.  Feel free to bring the coffee though.  It’s still nice.
2.  Unique is rare, don’t fuss over being unique 100% of the time.  A free Starbucks, while not unique, is still welcome.  As a nice gesture to a good customer,  a tool  to warm up a tough gatekeeper, or a pick-me-up on a rough day for your girlfriend. An authentic gesture is just as valuable as a unique one.
3.  Be infrequent in your uniqueness.  regular uniqueness is inauthentic and exhausting.
4.  Do your homework. You won’t hit a home run with every interaction you make.  Understand your audience, however, will vastly increase the impact of what your attempting.  Finding time to uncover a passion of a client, or sentiment for a girlfriend, will dramatically increase your odds for the “breathtaking” moment.
5.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Being authentic and having the appropriate motives is much more important than being “different” or unique.

Go be yourself.  You are unique in being yourself.  You are not the lightning thief, don’t worry about catching lightning in a bottle.

What is your unique “thing” you bring?

Have A Beginner’s Mind

As a distance runner, I have never competed against anything but myself and the clock.  My first real event was the 2011 Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach California.  My goal was simply FINISH, FINISH, FINISH.  The idea of a respectable finish of two hours was not in my plans.  I did, however finish with a two hour and 31 second time without really trying.  That is not where the story ends, though.  After several events over the past few years, I have never been able to duplicate those results.  Whether I blame it on injury (not really, but a great excuse nonetheless), or lack of training (no way!), the fact remains that I ran that February morning in 2011 with a  beginners mind.

Kids marathon (17)

Kids marathon (17) (Photo credit: carlaarena)

 Author Dan Miller, in his 48 Days to the Work You Love, tells us “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few”. In life we run into beginners who bring energy and possibilities everyday.  They are in the Spring Training mode of life.  The possibilities are great, but they aren’t yet playing for keeps.  We also meet the “experts” who bring a lot of experience, and with that, some measured success. For many experts, their success traps them in a “yesterday” mode, unable to change with the environment.  They “know what they know” and it’s got them this far.
For those of us seeking our own personal “awesomeness”, success comes from being extraordinary.
We all have met the know-it-all guy.  He is easy to spot.  Most likely, he’s still at the base of the mountain of success.  You and I are already ahead of him.  We are already halfway up the mountain struggling to see the peak through the fog. This isn’t about him.  This is about you and I.  A beginner looks at every possibility without making assumptions.  The “expert” assumes he’s exhausted his opportunities and moves on. Be intentional to avoid these limiting assumptions.  They are closed doors to possibilities. you are intentional depends on you.  Journaling, logging opportunities for future review, or conversations about decisions with partners, help challenge your assumptions.   Leverage your experience to approach difficult situations.  Most likely you have faced many similar challenges with success.  Work backward and reconstruct those success.  Read my article on being intentional . Be intentional and make this happen.  Don’t forget that there is always possibility.

What one assumption are you going to challenge today?

Rocco De Leo