Stop Being the Character and Play Your Authentic Part

Disneyland is a paradise for kids.  All the fun, food, and entertainment all catered toward them.  One of our favorite things to do at Disneyland is take pictures with our favorite characters.  Goofy has always been my guy.  In fact, I have a great picture of my kids and I with him on my Facebook.  Goofy is  a 6 foot tall talking dog that runs into situations that are hilarious. The thing about Goofy  is he’s not real.  He is a character with an actor “playing” the part. There is nothing wrong with playing a character for work or fun, but what about the character we play in the game of life?

drama queen

drama queen (Photo credit: beccaplusmolly)

I am guilty, guilty, guilty of playing many roles.   I was,  for many years the “super single dad“.  My high flying antics included taking kids to the dentist, doctor appointments, church, and school plays.  I have chronicled my adventures on my Facebook page.  Before my heroic adventures as a single dad, I was the super “victim husband“.  Everything was my [ex] wife’s fault and I was just trying, heroically, to keep it all together.  I spent a lot of energy griping and complaining rather than listening and seeking to understand. There are characters everywhere.  The “super single mom” posting pictures of soccer practice.  The “super athlete teen” with all his trophies and championships, and the “tortured soul teenage girl” with black lipstick and and angrier than Avril Lavigne look.

Many of these characters are important and inspiring.  Once again, the problem remains that they are not real.  We where these badges, all polished and shiny for the world to see.  We have 275 friends on Facebook (of whom 2 send you a Christmas card).  When I played the “super single dad” hero, I posted pictures of myself doing cool things with the kids.  The little red box in the corner would light up with a 4 or a 5 and I would be validated.  Sometimes the photo upload session happened at a stoplight, or a school event, or the dinner table.  The world needed to see my character.  Lights, camera, action.  See the irony?

When you play the character you were born to play with authenticity and intentionality, it isn’t “play” at all.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing on Facebook.  As with anything in the pursuit of awesomeness, you must be intentional and in control.  Are you posting a picture to share something, for laughs, or perhaps memories?  Excellent.  Are you seeking more?  What if no one “liked” the picture of you and your daughter at choir?  Would that diminish the value of your time together?  My challenge to you and myself in this New Year is to be aware of WHY you are doing things.  Do things with purpose, love, authenticity, and a giving spirit.   Click here to read my article on authenticity. Be present.  Maybe even leave the iPhone in the car.

What character have you played the most this year?



De Leo Christmas

Having some fun wishing friends and family a Merry Christmas


Seeking No Pain or Challenging Toward Success?

James Dean "Giant"

James Dean “Giant” (Photo credit: ElizaPeyton)

I used to get picked on quite a lot as a child and even more in my teen years.  I don’t reflect upon my high school years with happiness like many of my readers.  In all fairness, I had a big mouth and not so big muscle to back it up. I spent many of my high school days being escorted from one class to another.  The background on this is for another day, but it’s fair to assume I messed with the wrong dudes. I remember one particular incident because of the profound change it had, and still has on me.  My friend and I pulled into the high school parking lot to pick up his brother after a football game.  As I pulled into the my spot, I noticed some of the guys that had caused me trouble; and they noticed me.  With the sound of The Clash (Should I stay or should I go?) ringing in my ear, I decided to stay.  I got out of the car to a punch in my chest.  Something in me changed.  I didn’t snap and go crazy like on a cheesy movie.  I realized, although it wasn’t pleasant, I handled it.  I returned the punch to the side of his head.  I’m not sure I caused him much damage either, but he wasn’t expecting it.  Clearly outnumbered, and in serious trouble, I had nowhere to go.  Instead of doom, however, we were simply asked to leave, which we kindly obliged.

Things were different after that. I faced a challenge we all must face in life.  Whether it be high school antics, career changes, or major life decisions, we are all faced with a choice to live defensively or offensively.
We can choose to avoid pain and stay in the background or choose to challenge the causes of our pain and take control.
We typically compartmentalize areas of our life were we are willing to face challenges and some areas where all we wish for is an avoidance of pain.  I recently wrote about the battle between comfort and success.  While it may seem comfortable to avoid challenging those things that bother us, it may be necessary to move toward your goal of being awesome.  Impulsiveness and rashness are not to be confused with challenging.  If you are living intentionally, you will challenge intentionally. Assess the situation for worse case scenarios, alternatives, and the “up-side” to a challenge.
I gained valuable perspective after that incident in High School.  Knowing that I can change situations by appropriately challenging those attempting  or actually controlling the environment gives me the confidence and eagerness to learn and to lead.  My ideas may not always be the best avenue to success, but sometimes they are.
What are you going to challenge in the new year?

Discipline isn’t enough

Waking up at 5 am everyday is not easy.  Running 10 miles in the bitter cold of winter before the sun rises or facing the  choking humidity of August awakens the voices of doubt and procrastination.  Doing things that are awesome that most people don’t  is ridiculously hard.  Doing the extraordinary work with extraordinary results on a consistent basis demands putting in the work that is…well…extraordinary.  If you are making art that is worth looking at (or reading), you cannot be “just like everyone else”.  You must be different.  Ordinary people are boring.  While they may work hard at times, they do not live outside the ordinary.  Their art is not worth seeing.

Different is Beautiful

Different is Beautiful (Photo credit: epicnom)

Discipline alone is not powerful enough to deliver consistently good art.

Author Gary Keller in his book The One Thing tells us about a life where our success is contingent on every behavior being molded and maintained by training:  this is a frighteningly impossible existence. Your art is worth every bit of effort you put in.  When you first start creating, it’s like a honeymoon. It’s fun and new.  Unfortunately, the honeymoon ends and the gremlins of self doubt and procrastination set in.  You are faced with what Steven Pressfeld calls the resistance. I recently posted  on the resistance and how to use it to your advantage. When the resistance arrives, discipline alone is like bringing a dull knife to a nuclear battle with giant alien robots.  Discipline tells you that you HAVE TO get up and going.  Habit tells you the you GET TO get up and going. Keller teaches that the  success that will lead to your awesomeness starts with having just enough discipline to build a habit of doing the right things.  When the habit of shipping art sets in, your work will be more personal.  Most people don’t get this far because they are stuck in the discipline zone.  They plug it into a calendar and expect the desire to complete it as a task to be enough.  You, however, will make it a habit that simply gets done because getting your art out to the world is what you do when it is a habit.

 Is it a “dream” to think that creating your art can become a habit?  Does that seem too easy? Share your thoughts.
Rocco De Leo

Catching up to your goals by slowing down

Life is busy.  We have 5 kids, soccer practice, church, conference calls, grocery shopping, sales calls, and the never-ending trips to Costco. These things are supposed to be fun and fulfilling.  Some, arguably more than others.  Of course, these things taken as a whole make much more sense than taking each on its own. I find myself more and more feeling like I’m in a “catch-up” mode.  I seem to be two steps behind my schedule just trying to check the boxes I create for myself. My inner voice says things like “this will be easier when…” of course I never get the answer to that. Sometimes my inner voice tells me to give up on some things.  “Don’t go for a run today”, “take the kids out of soccer, practice is too much”, “don’t make that extra sales call, it’s too far away”.  When I get anxiety about finishing a book that I’m reading for personal entertainment, or finishing the end of Breaking Bad, it’s time to reevaluate.  Same goes true for this blog.  These things, are supposed to be fun. Lately, I have been telling that inner voice to shut up and telling myself to slow down.  My default setting has been taken over by a fast paced society that has placed way too much importance on things that don’t matter. Certainly, it is important for each of us to achieve the things we want to do and to achieve the things we must do.

The big picture is painted on a canvas of intentionality with colors of goals setting, task management, and organization.

On a daily basis, however, we may not be painting this metaphorical intentional artwork, we may instead be changing a diaper, stuck in traffic, or simply too tired to stop by Costco on the way home from work.  Having the ability to slow down in the face of speed bumps sets the successful goal achiever apart from the goal setter and forgetter.

Talking to myself / Conversando conmigo

Talking to myself / Conversando conmigo (Photo credit:

Remember, if it’s not enjoyable, maybe your on the wrong path.

However, don’t confuse enjoyable with comfort.  You must know the difference.  Take some time for this.

How to you slow down when things seem to be getting out of control?

Comfort or Success?

Maintaining  an average lifestyle is a lot of work.  A life lived well beyond average, is, well, beyond a lot of work.  I recently spoke with a colleague of mine about money and the ongoing attempt to make sense of how we earn and spend and spend and spend.  She was astonished by how much money she had recently made on a nice bonus check, and how little she had left after not doing much with it.  Pay tax bill.  Pay daycare. Pay this. Pay that.  She was asking my advice in regard to splitting the cost of annual Disneyland passes for her two kids with her ex husband (and purchasing one for herself).  She said after paying her share, she would have about five-hundred dollars left of that seemingly “windfalll-ish” bonus check.  Five hundred dollars is not chump change, but hardly life changing.

What I told her was something that is becoming clear more and more on a daily basis, and something that I have yet to capture for myself.  While we both make a good living, in fact very good when based on national averages, we simply cannot get ahead far enough economically on a  normal salary type job.  This is not universal, as CEOs, and celebrities are doing just fine on salaries.
Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling (Photo credit:

Who is buying the million dollar homes near the beach? That is a seven thousand dollar payment.: Entrepreneurs, risk takers, and insanely hard-working people with a lot of skill, luck, and tenacity. Relative success, such as mine and my colleague’s is a blessing and a curse.  I am grateful for my work, enjoy and find fulfillment.
I will never amass any tangible wealth beyond years of pecking away toward a 401k, without stepping beyond my current state of comfort.
It’s easy ( in a sense) to wake up everyday and do my job and cash my paycheck every two weeks.  I work hard and smart and have some success. On my computer, I have written goals and have written dreams.  They are separate for a reason. My dreams are only  dreams in my current reality.  Beach house, mountain get-away, European trips, Ivy league colleagues for the kids, and so on.
My “dreams” cannot become “goals” until there is a realistic road to achievement, a paradigm shift in how I approach my life and the effort and energy I give everyday.
This conversation with my colleague opened my eyes and recharged the energy I started this blog on.  I asked her, really asking myself,  a profound question.  Do we except our  [fair ] role in life,  enjoying the comforts of a fun and “not-terribly” stressful job?  I could be a coal miner after all.  Well, if that’s the case, the treadmill of life will leave us with Sundays at Disneyland at least seven times a year (that’s the amount of visits per year she figured she needs to make it worth paying for the passes),  and a budget drive through meal on the way home.  We can opt for hard work and risk.  Not the hard work we are all used to.  Not hustling  to switch planes in Salt Lake.  Not the risk we are used to.  Not worrying about a buy out, or hitting quota.  The hard work involved is waking up early, staying up late, answering calls, driving business, bleeding for your work,  and being energized  24/7.  The risk is that it will fail and you won’t have healthcare, a company car, or electricity (that takes money).  The pay-off however, can be amazing.
Comfort does not equal lazy, and success does not equal misery.  Where is your happiness in this equation?

Driven people find happiness in success if they know what fuels

their passions.

What is your choice?

Traditions vs Crutches: what keeps you around might be holding you back

Elf On A Shelf Book And Doll

Elf On A Shelf Book And Doll (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)

Are we holding on to familiar places, experiences and even our hometown too tightly that we can’t grow as people? The answer, of course, is a solid, set in stone yes and no. I may raise more questions than answers with this post, but reality is that there is no real answer.  I am all about growing myself and growing my readers as people.  That is the essence of finding your “awesome”.  This question is best answered by taking a step back and making sure you take a good self-evaluation and understand yourself, question your motives, and challenge your own status quo.

 I love the Chevy Chase classic Christmas movie “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation”.  As far back as I can remember, we have watched it multiple times during the Christmas season and usually on a loop in the background on Christmas Day. It simply would not be Christmas without Clark Griswold locking himself in the attic watching old family films.  But really, would it?  Another great tradition for my family is the Mission Inn Festival of Lights.  This is a beautiful display of Christmas Decorations and vendors against the back drop of the historical Mission Inn in Riverside Ca. As I write this, I realize that my family has attended the Festival of lights 2 or 3 times.  I am 37 years old.  In the past five years, we have attended this event 2 or 3 times (I sincerely can’t remember), and I am willing to emotionally tie my Christmas holiday’s success to attending this event???
In these modern days, with very little worry over our next meal, we are eager to fulfill a different hunger .  We seek nostalgic experiences.  Marketers love this.  Most people within a normal psychological spectrum have a cluster of relatively harmless “hungers”.  We didn’t make it to the Fesitval of Lights last year, and we still enjoyed a wonderful holiday.  Rest assured, I am locking us in for attendance this year.  Two years missing in a row would be a travesty.
 Most normal, hardworking and ambitious people however, have 1 or 2 significant weaknesses that go well beyond family holiday traditions.  These are emotional ties to something that holds them back from further success.  
It may be fear of moving away from a hometown and the memories, thus limiting career advancement.  It may be holding too tightly to the past with regard to relationships and marriage such as comparing the new spouse to the previous,  causing personal problems that likely ripple through all aspects of life.  It could be a holding on to childhood emotional securities such as keeping parents and grandparents too close and not “cleave [ing] to his wife”, as God commands in Genesis 2:24.
It’s likely that most people deal with a bit of this in one form or another.  Some may have significant clinical issues well beyond this. That’s another post, another day.  I am reaching out to you stuck in the middle. Mediocrity is not as bad as failure, but it is not at all our goal of “awesome”.  Are you holding on to things that are holding you back from success?  It’s time to reevaluate yourself and your priorities.  Let’s get intentional about making a change.  
What traditions are absolute deal breakers for you?

Keeping Pace with Life: Wisdom on the way to school

I recently had the opportunity to share some wisdom with my 17 year old daughter on the drive to school.  Most days the 2.5 mile trek to school is no more than a song or 2 and the click…click of her texting her friends regarding her upcoming arrival. This day was different. College is less than a year away, and with the college discussion comes the life discussion.  What to do, how to live, and what is an acceptible  standard of living.  This 5 minute conversation stirred up some great thinking and some real questions, especially as I reflect upon my life.

Horse Racing

Horse Racing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s a smart kid.  One of the features she gets from me is the uncanny ability to get things done.  Maybe they aren’t done smoothly (maybe they are), and maybe not according to the plan, but done nonetheless.  Many times she, and i alike, achieved great grades and successful marks without too much challenge. This ability is a double edged sword.
Seeing results without intentionality trains the mind to feel entitled.
I lived, and sometimes still do, this way for many years.  I am happy with my life and career but wonder  what could have been.  I have worked hard to get here, but not always intentional, strategic, and certainly not open to much risk.  The question I posed in our discussion was what if I had added  1 or 2 of those elements to my earlier years (as I am incorporating them now)?
My success today does not mean that I arrived here in spite of my lack of intentionality, strategic thinking, and risk aversion. I believe my success today is just the tip of the ice that could have been massive success beyond what I have achieved today.
This is not to say I am regretful or in any way unhappy with my life.  I love my life and my family.  This is about others, in particular, my 17 year old daughter.  This could be you reading this post today, or your very own 17 year old daughter.  Life is a constant moving object.  You are moving at 1 speed, and life (society, careers, family) is moving at another. I told her that for many years I thought I could find a trajectory and get comfortable.  I even fooled myself that I had arrived there several times. While I never went backward, life kept moving forward.  Soon, life was moving faster than me and I had to catch up.  There have been other times where I have been so overly ambitious that I outpaced life with the power of a bullet train.  The problem with this isn’t my ambition, work ethic, or intelligence; its my perspective.
Move too slow in comfort, life passes you and you live with regrets.  Move too fast and you miss the moments life was designed for.  
I told my daughter that you need to find a pace that is comfortable, sustainable, and slightly faster than the speed of life.
What do you do to keep perspective without loosing out on opportunities?