Choose to be Inspired

Several years ago I was in a taxi heading to a hotel in New Jersey where I was to be a keynote speaker at a conference. Taxis are often driven by the most intelligent, engaging people if one only chooses to connect. How we got into this conversation I cannot recall but what the driver said was truly a gift: “You know we have lost our sense of wonder. There are so many inspiring things happening in this world every day but we let them pass on by, we take them for granted, we have no perspective on how incredible they are.”

I thought of this interaction following a friend of mine telling me that after his mother’s passing, his father spent the majority of his waking time watching the news. What began as an escape from his grief, however, grew into a deepening cynicism. “The world is going to hell in a handbasket,” became his daily admonition. This expression apparently has its origins in the use of handbaskets in France to catch the heads of people who were victims of the guillotine.

These two stories point to a fundamental truth – what we focus on and what we feed our minds eventually expresses itself as our view of the world.

And, our view of the world is directly connected to how we experience the world. Whether we live boldly or live in fear is motivated by the perspective we have, the filter we use, and the lens through which we look at what is happening in the larger world and in the smaller world in which we operate every day.

The news is only the news because it is the exception to the rule. This is not a denial of reality. It is putting what happens in our world, the tragedies, the conflicts, the disasters into perspective. It is understanding that if negative news takes up the larger part of our conversations then cynicism – the cancer of the mind – will be a likely result.

The other reality is that in every country, in hundreds of cities, in every corner of the world people are having a different conversation – how do we create better lives for all of us? And, more importantly, they are taking action. These efforts will rarely capture the headlines but every day, somewhere, thousands of lives are the beneficiaries.

Recently I learned of the organization – Pencils of Promise. The genesis of this remarkable story begins with a young man, Adam Braun, who was motivated to build schools throughout the developing world. Where did the idea begin? From a simple answer to a question. At the age of 21, while backpacking in India, Adam asked a little boy begging in the street: “What would you like most in the world” He replied: “A pencil!”

Adam was stunned, but that one answer stirred his soul and eventually gave clarity to the purpose he was seeking. Today, Pencils of Promise is the manifestation of his commitment to that purpose. It has gone beyond anything he could have envisioned. A new school is being built every one hundred hours. Thousands upon thousands of children through access to education are being awakened to their potential and given hope. Now that is inspiring!

Sarah Owen Bigler, a mother of two, told the following story on Facebook. Bigler was waiting in line at a Target store near her home in Indiana. Anxious to complete her transaction she was held up by an elderly woman counting out her change to pay. “Part of me, the part that had a long day at work, the part

of me who had a one-and-a-half year old having a melt-down in the cart……. was frustrated with this woman and the inconvenience she had placed on me,” she wrote.

“But then I watched this young employee, Ishmael Gilbert, count her change, ever so tenderly taking it from her shaking hands. I listened to him repeatedly saying, ‘Yes, mam,’” Bigler said it was only when she realized her young children were closely watching the scene and learning a valuable lesson about patience and kindness….that I realized I too needed a refresher  on this lesson.”

Ishmael, a father himself, responded, “It just feels good to be recognized for good work, but this isn’t something new. I treat all customers the same, the way I want to be treated. It felt good because that’s the kind of example I want to be for my daughter.”

Adam Braun, Ishmael Gilbert, two stories that are inspiring in terms of their impact on the world. However, you can put different names to different causes to different circumstances and they are being repeated by people every minute all over the planet. Whether it is building schools, patiently serving the elderly, feeding the hungry, finding homes for the homeless, the number of people who are compassionate, kind and good overwhelms those who are not.

Cynicism and negativity are convenient. There are numerous bars and pubs where one can clearly here choruses of “Ain’t it awful.” And the truth is that awful things happen and they happen to good people. What we witness is heartbreaking and often beyond comprehension. Putting our arms around the enormity of it all can feel overwhelming.

What is the solution? Give in to the reality but never give up on changing that reality. The world will not advance and positive change will not happen if we align ourselves to the negative. As the Serenity prayer so beautifully states: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Understanding the duality and ambiguity in our world requires much thought and reflection. But with failure there is also triumph, with sadness there is joy, with hopelessness there is happiness. A fully lived life encompasses all of these feelings and experiences. And that so many not only survive but thrive through all of these experiences is inspiring.

“We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims.” Buckminster Fuller

 

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We Can Safely Say You’re Cured

These words spoken to me on December 3rd by my surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota were both unexpected and stunning. It had been five years since a malignant tumor was discovered on the left side of my neck and my journey with cancer had begun. I was aware that, statistically, the five year mark was significant if one was to survive cancer.

However, in the cancer world, “cure” is a monumental word. It is much bigger that “remission” and even towers above “cancer free.” I looked at this man who I believe saved my life and asked, “Cured?” “Yes, cured,” he repeated. A tsunami of emotion came over me. Gratitude tumbled around with the implications of this amazing news.

Every six months I had been visiting my surgeon and oncologist. PET scans and extensive examination of my ears, nose and throat were always accompanied by the words, “You’re doing good.” Each time a sigh of relief as I marched back out into the fray of life. But, at the back of my mind, loitered the thought: next time something may be found.

I am already convinced that this concern restrained me. Now many who know me might argue against this conclusion as I have continued to be highly engaged in life. However, my willingness to take risks has certainly been contained and I have found myself playing safe more than is my normal modus operandi.

But now what will be my excuse or reason for holding back? This was the thought with which I was preoccupied as I drove back from the Mayo with my partner, Cheryl. When so many do not survive cancer, why me? A philosophical answer to that question is what appears to be true for all of us: If we’re alive our mission on earth isn’t finished.

However I am 69, so how big a vision is possible for a person of my age? It was to be just a few minutes before I found out. In my book, Even Eagles Need A Push, I wrote about the phenomenon – synchronicity – a meaningful coincidence. It is an unexpected and totally surprising connection to a life event one is dealing with. Synchronicity often provides encouragement, inspiration and insight when most needed.

So let me describe the scene. To keep to the speed limit my car was on cruise control. As I focused on the road ahead, the “why me” questions swirled around in my head.

At one point, for some unaccountable reason, I looked up. There, about forty feet above the car, hovered a magnificent eagle. The few seconds the eagle was in my vision felt like minutes. I could see every facet of it so clearly – the proud head and glorious wings. I had never been as close to this symbol for which my life, my work and my brand has so long been associated.

“Look at me David,” the Eagle seemed to be saying, “we have meant a lot to each other. Our partnership has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. We have opened them to possibilities they could never have imagined. Let us use this gift of new life and re-commit ourselves to the purpose for which we were created. Let us soar to new heights of contribution and achievement.”

And so it will be!

Important note: Do you know someone who is dealing with cancer? For a complimentary copy of my booklet – My Sacred Journey Through Cancer – email me at info@transformcorp.com

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All I Need to Know I Learn From Sydney

Parents, we know our kids can be our wisest teachers.  Often I am not present enough to realize the lessons my daughter is giving me.  Thinking about what to cook for dinner, making grocery lists, checking emails, thinking through meetings, scheduling a grocery shop around my work schedule.  And then there are the quiet Saturday mornings when I am still enough to hear her.

This particular Saturday morning I sat brainstorming my way through typical entrepreneur “opportunities”.  If you know what I mean.  I was flip flopping between frustration and inspiration.  “Come on, show me the money!” to “Let’s launch the 12 days of Purpose with the 12 days of Christmas!” (I think that’s a good one!)

As I sat staring off into space, my daughter who is 4 years old, asked me if I could draw her a rainbow.  I have very little drawing capability.  That is her father’s talent.  So I told her, “Mommy isn’t good at that, I know you can do it!”  She accepted that for a few minutes and then came over and said, “Mommy, can I whisper something in your ear?”  I said, “Yes”.  She said, “When can I be a grown up”?  I started laughing.  “When do you want to be a grown up?”  I asked.  She said, “Right now!”  I asked her why she wanted to be a grown up and she listed;

  • I can make dinner!
  • I can kiss babies!
  • I can put make up on!
  • I can go downstairs when I want…

“Hmmmmm” I said.  “Don’t you like being a kid?”  She replied, “Yes, but I just want someone to draw me a rainbow.”

I just want someone to draw me a rainbow.  I just want someone to draw me a rainbow!  Tears welled in my eyes as I realized that was exactly what I wanted.  I just wanted someone to draw me a rainbow.  I wanted someone to show me the way.  I wanted to feel that I was doing the right thing.  I wanted a rainbow of abundance in my life.

The big ah ha was…

I have all that!  I have people who show me the way.  There is no shortage of wisdom in the world!

I know I am doing the right thing because there is nothing else I would rather do.  When a client says, “you have helped me find purpose again”, there is nothing more fulfilling.

And my life is so full of wonderful things it’s humbling.  Abundance is monetary of course, but it is an abundance of love, an abundance of laughter, an abundance of hugs, an abundance of support, an abundance of enlightening conversations, an abundance of choice.

Sydney just reminded me of all that.  And because I AM the grown up, I get to show her that I know that.  I get to draw her a rainbow.

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Time Tested Principles for Business and Life

There are moments in our lives when the impact is so profound that we are changed forever. When I was in my mid-twenties, I attended a management seminar based on Earl Nightingale’s audio series – Lead the Field. Nightingale was known as the Dean of Motivation and to suggest that I was motivated is as vast an understatement as could be made. Intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, I was touched at every level.

At that seminar I was introduced to my potential. And so was everyone else. However, for me it was the beginning of a life long journey of discovery, accomplishment, breaking through the limitations imposed by self and others, learning how to respond to crisis and failure, and, most importantly, creating a life of purpose and meaning.

During this time the world changed dramatically.  Technology developed at warp speed. Business competition increased internationally on an unprecedented scale. Communications brought isolated people within intimate reach of each other via cell phones and what was happening in almost every country was being broadcast instantaneously into our living rooms.

Here, however, is what I know. The same principles taught to me at that original management seminar are as relevant today as they were then. It’s as if, in that regard, time has stood still.

Principle One: Fulfillment requires living with a sense of purpose.

Principle Two: Engagement and commitment is connected to believing that what we do matters.

Principle Three: Achievement is the result of having clear goals, persistence and determination.

Principle Four: Leadership is about discovering, growing and encouraging talent.

Principle Five:  Teamwork and collaboration are inspired by a common vision and compelling mission.

I am personally driven by the philosophy that we were not put on this earth just to pump blood. As the acclaimed social philosopher, Marshall McCluhan, stated: “On Spaceship Earth there are no passengers, only crew.”  To accept our status as crew means to accept responsibility for what happens to our world. I cannot think of a more worthy purpose.

The challenges of life do not escape me. I have had a wife die of cancer and I have personally experienced cancer. As the father of five children who now have their own children, their daily lives and the issues they face are all in the mix of what life presents to me every day. However, I am wise enough to not want it any other way for that is life. I believe that why we are on the planet is to learn and grow and that involves developing the skills and emotional intelligence to navigate through turbulence and tranquility.

My vision has remained constant: To expose as many people as possible to the principles learned in that first management seminar. There are, of course, more sophisticated and versatile ways to communicate and install that learning. However, the mission remains the same: To provide organizations and individuals with the knowledge, skills and inspiration to perform at their best.

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Strong Brands are Distinctive

Strong brands may have attractive logos and packaging, but that is not what makes them successful. All strong brands are built on a clear belief system. They know it is the value provided – which reflects the values within – that people care about and the reason they become loyal customers.

Fedex, a company that still sets the standards in its industry, and Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, became iconic brands because they consistently deliver value to those who value what they deliver. Fedex is not the cheapest, but it’s the most reliable. I once lost an important speaking engagement through giving a less expensive Fedex competitor the opportunity to deliver my speakers package. It got to the client too late. I was told they would have unquestionably chosen me if they had received my information. To save a couple of bucks I lost thousands of bucks. Never again.

In 2007 the then CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, dismissed Apple’s iPhone because of its high cost and lack of a key board. “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share,” was his prediction. Microsoft recently announced it is writing off nearly $8 Billion dollars it has invested in trying to compete in the mobile market. The lesson here is that Apple knows what people value before they know it themselves. And they don’t disappoint them.

One of e-Bay’s stated values is: “We believe people are basically good.” What is profound about this value is that e-Bay’s business model and its very existence relies totally on employees and users buying into this belief and living it every day. How this effects performance should be a wake-up call to any business: no company is perfect, but e-Bay has one of the highest customer loyalty measurements in the world.

When an organization’s values are clear, it is critical that they are shared with those charged with implementing those values and modeled by its leadership. The result of that clarity, commitment and alignment is that customers experience those values in action and react on a positive, emotional level. The result? They come back time and time again.

Similarly, if you reflect upon an individual you respect and to whom you respond on a positive, emotional level, you will notice that their influence on you is based on much more than their position, the way they look, or the car they drive. Ultimately, it is their values and the value they consistently provide to you – professionally or personally – that makes them stand out from the crowd.

The lesson? A brand, whether it is a business brand or personal brand, starts to become strong when a company or an individual decide what they believe in and commit to acting on those beliefs.

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do.”

Andrew Carnegie

Watch this video on being Distinctive form TransForm’s new brand implementation program: Being the Brand

Being the Brand – You Are the Difference

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My Grandson – The Graduate

My vision for my grandson, Evan, has always been huge. First and foremost a golf superstar. We have been golf buddies since he could barely swing a club. His vision is as far reaching as what seems to be the most fun thing to do in the next 24 hours. I am totally content to live with our separate visions as I remember clearly what I was like at Evan’s age.

Now Evan has graduated from high school. Nonetheless, I cannot stop myself from continuing to impart some of my grandparental (a new word) wisdom on his youthful brain. For example, as Evan’s golfing mentor, my first piece of advice to him was: “If you want to be a really good golfer, observe your Grandfather’s swing and then do exactly the opposite.”

My grandson is one of a large cadre of students who is unclear on the direction they want to go. His grades eliminate many schools, but his talents leave me with no doubt he has a bright future. Most importantly, Evan is a positive, loving and caring young man. He has a great sense of humor and a quick wit. Those characteristics alone will take you a long way towards a successful and meaningful life.

As Evan’s father has been primarily absent in his life, I have done my best to fill that gap whenever needed. Fortunately, his mom, my daughter Kate, has done an incredible job in raising him as a single Mom. My opportunities to provide guidance has often come on the golf course for it is well-known that the way a person plays golf gives much insight into their character.

I confess to loving golf. However, it is because the game is more than about hitting a little ball around a well manicured course. The rules and etiquette that are a part of the game provide lessons in life itself. Golf is a game that requires not only skill but, as importantly, it asks the player to have integrity, to have emotional self-discipline and to show care and respect for fellow players.

As you can imagine endeavoring to have a teenager grasp the significance of these latter qualities is not an easy task. Sometimes, however, an opportunity arrives where I need do nothing but be present as a role model appears on the television screen. I recall Evan and I were watching a 22 year old from Northern Ireland by the name of Rory McIlroy beat his fellow competitors by one of the largest margins in US Open history.

It was great stuff, but in the middle of the broadcast Jimmy Roberts, an NBC sportscaster, hosted a vignette called – Who is Rory McIlroy?

That Rory was an incredible talent was unquestioned, but Jimmy Roberts went on to say that his appeal and the reasons that the crowd seemed to be rooting for him was tied as much to the kind of person he was as much as his brilliance on the golf course. Here are just a few of the characteristics that were identified:

Dedicated: Hours and hours of practice since he was a young boy. All self-motivated.

Conscientious: Aware that there is more to life than golf, he is an ambassador for Unicef.

Gracious: At the previous Masters tournament that year, he was leading after the first three rounds but had a melt down on the last day to finish in 13th place. Rather than leave the tournament in embarrassment, he faced the media straight on and was “unfailingly polite and patient.”

Grounded: Asked how he felt about that disappointing loss he answered: “If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, it isn’t all that bad.”

Resilient: To respond to sporting adversity as experienced at the Masters and to come back and win the US Open so convincingly, Rory McIlroy proves the adage that being knocked down isn’t what matters. What matters is – are you willing to get up again and fully embrace another day?

Now, to be honest, I really don’t know how much of this got through to Evan. However, I do know that learning more about this remarkable young man had a significant impact on me. I am clearly not beyond self-examination to see how the characteristics displayed by a 20 something applies to me – a soon to be 69 year old. Perhaps it is because I am reminded of what Richard Bach said in his book, Illusions: “He teaches that which he most needs to learn.”

The perfect gift for the graduate in your life. David McNally’s book THE PUSH – Unleashing the Power of Encouragement.

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My Best Boss

An irony I have noticed over the years is the unexpected response people have to my speeches and/or presentations. It is quite often humbling. For example, I may feel that I was in the zone, every sentence flowing seamlessly and the message extremely well received and inspiring. Then someone from the audience will come up to me and say: “I just loved that joke you told, could I write it down!”

“Excuse me,” I say to myself, “didn’t you hear all of those wonderful ideas I gave you about how to lead your teams, achieve your goals and live a purposeful life? Is that all the feedback you can give me that you loved my jokes?” Of course, that’s my ego totally out of control so I mentally get back to my best self and calmly repeat the joke.

Recently while facilitating a leadership session with one of our clients, I had a similar experience. This time, however, it was a request for the content of one of the PowerPoint slides we used. It was a quote from another author’s book, which we had used to make a critical point about leadership. Now ninety nine percent of the presentation came from material in my own books but this person wanted that one percent. Yes, humbling!

That being said I do understand the reason for the request and as I love the book from which the quote is taken, I thought I would be magnanimous, go one step further and share it with all of you. The book is called Rapid Re-alignment and actually speaks to the work we do with many of our clients. I thoroughly believe it should be in every corporate library and read by every leader.

In dealing with what makes an effective leader, the book refers to research done with thousands of people to define and understand what makes a good “boss.” Here are the common characteristics:

  • My best boss listened
  • My best boss backed me up
  • My best boss respected me
  • My best boss gave feedback
  • My best boss trusted me

Source: Rapid Realignment – George Labovitz and Victor Rozansky

What I now know is that these characteristics have been strategically placed on the office wall of the leader who asked for them. His motivation was to be reminded each day of what it takes to be a “best boss” as he aspired to fulfill his purpose as a leader – Inspiring his team to commit their expertise and talents to achieving the goals of the organization.

And, if he does that, my ego doesn’t matter as we all get to share in his success.

To learn about TransForm’s approach to aligning people and organizations watch the following video.

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Brand Moments

Your Personal Brand is one of your most important assets. Your brand is the reflection of how others perceive you – Do you act professionally? Do you have high standards? Do you have clear values? Are you enjoyable to work with? Are you negotiable? Do you follow through on your commitments? Are you collaborative and cooperative? Are you win/win oriented?

A product or company builds a strong brand by consistently delivering value to its customers. An individual develops a strong personal brand by consistently delivering value to those with who he or she is in relationship – colleagues, customers, family and friends. Everyday life provides many opportunities to build our brands through simple acts. But each act creates an impression in the mind of another and our value to them is either strengthened or diminished.

Are we doing only what is asked or are we constantly adding value? Do we seek to judge or to understand? Do we help or hinder? Are we living in the past or planning the future? Do we see life as a struggle or an adventure? Are we invisible or invincible? Are we focused on the obstacle or the dream? Are we too cautious when we need to be courageous?

Brand Moments, the attitudes and behaviors you demonstrate daily, define and communicate your brand. Your commitment to having a strong personal brand will undoubtedly be tested over and over again. It is much easier to hide out than to shine out. But the payoff for your commitment is enormous.

When you have a strong brand you attract allies. The people to whom your brand matters will be drawn to it. They will support it. They will fight for it. And you will win!

Check out David’s book Be Your Own Brand, available at The Eagle’s Store!

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Your Most Important New Year’s Resolution

A man was hurrying back to his office having been delayed at a lunch meeting. As he moved quickly along the mall, his eyes were directed to another man who was window shopping outside a major department store. For a moment he was completely distracted for the man seemed so familiar.

That afternoon he was describing his experience to a colleague. “There was something so striking about this person but I couldn’t figure out what is was. And then it occurred to me. They say that everyone in the world has an exact double. This guy was my exact double.”

The man’s colleague was astounded. “What do you mean exact double?” he exclaimed. The man replied, “He looked exactly like me. He was dressed differently but, apart from that we were the same in every way.” “That’s amazing,” his colleague replied, “did you go up to him and ask him who he was and where he was from?”

“You know I didn’t,” the man said, “I just didn’t like the look of him!”

In humor we often find truth. That is never more evident at this time of year when the “New Year’s Resolution” is on many people’s minds. Obviously I am fully supportive of self-improvement, but not when that quest is motivated by the feeling that we are inadequate as we are, that we are not enough, that one more accomplishment will make us more worthy human beings.

My partner, Cheryl, loves to say that we are all perfectly imperfect. It is that thought I encourage you to reflect upon as you consider your New Year’s resolutions. Set aside the images in the media of the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect partner or the perfect job. Let go of comparisons between where others are in their careers and where you are.

Focus instead on all that is valuable about you. What friend, cause or colleague benefitted from your assistance, kindness, compassion? To whom did you give encouragement, listen to, provide support, let know how valuable they were? How did you bring and add value to your organization? This is not an exercise in pumping up your ego, it is about realizing how every positive action makes the world a better place. Take credit for your contribution.

Enter this New Year with the understanding that there is truly no-one “exactly like you.” You are a combination of the natural gifts with which you were born, the knowledge you have acquired, and the skills you have developed. You have a personality that has evolved and an intellect that is growing and gaining wisdom every day. You may be perfectly imperfect, but you are also, unquestionably, a unique and miraculous member of the human family.

Accepting and building upon that reality is the most important New Year’s resolution you can ever make!

For more inspiration to help you on your path this year, check out David’s audiobooks at Audible.com!

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‘Tis the Season to Give and be Jolly!

Have you noticed that it is the givers who get? How rewards follow service? How the people who make the most memorable impression on us are those that make a difference in our lives? Do you ever reflect on what inspires you, what fulfills you, what delights you, what you truly value?

What have we learned from the events of 2014? What do we want to create for our lives in 2015? I know that I now absolutely refuse to ‘sweat the small stuff.’ I know that I can be inspired and energized by people who I shall never meet and whose names I shall never know. I know that the problems of the world are more complex than I ever imagined. I know from the example of others, however, that the ultimate purpose of humankind is to find solutions.

As we wind down another challenging year, let us resolve to be more conscious of how our thoughts and actions affect the world in which we live. Let us become more aware that history is created not only by those whose names are revered and celebrated, but also by the infamous and unknown. Let us join the parents, the businesspeople, the artists, the teachers and the volunteers whose priceless legacy is that because of them the world is a better place.

Solomon, when given a blank check by God to choose whatever he wanted for his life, chose wisdom. Here, then, is a distillation of the wisdom of the philosophers, spiritual teachers, psychologists, and psychiatrists who throughout history have sought the prescription for a happy life. Each night before you go to sleep, ask yourself two simple questions:

Did I today, in someway, grow as a human being?
Did I today, in anyway, make the world a better place in which to live?

When you can answer yes to those questions more often than not you will be winning the game of life, you can deem yourself successful, you will be thriving not just surviving.

HAVE A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON!

Give yourself or that special person the gift of inspiration with audible versions of Even Eagles Need A Push and The Eagle’s Secret at Audible.com.

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