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From the inside out, we’ve all got a number of voices in our life. When we talk about the important voices in your life we’re not necessarily talking about the LOUDEST voices. Frequently those voices are the least important. That makes them really tough to handle. Sometimes it seems impossible to quieten them.

Let’s start with YOU and YOUR VOICE.

Your life has formed a narrative, a story. Neuroscientists teach us that the events of our life don’t necessarily determine our story, but the meanings we ascribe to those events. Easier said than done. We’re not very good at disconnecting ourselves from the things that happen to us.

Look around at the people who have experienced horrific events. Some of the most awful circumstances imaginable. But they not only endure it, but they also overcome it. They embrace behaviors that fuel them to be among the highest achievers. They determine to have a positive impact on others. Examples abound. And I’m not just talking about famous names. There are plenty of people most of us haven’t heard of, but they’re making a big impact in spite of the horrible things that have happened to them.

What makes them different? So resilient?

Wish I knew.

We can apply all kinds of rational and logical thinking to it, but some of it is probably beyond explanation. They just have such mental toughness, and mind made up that they don’t talk to themselves the way others do. While others might lean into being a victim, grow bitter and lament their plight — these folks figure, “What’s the point? How’s that gonna help?” They don’t get bogged down listening to the inner voice of “woe is me.” Quite literally, they build a bridge in their mind and get over it. Their inner voice helps them advance.

Yesterday we talked about energy. Losing it. Or increasing it. The winners in life – and I don’t mean financially, but I mean winner in a much larger sense of it – command the voice in their head. The voice they hear mirrors their made up mind. And that may be the key. They’ve made up their mind that this thing – whatever it may be – isn’t going to stop them from being or trying to be their very best. And that made up mind has a voice. A voice worth listening to. So they do, listen to it.

What about you? What’s your mind made up about? It’s likely the voice you’re listening to in your head is THAT voice. If you want to change the voice in your head you have to first change your mind. Make up your mind that today you’re going to aim better, and higher for your life.

Outside voices can impact our own.

It’s not always bad. Or negative. Sometimes the voices outside are exactly what we need. It happens when we surround ourselves with people who care about us. People who care enough to support us, encourage us, challenge us and serve us so we can grow into an improved version of ourselves.

I’m not being cynical, but most folks don’t fit the bill. It’s hard work to serve others. The most rewarding work (in my opinion), but not fall-off-a-log easy. Certainly not as easy as being hard on people. Or second-guessing people. Or telling people what we think they should do. Those are easy. Ridiculously unprofitable for them, but they make us feel better about ourselves for some perverted reason.

The key to outside voices is to judge them based on who is best being served. This isn’t a selfish endeavor. It’s just practical, honest and real.

The person who wants to be critical is serving himself, not you. Check!

The person who harps about what you ought to do is serving himself, not you. Check!

It drones on and on. Every day we’re surrounded by the ninnies who want to drive our lives from the safe distance of their own life. Problem is, our life is our life. Our context is ours. Our circumstances are ours. It’s not the same as theirs.

Here’s what happens in my work. It’s a judgment-free zone. It’s just perspective. And viewpoint.

The learning comes from questions. It comes from sharing experiences. I’m further up the trail from most of my clients. But even if I’m not further up the trail, my journey has been different. The power is in the differences. The diversity of viewpoints, opinions, and philosophies. It’s challenging, but in the most caring way where the client is always the focus. The client must be served.

Transformation isn’t easy. Or comfortable. But it’s profitable…the most profitable work we can do for ourselves.

Determine the voices that surround you. Dig deeply enough to figure out if those voices are serving themselves or YOU. Who is benefiting? It’s easier to figure out than you may think. Spend time to do the digging.

Once you figure that out, then make up your own mind what you’d like to do with those voices. No, I’m not going to tell you what you should do. I just know those self-serving people who provide no helpful voice to our life are detrimental. But I don’t know all the circumstances or context so it’s up to you to decide whether those are important voices or not. Again, I’m using IMPORTANT as the voices that contribute to helping us grow and improve.

So much of growing great is to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then to do more of what works and eliminate what doesn’t. Do that with ALL the voices in your life, then let me encourage you to be more selective in the voices you allow to be IMPORTANT.

Me? I just hope to be a small, but important voice in your earbuds urging you to be well, do good and grow great!


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Look at your life right now. Look at yourself. Look at the folks who surround you, the ones you spend the most time with.

Who do you fuel?

Who fuels you?

Who do you drain?

Who drains you?

You know the answer. We all do.

I suppose there are people in our lives who are innocuous, but we don’t spend much time around them. If we did, they would cease to be innocuous. By innocuous, I mean they’re neutral. Safe. They neither fuel nor drain. They just are.

Most of the others who surround us are one or the other. But let’s keep going with this exercise.

We’re all capable of draining energy in ourselves and in others. We’re all capable of being providers or fuelers of energy, too. I don’t imagine any of us are 100% one or the other, but one or the other dominates our character. Without being so nitpicky, start with yourself. Which are you? Pick just one that best characterizes how you see yourself. Do you drain? Or add?

Do you care which one best characterizes you? Do you care how others see you impacting their lives? Does it matter to you if people feel one way or the other about you?

Well, of course it does. At least if you have any degree of emotional intelligence and any desire to be a good influence on others!

Let’s stay with you for a moment. What is it about you that causes you to draw this conclusion about yourself? What do you DO that compels you to see yourself as a drain or as somebody who adds energy? (By the way, it’s pretty terrific if you’ve got such high self-awareness you’re able to admit you’re a drain!)

List out the things you do – the actions you take that contribute to your drain/add identity.

I’ll help get you started – and if you’re wrestling with which you may be, these may help:

Are you critical? Do you always find fault?

Do you “should” people? Or “should not” people? Do you second guess everybody thinking you know best?

Do you care more about what you think and what you have to say than listening to others? Are your ideas and opinions always best (or right)?

Do you lack curiosity about others? Are you indifferent to understanding others and why they think or feel as they do?

Do you draw conclusions with limited information?

Do you consider others valuable?

Are you interested in your growth and in helping others grow?

Do you regularly find ways where you can improve? Do you regularly look for opportunities to serve others by helping them improve?

Do you give compassion easily to others?

Are you interested in the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of others?

Are you curious about what others think?

Do you search for evidence before jumping to a conclusion about others, or about situations?

I know such things aren’t binary, but let’s look at them that way. Yes or no. Sure, we all have our days. Even jerks can have a good day where they’re kind. And the most kind among us can have a bad day where they’re jerks. But again, we mostly live our lives in a default way. I’m challenging you to figure out your default as it relates to energy – you either drain or you add. Which is it?

Now, what do you want to do about it? Anything? Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you feel how you are works, so why mess with it?

I’m going out on a limb to say you’re interested in growth and improvement. Otherwise, I don’t know why you’d even be listening to a podcast entitled, Grow Great. 😉

There are remedies for everything if we want there to be. We can fix anything in our choices and behavior if we want to. So it begins with your desires for yourself. Would you like to improve your ability to add power and energy to others? I think all those questions can help you figure it out. Do the work. It’s worthwhile.

What about the time you spend with others? Go down the list of people who surround you. Ask yourself the same questions about these people.

It may be ideal if you could jettison the drainers from your life, but unfortunately, that’s not realistic. You can reduce their impact though. It starts with giving them less time and attention. For most of us, it starts with reducing their impact on our heart. That is, we have to figure out ways to care less what these people think. Their opinions just can’t matter. Not if they’re drainers!

This is a common problem. People give too much power (energy) to the drainers. For some reason, over the course of our lives we may have gotten too close to these people. So we’ve grown to value their opinions, even though quite frequently they have toxic opinions.

Look at them for what they mostly are – a drain. Drains empty things. Drains add nothing. Ask yourself why you give so much value to the drains in your life? Figure it out and make up your mind that you’re going to plug that drain by eliminating (if you can) or greatly reducing (more likely possible) their presence in your life.

Adders (fuelers) are all too rare, but they’re out there. People who are hopeful, optimistic value adders. These people can talk with us for mere minutes and we feel like our tank is getting fuller. They just have that positive impact on us. We may not understand why, or take the time to figure that out. I’m asking you to give it the time and attention it deserves. Apply those questions to the people who surround you so you can more clearly know WHY certain people are adding energy to your life. That’s how you’ll be able to find others who can fill some spots in your life. And it’ll all help you find ways to be more like that yourself.

We all have the same time today. Our hours and minutes are what they are. How we spend those minutes is up to us. The impact we have on ourselves and others is up to us. While we might be able to be neutral, being neutral is a bad thing. It means our presence in somebody’s life doesn’t matter. That’s almost never the case.

Instead, we’re either draining energy from others or we’re adding it. It’s up to us to decide, then to take the proper action so we’re fueling ourselves and others. As often as possible. As consistently as possible.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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Harry Truman said that.

The reward of suffering is experience.

He was right, of course. Failure, pain, and suffering can be our best teachers. It’s up to us to leverage them properly. Not an easy thing to do.

Figuring it out involves time – often times extended time – when we don’t have it figured out. Up to the point where we finally do figure it out, we spend much more time failing. Success is on the backend.

One of my grandsons has a pogo stick. My granddaughter saw it for the first time and instantly wanted to try it. She’s a few years younger than her pogo stick riding cousin. She hopped on it, gave it try and failed. This went on for a bit. Minutes. Had I calculated it, I’d have figured that every second or minute spent trying resulted in failure. But that experience was paying off. She just couldn’t see it. Yet.

More minutes passed. More experience being gained. We watched from the kitchen table through the back glass doors as she attempted to balance so she could find some sort of rhythm to the mad contraption. Still, it could have been computed as 100% failure.

Until it wasn’t.

Such things reinforce why one of my favorite sayings is…

Everything is hard, until it’s easy.

Suddenly, she’s jumping up and down on the pogo stick. At first, two hops in a row, then a fall. Then three hops before she falls. Pretty soon, she’s on it and hopping as long as she wants without falling.

I’m a fanboy of guitar playing and guitars. No, I don’t play. But I see interviews with guitarists by other guitarists and a common question is asked.

How long have you been playing?

People answer. Mostly in terms of years. It’s likely they started measuring the time when they first began to learn. My granddaughter could answer that question about her pogo sticking. She’s been doing it for about a week. Fact is, she’s been vastly more successful in the last week than she was at the very beginning. Experience paid off. So it goes with guitarists, too.

If the reward of suffering (or failure) is experience…and it is…then the reward of experience is figuring it out. How do you price that? You can’t.

Those first painful months (or years) spent learning something new (in my granddaughter’s case, those first few minutes) are necessary. You just can’t get from here to there without enduring the suffering.

It’s easy to speak gloriously about such things, but it’s not much fun. Many times, it’s downright painful. That’s why Harry’s quote is spot on. It’s SUFFERING.

Proof that suffering is the price we must pay for success is found in my not being able to play the guitar. I got my first nice guitar about 40 years ago. A Martin acoustic. But I didn’t enroll in lessons, instead opting to try to teach myself. And this in the pre-Internet days. No YouTube videos to watch. Just books to review. It was boring. And physically painful. You don’t learn to play guitar – or much of anything else – without enduring some pain. For guitar playing, you need callouses on your fingertips so you can properly fret the instrument. You have to keep practicing in order to get the callouses though. And I never did put in enough time to do that. Eventually, I gave up. But I’ve owned an acoustic guitar for 4 decades now. Some days I imagine, “What if I’d stuck it out? Can you imagine how accomplished I might be after 40 years? Why I bet I could play most anything I really wanted to.” But here I am with a nice guitar in a nice case sitting less than 10 feet from me and I can’t play a single chord.

The barrier separates the winners from the losers. The barrier is in the suffering. Enduring the pain of the process so you can gather enough experience to figure it out.

So kick that Instagram feed to the curb. Stop comparing your failure – the time you’re spending suffering so you can gain experience – to the success of others. You’re seeing them post suffering. My granddaughter started her pogo stick adventure because her cousin was able to jump and jump and jump at will. For as long as he wanted. Without any risk of falling. She never saw him struggle. She only saw his success.

Thankfully, she’s a determined little girl. She wasn’t going to quit until she could do it as good as he could.

What’s your commitment to the struggle? How determined are you to get the experience necessary so you can figure it out?

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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On Sunday’s CBS 60 Minutes’ show, there was a profile on Samuel L. Jackson. During the interview, reminiscing about winning movie awards, he said, “Winning an award won’t move the comma on your checks. Only putting butts in seats will do that.”

What does the audience want to see? That’s his approach to his work. No wonder he’s the highest grossing actor of all time!

What about you? What does your audience want? Are you devoted to giving it to them?

It’s a maxim old as dirt. Find out what people want and give it to them.

What promptly follows are mentions of the innovations that people didn’t ask for. Enter the Apple iPod, Ford’s Model A, Sony’s Betamax and a ton of other new products.

But people overlook the obvious. People DID want to take music with them. The Sony Walkman was displaced by the technology of the Apple iPod.

People DID want to be more mobile. The horse and buggy gave way to the Ford Model A.

People DID want to record TV shows so they could time-shift their viewing. That inability gave way to the ability enabled by the Sony Betamax video recorder.

More modern advancements of innovation are the result of human desires and human challenges. Technology serves both the desires and challenges. We can grow too fascinated with the tools or tech, but at the root of all marketing is our desire to have something we don’t, or to fix a problem we have.

What’s your equivalent of butts in the seat? What are you doing to improve that?

Sometimes I work with city governments or non-profit organizations. Unlike entrepreneurial based enterprises, they don’t focus on sales or revenues. But they’re still serving an audience. So no matter what type of organization you’re leading, you have an audience to serve. How well you do that will determine your success. Make application as it suits your operation.

More. Bigger. Better.

That’s the goal. You’ll have to figure out the measurements. Maybe it’s more customers. Maybe it’s more patrons or donors. Maybe it’s more sales tax revenue via economic development.

Maybe it’s bigger sales. Or it could be a bigger impact.

Better could be more efficient. More effective. It could also more profitable. It’s not being complacent with current results but focused on striving to make anything, or everything better.

Samual L. Jackson has been intent on maximizing his earning power as an actor. He’s been focused on delivering performances that please the audience. Jackson knows where his bread is buttered. Fans pay his way so he’s intently focused on making them happy.

He’s been quoted as saying that not everybody goes to the movies to have their life changed. The man knows he’s an entertainer. He’s good at it, too. Which is why his movies have grossed over $12 billion globally. He’s number 1 for good reason.

If you want to move the comma on your checks – either personally or for your organization – then you have to know who and what you are. Jackson knows his job. He also knows his audience.

Figure out who you are. Figure out what you are. Stop trying to be something else. Lean in hard to own your uniqueness.

Figure out who your audience is. What do they want? What do they need that you can provide? Don’t challenge it, or argue with them. That’s a surefire way to lose. The market gets to decide, not you. Give the market what it wants.

That doesn’t mean you compromise what you believe or what defines you (or your enterprise). It means you figure out how to make it fit with the demands of the market. Samuel L. Jackson has created his own genre in order to give the market what it wants. His market wants to be entertained. He knows there’s lots of latitude in that. Humor. Anger. Rage. Gentleness. Physical. Thoughtful. They all work and he’s made them all work at different times. In his own unique way.

Brand. It’s your brand. It’s the YOU that nobody can replicate. If you’re not standing out, then you’re losing. Your uniqueness and your organization’s uniqueness must stand out. It’s counter-intuitive for many because we love to copy cat success. But that’s the fast path to mediocrity, or worse.

Who else is like Samual L. Jackson? Go ahead. Think about it.

I recently watched a biography on actor Walter Matthau. The same could be said of him. Who else was like him? He didn’t have leading man looks, but he played leading men quite often. He was uniquely himself, even though by all accounts he was a gifted actor.

I’d argue that both Jackson and Matthau figured out they could move the comma on their checks by giving people what they wanted and doing it in a way unlike anybody else.

If you want Samual L. Jackson there’s just nobody else who will do.

When your audience wants something…will somebody else do? Will somebody else do it better than you? Then you’ve got work to do. Don’t despair, but stop trying to be like everybody else. You’re surrendering your best opportunity to have a bigger impact.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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Friday night during the halftime studio show of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament on CBS (a game between Duke and North Dakota), Kenny “The Jet” Smith made a comment. He said he’d commonly say something to the teams he played on.

We just need to win the next ten minutes by 4 points. If we do that every 10 minutes of the game we’ll win by at least 16 points and it’ll look like a blowout.

Breaking down a challenge into smaller, bite-sized approaches proves effective no matter what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s especially helpful when we’re battling something that seems bigger than we are.

Entrepreneurs can most easily do this with sales/revenue goals. A million dollar monthly goal spread out over 24 selling days in the month means we need to hit a daily target of just under $42,000 in gross sales every day. Sales managers are notorious for figuring out such things and leveraging that info with the team in hopes they’ll maintain the energy necessary to hit the monthly goal.

The psychology is fairly simple. We can conceptualize achieving $42,000 in a day easier than achieving a million bucks in 24. And Kenny’s basketball teammates could see themselves achieving a 4 point lead in the next ten minutes. Thinking about blowing out an opponent by 16 at the end of a game? A much tougher mental feat. Yet they’re pretty much the same thing. Certainly the same result.

Mind games are important because how and what we think matters.

I don’t claim to understand how the human mind works. I just know that it does. And that it works differently in each of us, but we’re all able to see the reality of smaller achievements. It’s the benefit of thinking small.

I’m in the early stages of a startup, a human development company. It may never get off the ground, but we’ve got lofty plans for it. Our concentration is on one single customer at a time though. The focus is at the smallest level so far as scale goes, but by concentrating on a single point where we touch a customer, we’re embracing the power of thinking small. The impact will be made bigger.

We want to make sure we’re not underestimating the power to positively help one person. It’s hardly the stuff that makes folks excited about a startup, but we’re contrarians like that. We don’t care.

Our longer term goal is to impact more than one life, but there’s just no point in getting ahead of ourselves. Fact is, if we’re not able to have the impact on a single life – the impact we believe we can deliver – then nothing else matters!

What are you hoping to accomplish today? This week? This month? This quarter? This half? This year?

For years I’d track sales per hour in retail stores. Days were made up of hours. Helping people focus on this hour kept energy and urgency that could contribute to achieving daily goals.

Getting ahead of yourself when you fall behind can be tempting. Don’t do it. It’s easily seen in sports when a team falls behind. Panic never helped anybody achieve more. Or better.

When you fall behind is the ideal time to think small. Get one small win. Frankly, many times any win will do. Folks are currently obsessed with their NCAA brackets. We’re down to the final 16 teams. Some games have been close. Others, not so much. In a basketball game, teams get on a scoring run. If you’re subjected to an opponent who has momentum, you just need one basket. Or one defensive stop. Then you build on it. We see it happen every year in the tournament. Many times.

Thinking small can help you win big when you’re pursuing momentum. Or when you’ve lost it. It just works.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!