If you haven’t yet emailed me your biggest leadership challenge, then do it right now. Just email me at RandyCantrell@gmail.com. It’ll be anonymous. It’ll help me deliver more valuable content, especially this week while we’re focusing on leadership.

Let’s begin the week focused on how we think. Our leadership begins in our head. With what we believe. Specifically with what we believe about our business and how our business will go to market. In short, it begins with how we think about our organization’s place in the market.

Great leaders see the future first.

I’ve talked before about this book by Carolyn Corbin, circa 2000. Haven’t I? I think I have. I’ll credit that book with what may be my first encounter with that truth.

Carolyn’s opening sentence to the book happens to also be the entire first paragraph of the book.

“Leaders determine whether an organization succeeds or fails.”

It’s a strong statement. Another truth.

Carolyn was involved in research with IBM consulting. It’s easy to dismiss older books as being culturally irrelevant, but it’s a foolish dismissal. People are people. Our behaviors may change over time due to the influences of culture and society, but humans and leadership are predictably the same. We want the same things we’ve always wanted. Purpose, meaning, fulfillment. We want to be as engaged as possible in something meaningful. We want success and victory. We want to feed our families, provide some degree of security for today and for a hopeful tomorrow. We want to soar today and we’d like the opportunity to soar even higher tomorrow.

Leadership impacts every endeavor. Profit. Non-profit. Public. Private. Religious. Commercial. Creative. Sport. Industry. Family. Classroom.

Read older books on management and you’ll likely have a valid point if you dismiss some of them as being culturally irrelevant. That’s because the nature of work has changed very much over time. We manage the work. We lead people. So I’m willing to concede that old management tomes may have limited application in today’s world. But great leadership is fairly timeless.

What do you believe to be true?

This is going to be an exercise that requires you to make a commitment to learning, understanding and growing your leadership (LUG). If you’re unwilling to do that, then your leadership is stuck. You’ll find every excuse to avoid putting in this work. You’ll minimize the positive impact it can have on your leadership, which means you’ll be saying you disagree with Carolyn’s opening line of her book. “Leaders determine whether an organization succeeds or fails.”

The paradox is that leaders who do that tend to overly stress their own importance as leaders, yet they put in the least amount of work to grow as leaders. The very best leaders never stop working on it. They understand that their beliefs fuel their leadership so they carefully inventory how they see the world, what they believe and why. They foster constant curiosity to question themselves, not in some second-guessing way, but in a way to make sure they’re seeing things accurately. Clearly. Such inner debate requires a strength of character, and comfort with oneself, that most don’t have. That’s among the many reasons why great leaders are rare. Too few are fully committed to the quest.

Tactics don’t last. Strategies don’t either. Character does.

That’s why I’m starting with beliefs. A leader with questionable character can try to deploy kindness, but fail because the kindness is a tactic, not a legitimate behavior with honorable intentions. Tactics and strategies are means to an end. Character behaviors are what they are without regard to the outcome. It’s doing what you do simply because you’re committed to it. You’re committed to it because you believe it. Your belief isn’t conditional on a circumstance or situation. If you’re honest, then you’re honest whether people are looking or not. If you’re not honest when nobody is looking then you’re dishonest.

What do you believe about yourself?

What do you believe about people?

What do you believe about your organization?

What do you accept as true? What do you deny as true?

I’ll help you by telling you some of the things I believe. But I want you to focus on what you truly believe.

I believe in always doing the right thing. Sometimes doing the right things is expensive, but I believe doing the wrong thing is always more expensive.

I believe people want to do good work. I believe if they’re properly served, people will excel (or at least try to).

I believe politeness and kindness serve people inside and outside the organization. In business, I think they’re competitive edges. “Please” and “thank you.” “Sir” and “ma’am” are competitive advantages.

I believe people are honest, but it’s the leaders’ job to protect them from the temptation not to be.

I believe leaders serve with no expectation to be served. I also believe leaders should accept the genuine service of others to give them the opportunity (and rewards of serving).

Those are just a few highlights intended to get you started in crafting your own list of beliefs.

These are important because our beliefs serve as our lens through which we see the world and our place in it. It colors everything we do. All our decisions and choices stem from our beliefs.

How do you express these beliefs?

This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to say what you believe. It’s something else to display it. To prove it.

I operated retail companies for many years. Take my belief about honesty. I believe people are mostly honest, but I also believe leaders have a responsibility to protect people from temptation. That was manifested in ongoing cycle count inventories. It was manifested in being overly obvious about the controls on inventory. No threats. No heavy-handed warnings or signage. Just constant, ongoing actions designed to first make sure inventory was accurate and secondly to show everybody we’re focused on it. Thieves will steal. No matter what you do. Honest people can steal if the opportunity is too tempting. I focused on helping keep honest people honest because of my beliefs.

Beliefs that are unexpressed serve what value?

I’m optimistic. I mostly think we’re able to make tomorrow better than today. I’m not a victim. Nor am I entitled.

But if that’s not manifested in behavior and actions, then I don’t know what good it would do me. I guess I could feel good telling you that I believe those things, but that’s shallow.

Besides, how is anybody going to know what my beliefs are if I don’t express them? I’m a Christian. There are expressions of my Christian faith. I worship 3 times a week. I read the Bible. I study the Bible. I pray. In short, I do things because of my Christian beliefs. If I weren’t a Christian, I wouldn’t do those things.

We’re talking about leadership beliefs, not religious beliefs, but we’re talking BELIEFS. Generally speaking. You can’t separate one aspect of who you are with another. I’m a Christian. There’s no separating that from my business identity. I’m a mature business guy with decades of C-level experience. I can’t separate that from how I view the world, or in how my beliefs have been shaped. What I’m saying is that you are who and what you are. Yes, growth changes us, hopefully for the better. But our context is the total sum of who we are. Our beliefs are shaped by our character and our character isn’t segmented by our personal character and our work character. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Are you willing to express your beliefs even when they have a high price tag? Or are your beliefs for sale?

That’s not a moral judgment. It’s just a practical question to help you know if it’s really a belief – one you’re willing to express – or if it’s just a shallow belief that you’re happy to compromise.

What price are you willing to pay for what you believe?

I’m unwavering in my belief that kindness and doing the right thing by customers is the right thing to do. It’s manifested in my determination to deliver an extraordinary customer experience no matter what. No matter what? Yep, no matter what!

Toward that end, I’ve eaten lots of profit, but I believe I’ve invested in delivering a customer experience that strengthened the business and the customer base. I believe it’s an extraordinarily high ROI. I know other CEO’s who have operated very differently because they didn’t share my beliefs. They believed in a more transactional view of the business. Every transaction deserves a certain degree of profits. They express that belief in how they operate their business.

I’m beginning here because, as you can now see, it will determine everything else in your leadership. And I’m using the term “belief” because it’s not just a passing thought. Or a casual “think so.” It’s deeper than that. More entrenched in your character than that. In fact, I’d go so far as to tell you it’s a non-negotiable. Can you change your beliefs? Sure, but it’s going to take quite a lot to convince you otherwise because you hold these beliefs as deep convictions.

Begin this week by putting in the work on yourself. I promise it’ll be worth it. Expressions of your beliefs are crucial because as the leader, you see the future first. It’s going to determine the direction in which you take the organization. It’s also going to determine success or failure for the company.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Powerful Leadership: How To Unleash The Potential In Others And Simplify Your Own Life was published in 2002. It was written by two professors of the business school at BYU. Early in the book, there’s a little section subtitled, “Managers Have Huge Blind Spots.” The authors write…

“One of the most distressing patterns in modern organizations is the apparent and long-standing view that managers fail to recognize that employees are human beings who may be suffering at their hands.”

Among the many blind-spot generators is forgetfulness. People promoted to leadership positions, or those who assume that role because they own the place, forget how important they felt it was to be heard. Or how important it was – and is – to have freedom.

Leaders incorrectly think their power and effectiveness is based on their ability to control. They work hard to control the work, the output. They work hard to control the people doing the work. They impose themselves on the employees and the work robbing people of their individuality, freedom, and flexibility. The result? Employees watch the clock, staring off into space, spending screen time with their phones and having low expectations to be engaged in their workday. Mostly, they may be driven to stay out of trouble by staying out of sight.

As we prep for some conversations next week on leadership I figured it may be wise to end this week by talking about our first mandate as leaders – to do no harm. Can we at least agree we should limit the damage or harm we do?

I know we want to find out how we can be leadership superheroes, but before we can take positive actions we first must stop the damage. Let me just give you 3 things to ponder as we prepare for deeper leadership discussions next week.

Step 1: Realize you’re doing some harm. 

You’re doing some harm. It goes with the role, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly accept it as a necessary evil.

Let’s define harm. Harm is simply inflicting some degree of suffering to the people you lead. You’re not going to get it right 100% of the time.

Too many leaders refuse to accept responsibility for the harm they do. Some just don’t recognize it’s happening at their hands. Others may not care.

The very best leaders embrace and crave responsibility and accountability. They accept the fact that they influence people. They face the reality that in spite of their best intentions, they can sometimes hurt people.

The big blind spot for leaders is to assume leadership makes them impervious to mistakes, errors in judgment, bad behavior or any other source of harm caused to people and the organization.

NOTE: Don’t be confused about harm. Conflict and correction aren’t harmful if done well, with honest intentions. The employee who is doing poor work must be corrected. To sit down and confront the poor performance isn’t causing harm to that employee. Refusing to do that IS. Allow the person’s poor performance to persist and eventually cost them their job – that’s harmful. Check your perspective.

Step 2: Be human. Remain human.

No matter how you came to be in charge, commit to remembering. This will vary depending on the length of your career and the depth of your experience.

I’ve spent decades operating businesses and leading organizations. I’ve got lots of memories. Many memories of colossal failure in leading. Many memories of miserable bosses I had early in my career. A few memories of great bosses I had. These all serve to help me today. Mostly, they remind me how much life has changed and how my humanity has not remained static. What drove me in my 20’s isn’t quite what drives me today. That’s humanity – for all of us.

Leadership serves people. It’s humans serving humans.

How do you suppose failing to be human is going to help you excel as a leader?

A big factor in being human and remaining human is to tap the brakes on your ego. Vanity and pride can wreck your leadership. If you suppose that you must appear perfect, brilliant and always right, then you’re in trouble.

Being human and remaining human mean embracing humility and honest intentions with everybody. It doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect and always get it right, but everybody will see and know you’re trying. And it will count for your favor and theirs.

Step 3: Always make it right.

It’s always been part of my business philosophy. It should be part of everybody’s leadership and everybody’s business philosophy.

There’s no excuse for failing at this. It’s just making up your mind to do it.

Whenever leadership refuses to admit they’re wrong they inflict harm. I’ll argue mostly to themselves. They don’t do themselves any favors trying to appear perfect because everybody knows better. It goes hand in hand with step 2, but I broke it out because it’s among the most powerful things I think any leader can do. Fix it. Make it right.

Some of my greatest moments in leadership were where I got it so wrong it wasn’t funny, but I was quick to recover. I stood in front of people – either as individuals or a group – and fell on my sword. I owned up to my mistake, took full responsibility, asked for forgiveness and vowed to do better.

No leader can do that habitually. Do what they want, and constantly apologize, only to repeat the feat all over again. But when you’re dedicated to serving people as a well-intended, well-behaved human being, but you mess up, then making it right will work.

Don’t ignore fixing your mistakes. If you want others to fix theirs (and you do), then lead the way by showing them how to do it.

Bonus Step: Live by the golden rule.

Yes, treat people the way you want to be treated. Kindness, gentleness, mercy, grace, forgiveness and love. I know those aren’t normal management or leadership terms, but they should be because they’re human. We all crave those things. Don’t suppose that because our interactions are happening at work, then those human emotions aren’t in play. They are. They always are.

Truth is, this bonus step can likely stand all alone as THE rule to live by if you want to avoid causing harm to people in your organization.

Great leaders aren’t miserable human beings. Great leaders are first great human beings.

Don’t be fooled into following the pattern of tyranny. Steve Jobs and others have paved the way for people to think being an obsessive tyrant is the way to greatness. Don’t believe it. Steve Jobs was brilliant at many things, but leadership wasn’t one of them. I wonder how much grander his success may have been if he had learned to become a great leader.

Be kind. Be optimistic. Be the first to serve others. That’ll be a great start to your leadership growth.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Dr. Diane Hamilton has a new book coming out, Cracking The Curiosity Code.

“Curiosity is important in all aspects of our lives because it opens us up to our desire to experience things. As we become more curious, we find things that make us happy, energize us, and create new opportunities and experiences at home and at work.”     – Dr. Diane Hamilton

My friend Leo Bottary and I recorded a conversation last year with Diane about the power of curiosity. It is THE thing that can fuel our desire for growth, innovation, and creativity.

Curiosity has many enemies. Chief among them may be ego and pride. So many entrepreneurs are busy posing and fronting, hoping the rest of us think they’re all that and more. What with so many people tossing around the monikers “thought leader,” or “expert.” Self-appointed titles intended to impress depict the person likely unable to foster creativity because of their own self-importance. Smartest guy in the room syndrome and all that.

As I’ve worked with leaders over the last decade it’s become obvious to me that the most effective leaders just don’t roll that way. Instead, they’re often quick to point out the people on their team who they feel are critical to the organization’s success. Most often they naturally give credit to people they genuinely feel are doing what they often call “the real work.”

Additionally, these top-notch leaders pride themselves on finding, hiring and retaining people smarter than they perceive themselves to be. But there’s a reason behind it. They’re curious to know more. To know what they don’t yet know. To learn from others.

The curiosity that killed the cat could have been anything. Seeing a dangling electrical cord, unaware of the danger. Chasing a bird across a busy street, oblivious of the oncoming car. The curiosity of the cat isn’t likely driven by the quest to learn or grow, but rather for a more self-indulgent reason. To get what the cat wants. To serve self.

Entrepreneurs bent toward finding success and figuring it out are compelled by something more lasting. Something more powerful.

Learning. Understanding. Growth. 

LUG. Why not, right? You’ll remember it.

Victory as an entrepreneur requires high doses of LUG. And it takes time to accomplish. It’s not for the faint of heart or the impatient.

I realize every entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur wants the easy 30-day version of victory. We’d love to find the Rosetta Stone of business building. The key to unlocking the hidden fast secrets that can help us.

Truth is, learning takes time. Understanding, too. And growth? Well, growth, once we have learning and understanding, is hard because it involves doing something with what we’ve learned and what we now understand. That’s why curiosity is so crucial. Without it, you’ll stop. You’ll quit. You’ll think, “I’ve got this.” Or, “I know enough. No need to know more.”

It’s like saying, “Okay, I’ve lived long enough. I’m done!” (which I hope you’re not saying to yourself; if so, I’d urge you to talk to somebody right now because you’re not thinking clearly enough)

Curiosity isn’t some rampant discontentment. Rather, it’s an ongoing quest for its own sake. LUG is the process and the result. Like the mountain the mountaineer, you do it because you can. Because you know it’ll make you better. And because it’ll also be fun, and very rewarding.

Besides, you never know where it may lead.

A CEO brags that he never reads. “I’m too busy,” he says. He shows off his calendar where every possible minute seems filled. People close to him lament how he dominates every meeting. Says one direct report, “The only time he asks a question is to intentionally put somebody on the spot.”

The company sales are flat, trending down slightly. They have been for almost 2 years now.

Turnover is high, especially among the leadership team. When asked about the historical performance and the most recent downward trend, the CEO bristles, “We’ve got to have salespeople who can get the job done. Our management is too soft.”

He’s got it all figured out. So he thinks. He’s not curious at all. About much of anything. He’s too smart for his own good and too smart for the good of the company. I’m sad for him. And for his employees.

You’ve likely seen that story over at Entrepreneur.com entitled, “That Time Jeff Bezos Was the Stupidest Person in the Room.”

It’s pretty funny and insightful. It happened in 1995 in Seattle when Amazon just started.

“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”

Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”

The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organization financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”

“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.

So the next day Bezos — after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance — bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity.

It never pays to be the smartest guy in the room. It only means you’re in the wrong room.

Curiosity requires an interest in others. Interest in what they think, how they feel and what they know. You know what you know. And you know what you feel. The power is found in learning, understanding and growing in the things you don’t yet know.

Open up your mind. And your heart. Swallow your pride and suppress the ego that’s preventing you from LUG.

Or keep your mind and heart closed. Maintain pride and ego. Limit LUG (learning, understanding, growth) and enjoy being much, much less than you’re capable.

No, you’re not going to do that because you’re subscribed to this podcast.

Curiosity won’t kill you, but a lack of it just might.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

P.S. Next week I plan to do some shows – maybe every show next week – on leadership. Would you email me what you’d like to hear about leadership? Tell me what leadership challenges you’re facing? Email me: RandyCantrell@gmail.com

Gender. Age. Geography. Education. There are so many variables that make us who we are, and how we view the world (and our place in it). This isn’t about figuring out if one way is right and another wrong. Culture is too busy doing that nasty work. No, this is about leveraging the power of perspective by understanding the power in our differences.

Safety In The Space

Nastiness is the order of the day because there are no safe spaces. Where do you feel safe to say exactly what you want? Where do you feel safe to express exactly how you feel?

Spaces aren’t safe because people aren’t listening. They’re not paying attention to anything other than headlines, which are mostly click-bait and often bold lies designed to deceive. Culture is fueled by our collective desire to spew venom from our mobile or computer keyboard. Anonymously.

Spaces aren’t safe because people aren’t open to understanding. It’s not so much a matter of being open to being converted to another point-of-view, it’s being open to just understand another point-of-view. Mostly, we don’t even care why people think or feel the way they do. We’re looking to render judgment in a nanosecond.

None of this is profitable in helping us grow and expand our business.

None of this is helpful as we pursue our own leadership growth.

None of this makes our lives better!

Understanding A Different Viewpoint Can Help Me

It’s not about changing your mind. This isn’t about converting you from one position to a different position.

It’s about expanding your mind so you can learn to understand how others can see things in a different way. Honestly, it’s about value to YOU.

Sure, it’s respectful and that’s helpful, but that’s not really the reason I’d urge you to consider surrounding yourself with people different from you. It’s because they will bring you the most value, provided the space is safe.

Let me paint a picture that’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

You’re sitting with other entrepreneurs. There are men, women, young, old, grizzled veterans, newbies, northerners, southerners, easterners, westerners, highly educated, barely educated…it’s a very diverse group of people. Yet, in spite of all these differences, it’s a judgment-free zone. Nobody is allowed to be disrespectful or to express judgment by being combative. Everybody is free to fully express themselves. But everybody is also free to ask questions, but the questions must be aimed at trying to better understand. Not to fight, or argue, but to really understand what the person is saying. To make sure everybody gets it correctly.

That alone is expansive because it’s ridiculously unique. Such places don’t ordinarily exist.

For starters, we don’t organically find ourselves in such groups. Mostly, we find ourselves surrounded by people just like us. People who think like us, feel like us and agree with us. It’s comfortable. Often fun. It’s just not always profitable because we’re rarely pushed or challenged in positive ways by such groups. We’re there because it feels right, not because it’s profitable.

Additionally, we’re organically in such groups because it’s safe to express thoughts and feelings we know are shared by the group. We know nobody is going to disagree so we’re free to say whatever we please. It’s doesn’t provide us any opportunity to justify or explain how we feel or what we think though. Because nobody asks. They just nod in agreement. Lost is the debate that can foster growth or creativity or innovation.

Kindness. Gentleness. Safety.

Those are key, but something else is important.

Challenge. Disagreement. Alternative Viewpoints.

The dilemma is how to combine those. How can kindness, gentleness, safety be positively combined with challenge, disagreement, and alternative viewpoints?

The answer? When everybody is intent on one united goal, GROWTH. When every person sitting at the table is intentional in growing their business, their leadership and their lives, then it changes the game entirely. Because there is one central objective required and everybody knows it.

Understanding Fuels Growth

The power in the differences isn’t in venomous debate. It’s not in hatred. It’s not in railing back and forth at each other. It’s not in trying to decide who is right and who is wrong.

It’s in understanding.

A CEO business owner is considering buying another business. He has his reasons. He explains those reasons to the group. The group – individually and collectively – wants to better understand why he wants to make this acquisition. Some may have a knee-jerk reaction or judgment about it, but nobody displays that. Nobody’s questions belie any judgment.

Questions abound as the people attempt to understand where this CEO is coming from, and where he most wants to go. These questions, fueled largely by people who may have a different viewpoint, help everybody understand better. Mostly, they help the CEO business owner considering this important move. He’s faced with questions he’s never considered before. The process alone is expanding his mind on this potential move.

As the conversation unfolds and the CEO answers the questions, sometimes stumbling because he’s not considered some of these questions – he has no answers for some of them – the conversation turns toward the big question, “What do you want to do?” As he considers what he most wants to accomplish more questions come as the group works to continue to understand what this CEO wants in his business and his life. It’s not about what they want, but rather about what he wants. They know their role is to help him get what he wants. But they all know that what they signed up for is GROWTH. Everybody in the room wants to get better, and they’re committed to helping each other get better.

Absent from the conversation are all the usual language bombs. Nobody has said, “I’ll tell you what you should do.” Or, “I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do.” Or, “Why in the world would you want to do that?” Or, “You’re crazy, that’ll never work.”

Ask the CEO business owner. He’ll tell you. From his perspective it feels like…he can only think of one term for it, even though he admits he’s never been in one before, but it’s as he imagines. It’s like being in a THINK TANK, he says. A place where we’re just working together to think it through. Where every idea, question, thought and feeling are valid. Where nobody is making fun of any of it because everybody understands the power of the process of learning is UNDERSTANDING.

And everybody knows without the differences, none of this positive friction exists. None of these good ideas get to bubble up to the surface. None of this creative challenging happens. Remove the differences and it’s just a tank of people who agree with each other.

Now you may better understand the power in our differences as people.

Who you surround yourself with matters.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Here’s the thing about aiming higher. It’s always time. Why not? And why not now?

Over the holidays I was watching the grandkids running on a Florida beach while I was reading and listening to the waves. It dawned on me that I needed to aim higher. The question I asked myself was, “Why not?”

With those waves crashing in the background I worked on answering that question as I sat alone, a safe distance from the noise of beach play.

Why not?

I played through all the usual excuses. Being realistic. Being practical. Trying to avoid delusion. And wrestling with the ever-present question, “Who do you think you are?”

After some minutes I had to admit I was without excuse to aim higher. Not to dream bigger, or wish harder. Those aren’t nearly responsible enough to suit me. They’re too passive to boot. They seem too vague. Aiming has a sense of application. More purpose and intention than merely dreaming or wishing. It also seems much more practical to me. Taking aim means it’s up to me because I’m the one doing the aiming. It also signifies that I’m only likely to hit whatever I’m aiming at. Sure, I may miss it. But I may hit it. It sure beats some willy-nilly shooting from the hip hoping you hit something. I’d much rather pretend to be a sniper taking careful aim at a target of my choosing.

Over the holidays I watched for the umpteenth time that episode of Parks & Rec where the group when hunting and Ron got shot in the back of the head. Somebody commented about people who may present a threat to the group with the admonition, “Shoot above their head.” Tom, hollered out how he was planning to shot below their head. It always makes me laugh. It also made me think of the value of aiming higher. It’s all in where you aim, right?

Late last year I begin to stir up some interest in forming just one (possibly two) professional peer groups aimed at serving small business owners. I define small not by the employee headcount or the annual revenue, but mostly by the flatness of the organization. Namely, how close ownership is with the work. I’m mostly interested in working with small business owners who are close enough to the work to impact it. Owners committed to making a meaningful difference for their employees and customers.

That’s still the aim, but now I’m aiming higher. I want to build this first group, but I’ve reconsidered what I thought I wanted. I figured two groups would be great, allowing me to deliver high service (and a life-changing experience) for 14 small business owners. There on the beach, I started thinking about that number. Fourteen. Why do you want to limit it to 14? Again, I had no good answer. Why not more? No good answer to that either.

I started thinking of my coaching practice and what I most wanted to do. The answer was always the same – positively impact as many lives of small business owners as possible. Fourteen owners represent lots of other people. They each will have employees, customers, suppliers and other partners. Each of these will have families impacted by the owners’ business. That’s multiple ripples in the ocean of influence. A big impact.

What if I double it? I asked. That’d be 28 owners, four groups.

What if I double it again? I asked. That’d be 56, eight groups.

Why can’t you do that? I asked. As with all the other question, I didn’t have a good answer against it. Rather, there was every answer to go for it. That’s when the aiming higher demon spoke up.

What if you fail?

I looked out over the ocean, taking in scenes not common to my everyday life in north central Texas. I looked at the horizon, scanning it closely. Watching the birds hover closely to the surface looking for fish to pluck and eat.

What if you fail?

I might, I thought. So what if I do. So what if it’s even probable?

I smiled at the thought that raced to the front of my mind. Who do you think you are? What makes you think anybody anywhere cares if you make it, or if you fail? You don’t honestly think people are paying any attention do you?

I knew the answer. Truth is the people who are paying attention to you, or to me don’t represent anything that really matters much. We’ve all got friends and foes. Friends may want us to succeed. Or fail. Foes, too. So what? We both know how long it’ll last. Not long at all. Whatever happens in our life will be over so fast nobody will remember what we were even trying to do.

All the more reason to aim higher. If I’m going to fail I may as well fail at trying to do something bigger than I first intended. Besides, it’s much easier to get stoked to aim higher. It elevates energy, marshalls more positive emotion and engages more wisdom. There just is no downside to aiming higher.

So I’m pushing hard now to get 7 owners compiled into the first group of The Peer Advantage by Bula Network. Then I’m going to push to form the second group. Then the third, Then the fourth. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, or how I’m going to do it. But I now want to work my way toward having 8 groups of seven owners. That’s 56 business owners from around the United States who see what I see, who want what I want and are determined as I’m determined to grow as owners, leaders, and people. It’s a big goal, a much higher aim.

But how can I do anything else as the guy who produces a podcast titled GROW GREAT? We’d better get busy aiming higher or we’ll have to start a new podcast GROW MEDIOCRE, or GROW AVERAGE. See? It doesn’t quite have the ring, does it? So find some place of your choosing to do your own thinking and questioning. Ponder what you can do – what you know you should do – to aim higher. Let me know how it goes.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!