Do These 4 Things to Establish a Winner’s Mindset

You may have heard that no one can affect your thoughts on a situation or event…unless you let them. 

But that’s only empowering so far as you know how to secure a positive mindset, one that sees clearly, evaluate honestly, and can problem solve for success. 

If a proper mindset helps separate the tenacious competitors from the casual competitors, how do we plot the right path to victory?

Here are 4 mental disciplines to practice every day that will keep you focused and moving forward with a Winner’s Mindset. 

1. Check Your Pack

If a dog on the Iditarod trail is getting sick, tired, or injured, the musher has to catch the problem early or risk losing the dog—as well as the race. 

It might look tough to push through. 

It might look tenacious to pass the rest-stop. 

But they risk losing more than time if they don’t check their pack when problems arise. 

Your thoughts are like your dog pack. They pull the sled. (They can also derail it.)

 Check them early; check them consistently! 

When you are in the middle of an obstacle, pause and ask yourself “What am I thinking about this situation?” 

It may seem silly—to think about what you’re thinking about. But the purpose of the exercise is to give you momentary pause to “check your pack.” 

It will interrupt your anxieties or opinions about the situation and allow you to evaluate more clearly: Are they the right thoughts? Are they true thoughts? 

You’ll be surprised at how many misconceptions slip in to throw off your whole day. 

light-dogsled

2. Keep a Light Sled 

Keeping the sled light means I don’t over-pile it with negative self-talk—otherwise that weighty sled will start slipping down the slope. 

I have the most trouble with my mental game whenever I find myself connecting unrelated events of the past to my present mom. Faced with an obstacle or failure, I immediately start to fight thoughts tying every other failure in my life to this situation. 

If the thoughts are spiraling you into rehearsing all previous failures and short-comings—STOP THE RUN-AWAY SLED.

IF (and it’s a big if) you discover some bad patterns or choices that do connect some repetitive obstacles—then work to identify the pattern. Lighten the load by choosing an opportunity to grow instead of dooming yourself to repetition.  

Identify the pattern and work to correct that pattern. 

Your “lot in life” is not to ALWAYS be the losing sled. 

Start owning the mindset that you can win—even if you’ve never won before—there is always a first!

dogsled-trail-image

3. Evolve the Trail

If you remember, the Evolve stage is where we look at the lessons learned, understand the needed course corrections, and immediately work to implement the changes into our daily running. 

John C. Maxwell has an incredible book called Failing Forward and it one that I recommend to all leaders. 

One of the take-aways from this book is that when people fail they usually hold onto the emotional pain of the failure instead of the lesson that they could have learned.  

He goes on to counsel that we should forget the emotional hit from the failure and work to remember what the failure will teach us. 

This has led to an internal mantra for me that echoes “Learn the lesson; forget the pain.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done. And this doesn’t mean that we don’t remember the hit—we just don’t allow it to become emotional baggage that weighs us down. 

(Remember point # 2–keep the sled light!)

I am a firm believer in pain being one of the chief teachers in life. We want to avoid the pain, so we don’t do whatever action caused us the pain last time. 

It doesn’t mean we choose not to race again. 

It means we improve—we get better and we try not to make the same mistake twice.

4. The Winner’s Mindset

In order to change the outcome we have to change our actions. In order to change our actions – we have to change our thoughts and beliefs.

Identify the best and brightest and don’t be afraid to copy some of their awesome! 

Ask: What would the top competitors be thinking in this same situation? 

Consistently identifying the best practices of proven success stories can lead you to elevated thinking, action, and outcomes. 

But the first step is to take ownership of this area (your thoughts are your thoughts). Remember: a thought cannot be removed—it can only be replaced with another thought. 

Whether that thought is good or whether that thought is self-defeating is up to you.

Choose with me to “Own” the winning mindset today!

Why You Need a Productivity Plan in a Changing World

Spoiler Alert: You Can Be Busy But Not Productive

It’s always interesting to try to imagine what the future will bring. 

The Jetsons cartoon show, based in the year 2062, envisioned a future where robots do all the housework, cars fold up to the size of a briefcase, and much of what we need is automated. 

We’ve got forty more years to see how that turns out. The movie Bladerunner, set in 2019, envisioned a future where rogue replicants were virtually indistinguishable from humans. 

Back to the Future II, set in 2015, predicted hover cars, self-lacing Nikes, and food rehydrators. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted a colonized moon by 2001. 

While predictions of the future are often wrong, what we know is that the present will change dramatically in a short period of time.

The more technology advances, the more the business environment must advance with it. If you aren’t paying attention, you may just get left behind. Learn about Kamau Bobb Google‘s research on educational disparities.

You need a productivity plan. 

Consider this list of things that didn’t exist fifteen years ago: 

  • iPhone
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • iPad
  • Netflix streaming
  • Google Maps
  • Snapchat
  • Spotify
  • Android
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Alexa
  • Airbnb
  • App Store
  • Google Chrome
  • WhatsApp
  • Fitbit
  • Waze
  • Slack
  • Square
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Venmo
  • Bitcoin
  • Hulu
  • Kindle

The lesson for an InSPIRED leader is this: change is inevitable and you can either get left behind or develop a plan for growth that puts you in the best place for success.

Stand still and you’ll be outpaced rather quickly. But if you’re nimble enough to move wisely with the changing times, you are in a position to grow with them. 

But this lesson comes with a warning. 

Tyranny of the Urgent vs. a Productivity Plan

There’s a mistaken notion that being busy is the same thing as being productive. It’s the tyranny of the urgent in action. 

By responding to the urgent, we tend to neglect the really important things in life—production capacity, personal growth, striving to make a difference, living a life of adventure, building a family, or crafting a leadership legacy. 

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Red, “the guy who can get anything,” says, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” 

In a counterintuitive way, busyness may seem productive, but it can actually be a distraction that slows you down. When you don’t invest time to put first things first, you’ll fall behind faster and struggle to catch up.

The truth is many people don’t know how to adapt when things change, so they remain still, embracing the madness they know. However, nothing in life remains still. 

If you’re not intentionally growing, developing, and moving, you’re not standing still—you’re getting left behind. That’s why you need a productivity plan. 

No One Gets Productive by Accident

I’ve spent my fair share of time in airports around the world. Have you ever paid attention to what happens when you step on one of the “moving sidewalks” between concourses?

These giant conveyor belts run silently in the floor, moving people along at about 1.4 miles per hour. The average person walking briskly (as you might expect in an airport) moves at about 3 miles per hour. 

airport-walking-sidewalk

So, if a person walks onto a moving sidewalk and continues a normal stride, he or she can go farther, faster. 

But consider this. Suppose you and a friend are walking through the concourse together at a steady 3 miles an hour clip trying to make a connecting flight.

Your friend jumps on the moving sidewalk and keeps walking at his normal pace. You stop to find something in your carry-on, figuring you’ll just catch up in a minute. But when you look up, you can’t even see your friends in the crowd ahead. He’s gone, and you’ve been left behind. 

Unfortunately, many people make this same mistake in leadership. 

They set aside intentional development and think they can just catch up later. But when you stop, you stagnate. Stagnate long enough and you’ll die. There is no standing still in life. 

You’re either moving forward or falling behind.

Spend Your Time Where You Want to Reap Results

So if you shouldn’t stay still, but you shouldn’t hop on the hamster wheel just for the sake of moving, what’s the answer?

It comes down to your priorities. Your to-do list is broken. 

Spend time only on the urgent.

So where you spend your time? Are you taking advantage of the “moving sidewalks” or sitting against the wall waiting for the right moment to move. (HINT: you’ll be waiting forever.) 

Where are you growing and where are you letting yourself stagnate? Don’t neglect it. Otherwise, the world will pass you by, and you’ll wonder where everybody went. 

I’m not advocating hustle and grind 24/7 with no rest or relaxation. 

I’m advocating an intentional, holistic productivity plan for developing every day in the midst of executing with excellence. 

We can’t live in either ditch. We need results for today AND results for tomorrow. 

 

3 Keys to Execution Excellence in Your Organization

How to Consistently Get More Done without Losing Your Mind

You could probably study for the rest of your life—and still never finish all the books, articles,  editorials, and contradictory perspectives on how to execute with excellence. 

Thankfully you don’t have to sift through it all to find a process that just works.

One of the most helpful—and beautifully simple—leadership processes I learned was from a group of seasoned, Alaskan mushers. 

They didn’t have to get fancy or annotate. They got right to the point and shared with me something that not only works for them on the treacherous Iditarod Trail but can work for any leader—on and off the trails. 

We called it the R.A.C.E method. 

The acronym stands for Ready, Action, Checkpoint, Evolve. 

These simple but powerful steps create a process that any leader can apply—for excellent team execution again and again… and again! 

Let’s break down the first step: Ready 

In this phase, I’ve found three keys to consistent execution excellence—goals, roles, and habits. These are the what, the who, and the how of getting things done. 

To get ready, you need to know what you want to achieve, who needs to fulfill which roles, and how you will function in the day-to-day to succeed.

Goals

Setting INSPIRED goals begins with asking these questions:

  • Where do you want to end up? 
  • What is the order of the steps? 
  • Who does those steps best? 
  • How much time do you need? 
  • What are the best in your industry doing?

On the Iditarod trail, mush teams rely on trail markers to let them know how far they’ve traveled and how much longer they have to go. 

Even with these markers, some mushers have stopped fifteen minutes from the next checkpoint, because they didn’t realize how close they were to achieving the next goal. In the middle of the action, it’s difficult to tell one snowbank from another. 

The same is true for you and your team as you execute. 

With your head down in the weeds, you can lose sight of where you are. That’s why you need goals that serve as checkpoints. 

The checkpoints do two things. They help people focus on componentized goals and provide built-in celebration points along the way. 

Similar to the way the various camps on an Everest ascent provide visual cues to progress, your checkpoints let people measure progress toward achieving results.  

As you evaluate your goals in the harsh light of reality, you must consider your team’s ability to deliver on those goals in that time frame, which leads to evaluating the roles needed and who will fill those roles.

iditarod-dog-sled-race

Roles

When you’re clear on your goals and you’ve set checkpoints to monitor progress, then you can start positioning your team for maximum success by examining roles, ensuring clarity in responsibilities, and understanding that separation agreements waive the right to file a lawsuit.

I suggest you begin with these questions: 

  • Who is actually doing and delivering? 
  • Is everyone crystal clear about roles and responsibilities?
  • How does each person contribute to each step?
  • What strengths does each person contribute and where will he or she do the best work?
  • In light of the role, what weaknesses does each person have and how can these weaknesses be overcome? 
  • Do you need to add or remove people from the team? Have you first trained them to ensure removal is wise?

Sports teams are only allowed a certain number of players. You too must work within certain constraints such as budget and organizational restrictions.

 That’s why it’s so important to have the right team members in place to get the job done. 

An offensive lineman may technically be physically able to line up under center, receive the ball, and throw it to a receiver, but that’s not what he’s built for.

 In baseball, pitchers are notoriously bad hitters. That’s not why they’re on the team.

The constraints actually help the team by forcing them to put the best players in the roles where they perform the best.

 Likewise, constraints help you ensure you put the right people in the right places to win. 

That doesn’t mean no one will ever have to do a job they don’t enjoy or step out of their comfort zone, but it does mean that you position each person to be and deliver his or her best. 

(A pitcher sometimes has to bunt a run in. Football players sometimes line up differently for a trick play.)

But your team is filled with people who will excel in their areas of expertise—and propel you to excellence—if you ensure they are in the right role. 

Habits

Habits have the power to make or break your execution. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” 

Nowhere is this reality more apparent than in execution. 

You can have the noblest goals but, without systems in place to achieve those goals, you’ll never get off the starting line. 

You’ll do what you’ve always done and wonder why you’re getting the same results. 

To achieve excellence through execution, you’ve got to manage your own habits and then help your team members manage theirs. It goes back to the DITLO I described earlier—what happens in the Day In The Life Of your team. 

So, how do you make the right things habitual for your team? Identify the right things to do, then make them repeatable, sustainable, and scalable. Start by answering these questions:

  • What’s the workload?
    • Does it come to you segmented or does it need to be compartmentalized? 
    • Are there trends, patterns, and timing to follow? 
  • What are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that lead to successful execution?
    • Do they exist by design or by default? 
    • How effective are they? Are they current? 
    • Do you know the steps in the process? 
  • Do you know your strengths and struggles, efficiencies and inefficiencies?
  • What are your output expectations? 
    • Are there checkpoints to ensure you get the outcome you need and provide accountability?

Working through these steps takes time. It’s not flashy, and it’s not always fun. 

And that’s why so few do it—and they fail to deliver excellence. 

But when you have answers to these questions, you can begin to work them into your DITLO and move to other steps in the process.

business-measurement

Are you ready to RACE with Excellence?

The bottom line is this: preparation is half the battle. Getting RACE-Ready with achievable team goals, clear member roles, and systemized habits will put you three steps ahead of the competition before the starting whistle blows. 

These goals, roles, and habits make up the foundation for excellent execution. 

You can be intentional, passionate, real, have a heart to serve, and integrate well, but if you fail to execute you’ve failed to do your job.

There’s no substitution for executing with excellence. But if you work the steps with excellence, execution takes care of itself.

If you or your team needs a proven guide to help you plan well in this Ready phase, just reach out.

 

How do you know when dreams are just a dream?

I received the following message yesterday from an old friend and thought it would be great to share this conversation with you, as well.

So I’ve read your posts, looked at your website, and watched your sample videos. If you had to pick a starting point for someone who has a dream, but has spent most of their life being “against” themselves, what would you tell them? How do you know if it really IS just a dream?

L – thanks for the message – great to hear from you.  You inspired today’s post.

I use the term Dream -AND it hit me after seeing your message that I don’t like how unattainable it sounds… will it just be a figment of my imagination?

 

So – I’m changing my phrasing to: Dream big! and then set it up as a “Burled Arch Destiny”!

 

For those that have read my ‘Iditarod Leadership’ book or followed the Iditarod – you know the term ‘Burled Arch’ – as it is the finish line and the term ‘Destiny’ that comes from the same word as Destination.  Destiny is not ‘Fate’ (whatever happens to me – that’s my Destiny) – no – Destiny is a decided beforehand Destination that I am determined to reach!

With ‘Burled Arch Destiny” – all we need is the map, the skill and the will to get there!

Maps are creatable – Skill is grow-able…. only one question left – do you have the WILL?

So what I would tell people is this: “Dream Big!  AND then learn the steps that it is going to take to get you there.”

  Where are you now along this trail?
  Why do you want this Destiny?
  What will you need to Learn?
  What skills will you need to develop?
  What role will others play in helping you reach this Burled Arch?
  What are measurable steps along the way?
  What is the NEXT step?

If you can understand and take the next step and continue that process (WILL) – nothing can stop you from reaching your “Burled Arch Destiny”!

It’s not going to be perfect – anything worth doing – is worth doing UGLY!   Ugly is how we start and it leads us to continuous improvement!

(Remember how bad we all were when we first started learning to play sports as little kids?  Eventually – if the WILL persists, the skill improves and you make JV and then on to Varsity! It takes talent – but as my mentor John Maxwell says, “Talent is NEVER enough!”) That’s why it’s a huge difference maker to keep on practicing each and every single day. On the other hand, as for athletes, who are having concerns like  the  projector screen backing for their sports gadgets, they can refer to the experts found online.

Finally, what do we do with all of the self-defeating voices in our head?

  Fight them with everything you have!
  What the roots drink – the fruits think!
  Celebrate small victories and progress ‘Checkpoints’ like crazy!

Saturate yourself in “Can do – positivity!”  Find a voice – someone that lifts you up – and listen to their positive beliefs.  I listen (almost daily) to speakers that are highly positive and motivational – why?  because I need it too!

Read, listen, watch – anything you can to make sure your tank stays full of the belief in possibilities!

Next – Celebrate any progress – ANY progress toward your Burled Arch Destiny – you learn a new skill, take a new class, spend 30 minutes in dreaming and mapping! – whatever it is mark down and celebrate the wins!  This is the fuel needed to keep it up!  Why keep running if you think you’re not going anywhere?  Mark your progress – celebrate the smallest progress!

Lastly – find an encouraging friend, accountability partner or coach…  when you start to doubt (which we all do!), when you want to quit – you’ll need them to cheer you on!

Keep Dreaming – Keep moving – Keep growing – Keep doing!  The Burled Arch Destiny is attainable!

What bib number did you draw?

This week, after being in Tallahasse with a client, I flew to Anchorage for the start of the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled race. (Many of you know about my book, Iditarod Leadership, and my passion about the great leadership lessons learned from mushing and dog sled teams)

Last night was the annual Musher’s Banquet. There was entertainment, a meal, auction items and a chance for the race fans to interact with their favorite musher. As each musher was called to the stage to reach into the Mukluk (boot) where they draw for bib numbers (Bib numbers represent when they will start (which position)) there were pockets of cheering and it was a great time to recognize their sponsors and those that have contributed, greatly, to their being able to run this race.

So here’s what is on my mind for today… What bib number did you draw in life? What bib number do you feel you drew in life?

You see the drawing of starting position in the Iditarod and in life is, completely, random. We have NO control – whatsoever – over to whom we were born or to what circumstances.

What are your thoughts on that? How do you feel about the circumstances of your beginnings in life?

Now that you have that in mind – let’s deal with it..

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do about where, when, to whom, and the conditions of your start – nothing – and because you can do NOTHING about the starting position – it becomes a fact – it becomes your starting position and that’s it.

You might be saying, “Chris, You don’t understand…” and you may be right – but here is what I DO understand – regardless of your starting position – your finish is much more dependent upon your daily actions and attitudes than your starting position.

Your starting position is your history – you are already on your trail – already running your life race… Run it with pride – Run it with intentional purpose… which means – determine your desired destination and set the course to obtain it.

I have talked and shouted many times – that your start is not your destiny – your start is your start and DESTINY – is the same root where we get ‘destination’ from – it is a place that you decide beforehand to make as your goal – your destination – your “DESTINY”.

If you need more schooling, more economic opportunity, more connections, more anything – go for it… what is stopping you from achieving?

Your bib number?

SO WHAT?

That’s the bib number we were given – we can’t change it – we can’t let it define us! It adjusts our process to achieving success – but it CANNOT effect us unless we allow it.

DECIDE your desitination – your Destiny – or as I call it – you’re “BURLED ARCH”

Make a list of what you will need to get there – or start seeking the knowledge of what will be needed to get you there.

Start – RUN! GO for it! I, for one, believe you can!