finding your purpose in life

Nurture Growth and Embrace the Results

Laura Novakowski  -  Oct 22, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

“Live your beliefs and
you can turn the world around.”
Henry David Thoreau

There is a parable that tells of a farmer who decided to plant a Chinese Bamboo tree, one of the most difficult trees in the world to grow. He planted the seed. For days, weeks and months, he gently and faithfully tended the seed.

At the end of year one, no tree had grown. People in his community thought he was crazy. He was tending a mound of dirt. Didn’t he know that the seed was dead. Another year passed and still he tended that mound of dirt. Another year passed and still he tended the spot where he had planted the seed. This continued for two more years, no sprouts, nothing. By the fifth year, people really believed he had lost his mind and ridiculed him.

Suddenly, three months into the fifth year the trunk of a tree shot out of the soil stretching high into the air. Five years and three months later a seemingly dormant seed grows 90 feet!

My point…

Often times, we make the choice to start taking action on a dream and plant a seed. At first, we receive a great deal of support.   People are excited for and with us. Cheering us on, they want to share in our idea, our dream our passion. Time passes and nothing has sprouted. No tree has broken the ground; people stop asking us how our idea is going. We still want and need to talk about it but we are alone.

Rain or shine, our dream still needs to nurtured and tended. Economics cause us to tighten our belt as money, resources and support become even more scarce. Once in a while there are a few believers but for the most part we are on our own.  Seasons pass and still we trudge on investing time, blood, sweat and tears.

To keep our dream alive we find new ways to nurture the soil. We repair strained relationships, cultivate new ones. We seek advice. Learn more lessons. Network more. Play and work differently. Adding different perspectives, we travel out of our comfort zone because although we are tired and bloodied, our head is unbowed.

BAM! One day, that tree bursts from the soil and stands in front of us 90 feet tall.

Just planting the seed would not have been enough. Day-in, day-out, investing talent, courage, determination and passion has to continue. Then the day comes when we can see, feel, taste and touch that 90 foot tree in front of us.

Are you willing to not just plant that seed, but to cultivate and nurture it so  that it will generate significant growth,  so that one day you too can embrace significant growth in your business,  your community,  your life?

Are You Clear About What You Want?

Laura Novakowski  -  Oct 01, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

One would think that when a person is asked what they really, really want in work, in life, in a relationship, that the response would be immediate. Surprisingly, or perhaps, not so surprising, the responses are: silence… or “Let me think for a minute,” or more sadly, “I really don’t take time to think about what I really want, I’m too busy doing.”

Silence or “Let me think for a minute”

These two are interesting responses. to me, they indicate that the person is stopped short for several reasons.

  1. Genuinely,they need time to give a thoughtful response because it is important to them.
  2. Actually, they am afraid to express what they really want
  3. They need to think about a response that will sound interesting and important enough to share and impress others.
  4. They don’t trust me and so are not willing to share.

This third response, “I really don’t take time to think about what I really want, I’m too busy doing,” can mean many things, but my mind jumps to the following:

  1. They are not willing or able to invest thinking time in themselves to fully appreciate what they really want.
  2. They are not used to stopping all the crazy busyness to think
  3. They don’t fully understand how import knowing what they really want is to themselves and to others involved with them.

Whatever the reasons or stories we have for not clarifying what we really want, it has become profoundly clearly to me, that this is one of our greatest limiting factors in success in business and joy in life. The more we are clear about what we want, the more likely we  are to attract that which we want, whether it be positive or negative,  into our life and work.

Please consider finishing this sentence, it might just change your life.  What I want out of life is…

Or in the words of Henry David Thoreau….will you “live your life in quiet desperation?”

Bearings, Key and Alternator

Laura Novakowski  -  Sep 04, 2012  -  , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Paying attention to the signs and messages that show up in life and business can save tons of time, money, and energy. To follow is a story of a team of four that each experienced car issues. Upon reviewing, the team could each see the corollaries to the challenges that they were facing in life and work.

It started with the newest and youngest member of the team having a “bearings” problem. Now, the definition of bearings is “the direction or path along which something moves or along which it lies .” Guess what? The bearings had to be changed. This young team member was unclear as to the  people choose a path that best path to choose.  In fact, had recently been on a path that was draining and destructive.  Feelings of frustration, lack of motivation, being overwhelmed and certainly tremendous dissatisfaction with self and others was ever present. When reviewing their current situation, this newest member spent time evaluating their current direction and eliminated one time consuming job that was taking them completely off course. This change affected their thoughts and actions immediately enhancing the quality of their work and life.

The most senior member of the team had a key problem. It just would turn in the ignition. Now, the definition of key is “something crucial or central to the issue or problem.” The key had to be repaired. This person at the same time started to experience some heart problems. The key, like the heart, is core to our performance and success. This team player had lost some of their purpose due to a major personal life change and was starting to act as if they were no longer needed. This couldn’t have been further than the truth. Fortunately, the team pulled together to help this senior member see that they were absolutely essential to their success. As a team, they focused on validating purpose and contributions of each team player. Immediately, the sage of the group started to make some respectful health changes in diet and exercise that actually helped them to be relieved of some very distressing symptoms.

The last two team members experienced an alternator problem. Now, one definition of the alternator is to “charge the battery and to power an electric system when its engine is running. …” A battery is a source of power for any engine and needs constant charging. How interesting that their alternators needed to be replaced. With the charge there was no power. The charger and the source, also two critical team players had been trying to pick up and take over rather than serve as support. They too had to pull back and go on a retreat, a vacation, so that they could recharge and re-gain power.

Fortunately, the team paid attention to the “car problems” before their life problems became too serious. They regained their bearings, found the key to their purpose and recharged their power in work and life.

 

What is Leadership?

Laura Novakowski  -  Aug 25, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Peter Drucker ‘s definition of leadership:

“Leadership is not magnetic personality– that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people”–that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s  vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

 

It’s one thing to manage, to control, to dictate. It is quite another thing to demonstrate
extraordinary leadership. Leaders serve as catalysts, conductors, facilitators, mentors and coaches. They impact directly on the organization or the individual’s ability to compete and grow.

Leadership is:
Attitude  –   creating a positive, success-oriented, vision & purpose-centered environment.

Interpersonal Skills –  learning, teaching  and understanding of the dynamics of teams effectively.

Assessing  – quickly and clearly identifying  factors critical to the success and sustainability of the organization.

Goal Setting – leaders provide organizational direction and facilitate accomplishing
necessary objectives.

Results Oriented – monitoring and measuring results, following through,  following up, and ultimately making  changes and adjustments as needed.

As you can see, there is very little time for a “glib tongue” and “flattery”. Leaders invest their time  creating and maintaining cultures that effectively develop and support human while expanding business potential and growth.  Lifting people higher while maintaining focus on the vision and the results needed to make an extraordinary organization.

That’s leadership!

I Don’ Know is Not an Excuse

Laura Novakowski  -  Aug 20, 2012  -  , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Businesses, communities, marriages, careers, lives are suffering, deteriorating or being destroyed everyday in so many ways. And, although there are numerous causes of this suffering, deterioration and destruction, I am consistently receiving this response as one major contributors – “I don’t know.”

We define ourselves by our thoughts, words and actions. What are we conveying to others when we say we don’t know?

We need to question and ask why we are saying “I don’t know my responsibilities in my career, my community or family.” If we agree to a role or a job, we need to be crystal clear about what we have agreed to or signed up for. If we are the CEO, president, owner, employee, spouse, parent or volunteer, it is imperative for us to have the expectations clearly laid out before we agree to the position.

I caught a segment of a reality television show – I honestly can’t tell you the name – but the show was about an expectant mother who was seeking help from an expert about becoming a new parent. The good news was she was asking for help in advance – She was scheduled to deliver the following Monday and her meeting with this expert was taking place on the preceding Friday, not quite 3 full days before she would bring into the world a brand new baby. To follow is the bad news…

The expert started with a basic intake assessment to determine how much help and information this new mother-to-be needed. The nine month pregnant woman was not able to answer one question correctly, nor could she demonstrate on a doll how she could care for a totally dependent infant. When the expert asked her to show changing a baby’s diaper, she asked, “I have to do THAT?”

The expert decided to take a different approach and here is how the interview continued.

Expert, “Will you have help?”

Mother-to-be response, “Oh, yes we have hired a nanny.”

Expert, “Is she going to live in?

Mother-to-be response, “On, no, she’s only here during the day or when we are away.”

The expert turned to the audience and mouthed, “She doesn’t have a clue.” To the expectant mother, “So, how do you plan to care for the baby when the Nanny is not there?”

The mother-to-be just stared back looking puzzled.

The sad part of this entire scenario for me is that this response is so, so typical.  Caring for a company is like caring for a child is a massive responsibility,and yet, everyday people jump in without a thought for  their responsibilities and  roles. That  is just a disaster waiting to happen.

We have to stop using “I don’t know” as an answer. Start coming in prepared with research, education, questions and an interest to be accountable to and for our responsibilities.

Let’s start taking ownership instead of looking for the easy way out or believe me, we will be learning some really hard lessons.

To Dream The Impossible Dream

Laura Novakowski  -  Aug 03, 2012  -  , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Business, as life, can seem impossible at times. Big ideas appear unrealistic.  Opportunities only open to others. 

Are you spending more time in engaging in futile activities or attacking imaginary enemies – also known as tilting at windmills?

Let’s consider the classic story by  Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote, the story of an middle aged man who assumes the role of errant knight, seeking out injustices and fighting giants (windmills).  May not sound like our typical day, however, are we a present Don Quixote?  Fighting futile battles, wasting time, passion and talent.  Or, can we see that what we are confronting and challenging is taking away from our dreams.  That  life and work have caused us to believe those dreams are now impractical?

Now may not be the time to read the  book and so I’d like to offer an alternative.  Below are the lyrics to a song from the movie/play  Man of La Mancha…

“The Impossible Dream”

from MAN OF LA MANCHA (1972)

music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

I couldn’t say it any better (at least not right now).  Don’t just dream the impossible dream, reach for the unreachable star!!!

 

12 Rules for Self Leadership

Laura Novakowski  -  Jul 04, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Source: Unknown

1. Set goals for your life; not just for your job. What you think of as “meaning of life” goals affect your lifestyle outside of work too, and you get whole-life context, not just work-life, each feeding off the other.
2. Practice discretion constantly, and lead with the example of how your own good behavior does get great results. Otherwise, why should anyone follow you when you lead?
3. Take initiative. Volunteer to be first. Be daring, bold, brave and fearless, willing to fall down, fail, and get up again for another round. Starting with vulnerability has this amazing way of making us stronger when all is done.
4. Be humble and give away the credit. Going before others is only part of leading; you have to go with them too. Therefore, they’ve got to want you around!
5. Learn to love ideas and experiments. Turn them into pilot programs that preface impulsive decisions. Everything was impossible until the first person did it.
6. Live in wonder. Wonder why, and prize “Why not?” as your favorite question. Be insatiably curious, and question everything.
7. There are some things you don’t take liberty with no matter how innovative you are when you lead. For instance, to have integrity means to tell the truth. To be ethical is to do the right thing. These are not fuzzy concepts.
8. Believe that beauty exists in everything and in everyone, and then go about finding it. You’ll be amazed how little you have to invent and much is waiting to be displayed.
9. Actively reject pessimism and be an optimist. Say you have zero tolerance for negativity and self-fulfilling prophecies of doubt, and mean it.
10. Champion change. As the saying goes, those who do what they’ve always done, will get what they’ve always gotten. The only things they do get more of are apathy, complacency, and boredom.
11. Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it. Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are.
12. Care for and about people. Compassion and empathy become you, and keep you ever-connected to your humanity. People will choose you to lead them.

 

Rules of Engagement for a CULTURE of Success

Laura Novakowski  -  Jun 13, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

A business of the future will not be successful because of a fat the bottom line,  behemoth size,  community or political power. Instead, the  business of the future will be successful because of the culture.   Culture is defined asthe attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization.” (Source: www.wordnetweb.princeton.edu)

Often, organizations espouse that they  deliver high quality products or services to  their clients, engage in superior relations with their stakeholders and  employees, and are always, always in touch with their environment and community needs. That being said, does every “attitude and behavior” support such an espousal?

Without a positive and powerful culture, even the best business strategy will certainly fail.  As with any plan, knowing and implementing the best rules of engagement can certainly set the stage for success.

Here are 7 rules of engagement for a CULTURE of success

1. Communication.  John Milton, author of the 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost, once wrote,  “Good, the more communicated, the more abundant grows.” Organizations, misguided as they sometimes can be, still have intention of doing some good, adding some value, making a contribution. The rule of communication is to convey the strategy, philosophy and principles of the organization thus affording each individual the opportunity to buy in and participate at a much more significant level.  Engaging communication includes at a minimum the following:

  • A clearly defined vision
  • Clearly defined values which are described in terms of attitudes and behaviors

When this information is shared, the culture can rally around a common cause.

2. Understanding – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” has been attributed to many sources from the Bible to Stephen Covey. This basic tenant is so obvious that it is often overlooked. From the boardroom to the basement, every level the team must fully understand two primary functions:

  • The expectations of the organization
  • Each individual’s  role

There is no way success can be achieved if expectations are not fully understood. All too often, unclear roles encroach and invade. Full understanding cuts down on confusion.

3. Leadership – Former president of ITT corporation once wrote,  “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and actions.” Leadership has tremendous power. It sets the tone and influences results.  It has been reported that the two primary functions of leadership are to:

  • Set the objectives
  • Set the policy

Without objectives and policies, organizations for employees, stakeholders and even clients it is like setting people adrift in a boat with no destination, supplies or tools and expecting them to be resourceful enough to get there.

4. Teach – “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover within themselves.” was one of the greatest messages that Galileo Galilei left as a legacy to the world. A teaching culture:

  • conveys that the work environment is a reciprocal one of learning and teaching
  • supports growth and experimentation

Teaching people to treat their jobs as a opportunity for  discovery is a great motivator.

5. Unite – Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Uniting is all about team building. Ford certainly had his own methods for getting people to work together which quite honestly doesn’t work very well. Today’s team needs:

  • to be treated as an asset, not a liability
  • to be respected and appreciated for strengths and talents

Even the assembly line process becomes more effective when the person working on the line shares insights and ideas to enhance existing systems.  The more a culture respects the team, the more the team operates in a synergistic, powerful manner.

6. Responsibility – “Responsibility finds a way. Irresponsibility makes excuses!” provided by Gene Bedley, – National Educator Of The Year.  The surest way to success is to ensure a  culture of accountability. In this culture, the expectations have been defined and two things always happen:

  • positive attitudes, behaviors and goals are rewarded
  • consequences are consistently conveyed and acted upon when attitudes and behaviors are negative and goals are not met

In a professional organization, the responsible employees are valued and valuable. The irresponsible or less than productive employee is held accountable, given support and direction as needed, and when still not meeting the organizational objectives and strategy are given the opportunity to part ways from the organization. This is perhaps one of the hardest rules to follow, but is absolutely the most imperative.

7. Engagement – “Denied The Opportunity To Use Their Talent, Imagination And Creativity For The Benefit Of The System They Will Be Equally Ingenious Working Against It.” from the authors of  Growing Your Own Heroes; The Commonsense Way to Improve Business Performance, John J. Oliver and Clive Memmott.  Gallup published a study in 2005 that revealed astonishing results.  The cost of disengagement as you can see is staggering.

In conclusion, the rules for building a culture for success are simple, they are just not easy.

The Power of Resilience

Laura Novakowski  -  Jun 06, 2012  -  , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

Are you feeling rejected and tested?  Has work and life lost its luster and direction?      Recently, an entrepreneur shared why it became imperative to find a different  perspective.  Due to an unusual turn of events, she had some critical choices to make!  It started early and continued to become more challenging as the day progressed.

First, she met with her top client only to learn that her services were no longer required.  The president of the company confided that it was not personal, but they had found a vendor that could provider the services for a better price.  Now this client had been the mainstay of her company’s business.  She left the meeting slightly dazed.

Next, she was meeting with a  new client. The client told her things had changed and now he didn’t have the resources to fund the project.  He told her to call back in six months.

Third appointment, an executive from a new company that had called her , you guessed it, was no longer with the company.  Her “in” with the company was not gone and so was she.  She was really faced with a dilemma – 3 major  clients snapped right out of reach. What could she  do? What would you do?

This all happened before noon .  Have a few drinks?  Leave town?  Take a nap? At this point, 90% of her business was gone.  “How did this happen?” she asked herself. On the car seat next to her was a blank legal pad, she decided to start writing.  She started again on fresh approaches, fresh calls and fresh meetings. By 5PM that day, she had a new client and 3 new prospects.  Since then, her top client has already called her back.

At times like this, it is not helpful to be faint of heart or passive.  Now is the time to be resilient and creative.  If we had to find the  resources, time, money and people to help us save a life, what would we be willing to do? Our businesses and our lives will always be dared and disputed.  Resilience offers us the power to   be more innovative, more entrepreneurial, more pioneering  than ever  before!

Resilience is a powerful choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Strategy – Design a Masterpiece

Laura Novakowski  -  May 30, 2012  -  , , , , , , , , , , ,  -  No Comments

“What do you want to achieve or avoid?  The answers to this question are objectives. How will you go about achieving your desired results? The answer to this you can call strategy.”

William E. Rothschild

William E. Rothschild is a former executive from General Electric. In his role as Corporate Strategist, he created the first “market driven Corporate Strategy.”  Using this approach, according to Rothschild, GE for the last two decades has consistently had been described as having “the best inventors, the best strategic planners, and the best results.”

Whether we are planning a trip to the market, a vacation, a day at work…, we are always has to quote Stephen Covey “an end in mind.”  Now that “end” may be to fill the refrigerator, plan for vacation, deliver the product or service. While that certainly gives us some kind of results, are they the best results? Are you exhilarated with the results you’re getting? Can you see the value of identifying the results you want and then filling in the picture, rather than the other way around?

One of the greatest strategists of all times was Michelangelo. He depicts a highly focused professional who valued quality and achieved amazing results. When Michelangelo worked, he clearly used strategic thinking and planning.  When asked how he could carve such beautiful statues, his reply was, “it’s already in there.” He saw the results prior to even lifting his tools to work.   He wasn’t just banging away at some granite to up with such great masterpieces as Moses, David or the Pieta, he used purpose, thought and planning.

Let’s imagine this great artist’s process. First, he saw the granite.  He considered form, structure, faults and strengths. Slowly a vision and mission came to mind and Michelangelo could start planning his approach to achieve his results.   Next, he determined what was critical to creating his product.  What tools did he required? Where would he do the work? Who might assist him (moving granite might take some help)? What would it cost in time, money and energy? Yet, he still had not raised a chisel, for if he did, I’m sure that would have altered his results.

After he thought about his overall strategy, vision, mission and critical results, he next set goals.  Goals that were results focused,  motivating and achievable. He knew exactly what he wanted and then he started his action plan – the hair, the eyes, the nose, the beard…  All predetermined actions which embraced his values of beauty and perfection. Michelangelo envisioned beauty, integrity, passion, courage, commitment to high standards with incredible details. The results – a masterpiece!

The people, in my experience that are the most successful, the most energized, the most fulfilled, are the people who know their personal and professional vision. Why not strive for a masterpiece in your life? At the end of everyday, how powerful it can be see everyone generate a wonderful piece of art, a rewarding service or an outstanding, quality product. Engage a strategy that will help you to see and then design your masterpieces too!

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