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The Hardest Person to . . .

“I have participated in every bad decision I’ve ever made. I’ve talked myself out of exercising and into dessert. I’ve been present at every boring meeting I’ve ever led.” Andy Stanley said as he taught at Leadercast a couple of years ago. The topic: self-leadership. You are the hardest person to lead.

Three decisions are required in order to lead ourselves well. First, we must decide not to lie to ourselves, even when the truth makes us feel bad about ourselves. We consistently deceive ourselves, talking ourselves into something we know isn’t good for us, like over spending because the deal is so great, over indulging in order to celebrate, or fudging the truth for a “good reason.” The challenge is to ask ourselves out loud: “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this . . . really?” Banging our shin on the coffee table in a dark room can be avoided with a simple flip of the switch. Telling ourselves the unfiltered truth is a huge key toward leading ourselves well.


Second, decide to prioritize what we value most over what we want now. We live in the tension between the immediate and the ultimate. Immediate gratification is so satisfying, until tomorrow when we pay the price. We won’t be able to lead ourselves well until we understand our values. Once we’re clear on our values, choosing the ultimate rather than the immediate is a challenge worth taking.

The third decision Stanley discussed was not leading ourselves by ourselves. When we think back to the greatest regrets in our life, we were with people — people who supported our regrettable decision. Most of the time people are influencing everything we do from Facebook posts to doctor’s opinions. In order to lead ourselves where we want to go, we need to be surrounded by people who share common values with us, not just common interest. Finding a tribe that moves, almost carries us toward our goals (because it’s the same direction they are already going) is the absolute best way to lead ourselves well.

Mahatma Ghandi weighed in on the topic of self leadership when he said, “You must be the change you wish to see.”

Go change the world! Start with yourself.

Own Your Story

We are all writing our own story — living our autobiographies.

An author writing a novel starts with a rough idea, progresses to an outline of a larger story and then begins to flesh out each scene, each character, each event. After all the work and rework, writing and rearranging, the manuscript is sent to an editor. The editor marks up every chapter and sends it back for yet another re-write. A story evolves.

Each of us is writing our own story. The story line, the characters, the next scene — all of it is in our own hands. Often we are convinced that the preceding story line must dictate what comes next in our story. What we forget is: it’s our autobiography. We own it. What comes next is our decision.


You’ve probably heard me say I woke up on my fiftieth birthday, homeless, jobless, and alone for the first time in 31 years and yet I was better than I should have been. Partly because I was re-framing the situation that could have been seen as devastating into an opportunity to push the re-start button, a re-birth with all the wisdom of 50 years.

When we reflect on the story that has already been written, it’s helpful to re-frame some of the moments of distress. Re-frame: to look at a situation in a different way — a way that causes you to feel energized. The day the car accident maimed your body does not have to be the day all was lost. It could be the day you uncovered how strong you are. The day the judge banged the gavel declaring the end of your three decade marriage does not have to be the day you died. It could be the day you discovered yourself. The day the company downsized does not have to be the day you lost your identity. It could be the day you gained new direction. Re-framing what we are seeing in the rear view mirror helps us adjust the story line and write the story we intended to write all along.

Zig Ziglar loved talking about mining for gold. He said, “While mining for gold, you are going to find a lot of dirt.” When we are mining for gold, we do not focus on the dirt, we keep an eye open for the glimmer of gold. Finding the gold in our own story, informs our next chapter.

Own your story — build your legacy. Write something worth plagiarizing!

Fanning Tiny, Inner Sparks

While sleeping next to the campfire one night, we allowed the fire to die completely out.  Previous nights, we would let it die down and when we woke up cold, we could get it restarted from the embers that where glowing.  All we did was throw some more wood on it, then fan the embers to start some flames. The night we let the fire go out completely required more resources, more work, less time sleeping and more time laboring just to get the fire restarted. We all learned a lesson that night — tiny embers are worth more than you think.   


Trust yourself.  Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all of your life.  Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement. ~ Golda Meir

If you’ve never heard of Golda Meir, you are not alone.  She was born in Ukraine in 1898 and emigrated to Wisconsin in 1906.  In 1921, she emigrated to Palestine where she held key political posts.  After Israel proclaimed its independence, she served as minister of labor and then foreign minister.  She was appointed prime minister of Israel in 1969 where she worked tirelessly for a peace settlement in the Middle East, only to be halted by the outbreak of the fourth Arab-Israeli War.  After her retirement, she continued to be an important political figure.  Upon her death it was revealed that she had suffered from leukemia for 12 years.  The entire five years she served as Prime Minister, she was sick.  No one ever knew or even suspected.

Take a look at that quote again.  “Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.”  It certainly seems that she mastered that.  She was happy to live as a healthy, active, contributing member of society and so that’s the self she created.  

Fanning the tiny, sparks within us requires awareness.  We have to know when to throw the wood on and fan the embers.  Paying attention to the possibilities both within us and around us is essential to keeping the flame burning.


What does it look like for you to fan tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement? What kind of self are you creating?


Have you ever considered the idea that we are responsible for our own experiences?