The art of bringing others along.

The art of bringing others along.

If you happen to be a human, you are in the business of people. It doesn’t matter what you do. At some point, you interact with others. Eventually you may also need to have some level of influence in those interactions. In today’s workplace environments, EQ (emotional intelligence) has become far more important than IQ. Mostly because, as a collective of individuals we have discovered that we work better and faster when we work together. So HOW we work together with others has become a much more valuable tool than one’s own individual level of knowledge. There are plenty of us still out there, though, who haven’t quite figured that out yet. Our egos have been stroked for years due to our level of intelligence and then one day we find ourselves in a position where we may have all the knowledge but nobody wants to listen to anything we have to say. There’s probably good reason for that. People around you may not feel needed. And you may not realize that others have important things to offer.

This post will be all about connecting those things. Since it is often easy for us to apply some form of this to our own lives and internally respond with “I do those things” I will also be sharing what some opposites might look like. If both sides apply, then some work will need to be done to make improvements wherever necessary.

The art of bringing others along has to naturally begin with letting go of “self.” Realizing you are not the only relevant party in the matter and that you need everyone else on board in order to move forward. That’s right. It’s not all about you. It’s not about your killer ideas, your wit or your intellect. Because you may have the best idea that ever existed, but if nobody is willing to come alongside and help you fulfill the idea, its utterly meaningless. Which is why it’s even better if the ideas don’t come from you.

I understand “letting go of self” can sound very broad and even much easier said than done. So we are going to spend some time in some specifics to help get started. The important part is being aware of these situations as they arise and then purposeful in how you respond.

Here are a few steps in the art of bringing others along.

1.Be Humble.
There is a lot here and it will take some time to unpack. So let’s get started. This is the first step for a reason and probably the most difficult. Pride is the most common pitfall I have seen amongst those who fail at bringing others along. There was a young man I worked with years ago who felt he was ready to lead a team. The problem was, the team didn’t like him. Sure, he was good at his job, but he was terrible at helping others become good at their jobs. So if somebody is great at their job but can’t figure out how to communicate why they are good at their jobs, or help convince others that they can be better without sounding like an asshole, they probably shouldn’t be in a position to lead. Since this person thought he was the best at his job and everyone else was terrible, nobody cared to listen to him. He only made everyone else feel terrible about themselves. He was the best and they could never be like him.

Some of the best Leaders I know are quite the opposite. They believe their team holds the best ideas and the best answers to the most difficult questions. They don’t pretend to know it all. They don’t feel the need to answer every question that is asked in a group of people. They allow others to share in the decision making. So let’s talk about this more; our interactions with others.

2. Know your audience.
This is two fold. We have two types of audiences, our peer group and those above us. It is our responsibility to know both. And by “know,” I mean, actually know them. What drives them. What they are in to. How they learn. Why they respond to things the way that they do. One of the most important things you can know about somebody is what their aspirations are. To share ones hopes and dreams with another is a special thing. Mostly because it has no benefit to you in anyway. Its out of a place of care and getting to know somebody else. There is nothing that can be accomplished without a strong foundation amongst your audience. All audiences are NOT equal. They do not respond the same way. Do not make the mistake of addressing each one similarly. For example, a peer group of intellectuals do not like being told what to do. They appreciate being a part of the problem solving. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, sitting around a table with an audience of people above you, might appreciate a big picture view rather than being involved in all of the details. Know the type of audience you are dealing with and how to approach them.

3. You’re not the smartest person in the room.
So maybe you are. But it’s likely you’re not. And remember, we need each other. Your area of expertise is probably different from somebody else. At least it should be. Here’s the deal. You could very well be the smartest person in the room. However, nobody and I mean NOBODY should know that you think that. It is one thing to be the smartest person in the room, its an entirely other thing to be the person that thinks they are the smartest in the room. People can tell when you think that. And it reeks. Bringing others along will not come from a talking head. It requires collaboration. I am very lucky to work for an incredible Leader. One who asks our opinions. One who refuses to move on unless we collectively agree on something and allows us to be honest with our thoughts and opinions so we can respectfully argue it out if necessary. He could easily veto us for the sake of moving on. But he does’t. He believes the best idea wins. So we talk through our ideas and refine them together. We all add value. Every person has something to add. Give them the opportunity. This brings me to my next point.

4. Give credit where credit is due.
A quick and sure way to bring others along is to publicly give credit for their great idea. If you’re on a winning team, and it’s getting attention, give proper credit. This goes a long way. Shining light on your talent is imperative. It shows them that you see their value and think others should know of it as well.

On the flip side of this, if you happen to be right when you had the best idea, and somebody else was against it – steer clear from “I told you so.” This does the opposite. It make others feel small and devalued. They will be less likely to offer their ideas or support in the future. You are no longer a safe place to bring ideas. You are a person who’s ego is most important; not them.

5. Genuinely care about people.
This sounds easy but people can tell when you are faking it. They can also tell when they are being manipulated. I’ve seen people turn this on when they want to get promoted. I’ve also seen people turn this on when they are about to get fired. Caring about others out of self-preservation or for the sake of self-promotion is shallow and people see right through it. Caring about others should be a constant. When it comes to bringing others along, there is no compromise here. You need to have been unwavering in your care for others. From the beginning and all the way to the end. It has to be authentic and relentless. This will help others know your intent in the midst of more difficult conversations. They will be more likely to listen out of respect, knowing you care deeply about them.

6. Ask good questions.
Asking great questions goes a long way. And is helpful in many scenarios. There will be times where you were not brought along in a decision making process. And perhaps you strongly disagree with a decision. How somebody responds in these particular scenarios says a lot about their character. They can either go on the attack and name all the reasons why it was the wrong decision, or they can ask questions. The latter tends to show far more maturity. Seeking to understand rather than insisting to be understood is a fundamental approach to being a part of something bigger than yourself. Once you have all of the information (that you may not have been a part of in the first place), you may discover why a particular decision was made. Also, once somebody else has made their case, and you potentially still disagree, you now have an opportunity to offer a different perspective and ask for their opinion. This is a far more respectful approach, where others will be willing to listen because you also took the time to hear them out.

7. Be wiling to be persuaded.
This post is not about getting your way. This post is about the art of bringing others along. With that being said, sometimes we are wrong. And if we are trying to help others understand our perspective, we better be willing to hear out and try to understand theirs. Even more, we should be willing to change our mind. Are you a safe place? Are you somebody that others can come to and be honest with? I am not telling you to be someone who allows their minds to be changed on every little thing, that does not go over well. I’ve seen it. But asking others to hear you out, requires that you do the same. Otherwise, you are just a dictator. Listening with a willingness to be persuaded shows that you are invested in the dialogue. You are willing to hear somebody out because you care about them and what they have to say. And remember, you aren’t the smartest person in the room. Be a great listener. Be wiling to admit defeat or when an idea is better than your own. Then tell others why it was better.

Bringing others along, truly is an art. It’s give and take. “My way or the highway” just doesn’t fly anymore. And it shouldn’t. We are stronger and better together. Mathematically, multiple brains are far better than one. If we hope to influence or lead people in the future, this is absolutely something we need to get right. It will come with a lot of trial and error. Approaching others with humility will go a long way.

So where can you improve? Is there an audience you could get to know a little better? Could you stand to work on some of your personal relationships? Are you willing to be persuaded? Take one step today. See how it impacts your conversations.

“Change your vocabulary!” she said.

internal dialogue, positivity, give yourself more credit

This morning my eyes opened prior to my alarm going off. This happens 1-2 times a week. It’s rare because I generally close at work and then force myself to wake up at an absurd hour to get my work out in and my writing done the next morning.

After spending a good 15 to 20 minutes procrastinating on social media sites, I finally rolled out of bed. It was a mild 44 degrees outside. Not too bad for a winter’s day in January. Checking the weather tends to be one of the first things I do in the morning. Mostly because it will determine how the next hour or so of my life will go. I will either go for a run or ride my bike, followed by some type of strength training.

I bundled up. Long socks, pants, down vest, beanie, gloves and prepared to brave the cold for a 3 mile run.

As I am stretching and getting ready to head out, my sister texts me. It’s pictures of triathlon outfits for her upcoming Iron Man. She’s been training hard. I try to keep up to give her some company, but she is beginning to outpace me in her activities now. She’s a machine.

After telling her to stick with the unitard (because when do you ever get to tell somebody that), I inform her that I am heading out on my “measly 3 mile run.” (She’s been running 7-12 miles multiple times a week for her training). Before I put my phone away, the screen lit up one last time. “Change your vocabulary!” she said.

My sister is on a positivity kick. Which is not a bad idea for somebody training for an Iron Man. I tend to be pretty positive, myself. I’d probably describe it as one of my defining attributes. But we can’t always be perfect.

I attempted to justify my negative tone by using comparison to her current training regime.

Then I took off.

It was windy and cold but after my first 5-10 minutes in, I felt great. I only passed by two other people out exercising. This might be normal for somebody like my Dad who literally lives in the middle of the woods. But I live in a Master Planned community. A very active one, I might add. Strollers, bikes and doggies abound. So at nearly 8AM, with almost nobody else outdoors, I felt pretty good about not only my measly 3 miles, but just getting out of the house when most others chose to stay inside.

My sister’s phrase stuck with me. And I had a couple of realizations while I was out on my run.

  1. We don’t give ourselves enough credit. This can often lead to then convincing ourselves that some things just aren’t worth it. I could have said, “3 measly miles is pointless. I’m just going to stay in my warm bed today.” And let that be it. No forward progress. But the truth is, regardless of the actual distance, I am consistent. Which I probably don’t give myself enough credit for. Sure its only 3 miles, but 3 miles 3-5 times a week, consistently for 5 years is a pretty solid accomplishment. I’m confident there are many things in our lives that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for. A big reason for that is my next point.
  2. ComparisonIf we compare ourselves to others, there is always somebody else we will fall short next to. What does that mean, you might ask? It’s likely there is always somebody out there who might be better than us (unless you hold some world record and in that case, good for you). So we can attempt to hold ourselves to somebody else’s unrealistic standards (for us) OR we can set our own standards, achieve them, and feel great about it. And then continue to compete with ourself.

We need to change our internal dialogue. To one that is affirming. One that tells us we can and we are worth it. Not just with exercise but with goals and aspirations. And then celebrate ourselves when we accomplish something we set out to do. Reward your hard work, determination and follow-through. Don’t waste your time, energy or brain power on comparison. It’s futile. The best musicians, artists, entrepreneurs and doctors did not get there overnight or by comparison, but through determination and practice. Consistency over time and something else very important.

Belief.

Belief in themselves. Belief in their abilities. Belief that nobody else was going to do the work them. Most importantly, belief that it is worth it.

So get out there. Stop comparing yourself. Give yourself more credit.

Change your vocabulary.

Let’s dream again.

dream, more than dreamers

Good morning.

It’s 2017. I know it’s hard to believe. It feels like the last 6 months or so have been a whirl wind of chaos and emotions resulting from this year’s election.

It has silenced me as well. Regardless of what side of it you are on, people have been in an uproar.

It’s been a bit weird to even speak. Everyone on edge. It hasn’t been easy. Let’s just put it that way.

I’ve personally felt a pressure to not run around and remind everyone to pursue their dreams because, well, it felt a bit insensitive.

But as I wait here, for months, and realize the shift is not occurring, I’ve discovered something. This is not going to be a quick recovery.

We aren’t bouncing back from this as quickly as the media changes their story; perhaps because the media has not shifted their story. ..which is an entirely separate bag of worms we won’t get into right now.

So, do we just stay here? In our frustration and our indifference?

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve waited long enough.

A while back, I wrote a post on fear. Fear is something that; if one does something of actual meaning, fear will be involved. The point is, that we can not allow it to paralyze us or disarm us. In my own words, “we need to do that shit afraid.”

And currently, I think that’s where we need to arrive.

These current feelings of frustration may not subside for quite some time. But we can not allow it to paralyze us. For us to hide out and be angry. To constantly lash out at one another.

We need forward motion. Forward progress. We need to dream and push through in spite of these feelings.

So I want to encourage you today, right where you are at, as you read this, to make a choice. A choice for forward motion. A choice of action. A choice in spite of fear. A choice to do more than dream.

And let’s support one another in this. To dream. To live. To love in spite of shortcomings.

So what are you going to do different? How will you take action towards your aspirations today? What’s 3 easy steps you can take right now to gain some traction? How can you help somebody else?

We’re in this together. Let’s go for it.

It’s 2017. Now What?

2017 Life Planning

It was about mid-November that I stopped watching the news. I also have been heavily avoiding social media.

I made it through the holidays and then all of a sudden realized it was 2017.

For most of those that know me, they know that I am a planner. But this year, I have struggled a bit.

I didn’t actually sit down and begin even thinking about 2017 until yesterday, January 3rd.

I am not a resolutions person by any means. But I do believe in preparing for my year and at least establishing a theme for what I hope to make of my upcoming year. January is also my birth month, so I tend to feel inspired for the whole new year of life that is ahead of me.

This January just hasn’t been like that.

To be fair, I have worked about 50 hours a week and had a lot to process in my personal life, but either way, dominique has not thought ahead as I usually do.

I know I would be insanely displeased with myself if I didn’t finally sit down and give 2017 a bit of thought.

Here’s what the process finally looked like.

  1. It was better late than never.
    Like I said, I would have been utterly disgusted with myself had I walked away from the New Year and not established any aspirations and ambitions for myself.
  2. I bought myself a new planner for the entire year.
    I’ve been a journal-er pretty much my entire life. Literally since I was 7. I still have the first journal. But more recently I have gotten into some more specific type of life mapping. There are a ton of planner varieties out there these days. I’ve heard of Happy Planners, Self-Journals and my new one: Passion Planner. I am by no means here to endorse any specific one. All of our needs are different, but this one allowed me to have a place for both my personal endeavors as well as my work ones. I also just need something physical to write in to keep me on task.
  3. I sat down and daydreamed.
    I know this is called “More Than Dreamers” but the dreaming part has to exist prior to the pursuit. Otherwise, we might as well call ourselves cats; running from random room to random room. The passion planner made it really easy for me to get some things out of my brain. Things that would bring me fulfillment. Then it had me write out some very practical things I can do right now to get started.
  4. I crafted a plan.
    Its important to know that this plan is not ironclad. Hell, I am hopeful to stick with it for at least a week. If I can do that, then I know I am in for an extended period of time. But either way, some structure must exist. I need a target to shoot for in order to track any potential progress made.
  5. I plan on doing it.
    For real. You’ve heard the quote…A goal without a plan is merely a wish. Unfortunately, we can’t wish our life into awesomeness. Otherwise this would be called “Wishful Dreamers.” It just doesn’t work that way.

Have you ever known somebody who just seemingly woke up one day and made a decision and then stuck by it? I know you have. Think about it. I am positive you know somebody who you hadn’t seen in a while (or maybe you did) Either way, they decided one day that they were finally going to do this healthy thing and lose a bunch of weight. You watch their weigh-loss journey on social media. They post inspirational quotes that talk about how nobody else did the work for them. Then boom! They show up to some event that you attended and are 50 pounds lighter and are glowing with confidence, telling everyone about their story because everyone wants to “know their secret.”

Yeah, there is no secret. The answer is something we all already know. Hard work and consistency. They finally just did it. Let go of their excuses and went for it.

So can you. So can I.

Who cares if it’s January 4th. Who cares if you haven’t let yourself dream in a while. You owe it to yourself. And remember, nobody else is going to do it for you.

So if you haven’t yet, take 20 minutes right now to step back and invest into your future. Without giving yourself an opportunity, you’re destined to stay the same person that you have always been.

Let’s do more than dream in 2017.

Gratitude.

It’s November – almost Thanksgiving. It’s the natural time to begin talking about gratitude. It shouldn’t be. Gratitude is something that keeps us grounded as individuals. Especially for those of us who are labeled as “dreamers.”

Dreamers are often associated with being disenfranchised and ungrateful. Always dreaming of what they don’t have or has yet to be attained. That’s a perception we all want to stay far away from.

Gratitude helps us with acceptance of failure. And failure is important. It means we are trying and learning. If we are grateful for each mishap, it gets us closer to less mishaps in the future. It means we are closer to achieving our dreams. It means we were brave and took risks. We can’t afford to become calloused and disillusioned to failures.

That’s when we stop. It’s when there is no more desire to push forward. To challenge the status quo.

So let’s be grateful. Not just for our failures. But for where we are at right now. For the place you are sitting in, reading this. It’s probably a warm place providing you shelter from the elements. It could be a place where you are also surrounded by loved ones (humans and fur-babies included). It could be on a device that gets you instant access to information from all around the world and connect you with people thousands of miles away. It could be at a computer desk in an office where you are paid living wage to pursue a life that matters.

So what matters to you? It’s ok to remind yourself of the answer routinely.

Keep it simple. Keep life in perspective. Love where you are at. It will only allow everything else to be all the more sweet.

What type of loyalist are you?

As Leaders we have 2 main areas where we must remain loyal. However, loyalty can also often be blinding. We can’t be so loyal to one thing that we forsake the other. And it’s very possible to do. There are pitfalls to being overly loyal to one over the other.

Loyalty needs to be in partnership with flexibility.

These two areas that need to be in balance with one another is our loyalty to people and our loyalty to the vision.

Let’s get one thing straight. Leaders are loyalists. And we tend to pledge our allegiance to the thing we serve. Which tends to be that of either people or a vision. Those who are able to properly balance the two and know when to prioritize one over the other are ones who have been able to successfully prevail in Leadership. However, I am sure they learned how to master this over time (and probably occasionally still fail at it).

Let’s start with the people. Because, well, we need them. Without people, we’ve got nothing. And most Leaders immediately understand that. As Leaders, we must not only be willing to serve our people, but also listen to them. When leading people, there needs to be a partnership. Discussions don’t sound like “I” they sound like “We.” People need to know and feel your allegiance to them. Your commitment. They need to know you have their back regarding whatever it is that you are all trying to accomplish together. Not feeling like some task master is manipulating them into accomplishing something that doesn’t benefit them in the slightest.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum of loyalty to our people.

Being overly loyal. More specifically, overly loyal to those who may no longer be committed to the vision. But we keep them around, because we care about them as a person.

This is a tough thing. It is for me, anyway. When you have somebody who has been loyal to your vision for an extended period of time, but no longer is committed to serving the vision, yet still shows up and is negatively impacting others around them; it is very difficult to resolve within oneself that it might be time for them to re-commit or go somewhere else.

What we do here is so absolutely imperative. It’s imperative because the rest of the group is watching. Even in these moments, there still must be a balance of prioritizing vision & people.

Tremendous care must be taken when approaching an individual who is no longer on board with a vision. But it must be done. It must not be avoided and it must be done swiftly.

In these moments, we have to remind ourselves what is best for the greater team. Will my loyalty to this person cause division amongst this group in the long run and distract us from the overall vision?

We can not be manipulative and cause others to change their minds. But we can be honest with our people. And at the end of the day, in order to achieve your vision or your purpose, you need the right people on the bus.

Let’s move on to loyalty to the vision.

Some people are very naturally charismatic. They are always surrounded by people and have tremendous amounts of influence. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to have no idea what to do with this.

Do you know people who tend to have a new best friend every year or so? Or even Leaders who surround themselves with a group, and their group is forever changing?

It’s possible that the Leader lacks vision.

There’s an old Proverb that say, “Without a vision, the people perish.”

I like to interpret this as, “Without a vision, you might as well be herding cats.”

Vision is necessary. Vision, a goal, a common purpose, whatever you want to call it. There must be a target. People need something to work towards to achieve a sense of accomplishment. It’s the meaning to what they do. Their why.

Example: Getting people to gather and pick up dog poop for free will probably be something extremely difficult to accomplish. But if you gather people who are passionate about animals and creating a better environment for them to reside and need volunteers to support this vision of creating a better quality of life for our four-legged friends, you’re probably more likely to find some help. You gave purpose to the poo-picking-upping.

Now if these wonderful people who are wiling to clean up animal feces for a greater purpose begin to grumble about their working conditions because they don’t have gloves or the right tools to get the job accomplished, it’s probably a good idea to listen to them.

If we are too loyal to the vision and not the people, it might look like us ignorantly encouraging them to press onward and find a way. A Leader who is loyal to both their people and their vision will listen to the people and establish a plan together of how to better serve the greater purpose.

I’m sure, just like me, you have seen these extremes play out in real life (maybe not in a poo scenario, but you get what I mean). Leaders who keep people around who are toxic to the team out of loyalty and Leaders who care more about accomplishing a task than listening and teaming up with the people. Leadership is tough. And though we are loyal individuals, we must always be in a balancing act to establish what we should be prioritizing and when.

Be loyal to your people.
Be loyal to the vision.

Clickbait will not enrich your life.

Just like consistency won’t guarantee results.

We’ve all done it. Seen a headline that caused us to respond, “Wait. What?” ..*click*.

Moments later the disappointment settles in. Time wasted. There was nothing there but blasé content that left you no better than when you arrived. But tomorrow, you will give in to the same type of craftiness and click again. I do it all the time.

We get looped into this vicious cycle over and over again. It bleeds over into nearly everything we do.

The reality is that we are craving something worthy. “Worthy of what?” you might ask. Our attention. Of course. Worthy of a more consistent investment. That’s why I believe its so easy to convince ourselves to do the same things day in and day out hoping that we will get the type of results we are craving.

But since hoping doesn’t get you results, consistency won’t either. But we’ve heard it said again and again that hard work will pay off in the end. Sure. The right hard work will eventually pay off. These are important details that are often overlooked by the hopeful.

Yes, take action, but the right action.

Success, or achieving desired results, requires more than action. It requires action + assessment + necessary changes + continued forward motion.

This assessment/reflection piece is crucial. I can very consistently be going in the wrong direction. Every day just a little farther off path. Eventually discovering that I have veered miles off course and have to completely reroute myself. Or even worse, get absolutely no where.

I can sit down and write every single day. I might be completely dedicated to the action. However, if my ultimate goal is to get my content to my readers, I should be assessing how my content is reaching others, then making necessary changes when I discover the reach isn’t very far.

We can’t just work for the sake of work. Eventually, after never seeing the fruits of our labor, the consistency piece will also die out. This is why results are important. Results motivate us. Whether it is pounds shed, debt paid off or new clients in your business, these results motivate us to continue our efforts in the right direction.

How many people have set out to lose weight and after a plateau, they give up. There were no more results. So they stalled.

Results matter. Don’t ever try to convince yourself otherwise. The results we are seeking after may differ from one to another, but they matter. Psychologically we need these wins. These wins (or achievement of results) build momentum. They are what continue to drive us forward.

So if you’re in a place where you are stuck and not achieving desired results, pause and assess. But don’t stay there. Assess and then take action. Get a win.

If you don’t, assess again. Take more action.

But don’t be consistent for the sake of being consistent. That will get boring real quick.

If there is something worthy of being consistent with, it’s assessment. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually. Don’t wait until you are so far off course it will take tremendous effort to turn thing around.

Assess even when you are getting desired results. Make sure you know why you have been achieving your desired results. If you can’t explain it, you may not be able to replicate it. You don’t want to achieve results based on luck, you want to achieve them on purpose and know how to do it over and over again.

So where are you? Take some time. Zoom out. Can you explain exactly why you are where you are? What’s your next step? One piece of advice: It’s not in the clickbait waiting for you in your web browser.

Now go make your dreams happen on purpose.

You could benefit from a committed relationship with yourself.

I know some incredible people out there. Those who are committed to serving and helping others wherever, whenever and however they can. Somebody asks, they make it happen. They are loyal. They are committed. They show up everyday and give 110%.

You may know somebody like that. You may be that person.

But today, I am curious as to how many of us are that committed to ourselves? How many of us are as committed to our daily goals as we are to somebody else’s.

Most of us wake up 5 days a week to go serve somebody else’s vision. There is nothing wrong with that. Serving somebody else is necessary. It teaches us humility. It shows us how to cultivate vision and then it also helps show us not only how, but the simple fact that things CAN get accomplished if we are focused. At some point we should all serve. We need to learn what that’s like. But then the time will come where we may need to pivot and decide that we should to keep our commitments to ourselves as well.

How long have your running shoes been holed up in your closet waiting to go on an adventure? How is that book going that you started writing last year? Have you been spending more time with your family like you promised yourself?

Life moments and experiences have as much weight (or importance) as we give them. It’s not unheard of to be deceived by our own heart; to feel that we are accomplishing something wonderful merely because it’s serving somebody else.

Your heart has desires too. You should do your life a favor and show it that you are committed to you as well.

It doesn’t have to be this all out life changing moment. It can start with little things here and there. Just one hour a day, you give yourself to be a better you. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be consistent. One hour a day invested into a better you (whatever you’ve promised yourself, whether that’s meditating, exercising, writing, story time with your kids, etc). But it has to start. You need to show yourself some love. It’s ok to be selfish with your life. It’s yours and at the end of it, you’ll have to speak to yourself as to why you chose the route that you did.

Make sure you didn’t give it away to somebody else.

So what will it be? What do you want to invest at least one hour your life every day? What is truly important to you and deserves that investment?

“The truth lies in the tension between two extremes.”

When I was in college, I had a Theology teacher that once told me, “The truth lies in the tension between two extremes.”

This was a quote that has stuck with me since I heard it 9 years ago. Since then, I’ve shared it with plenty others.

At times, I’ve been a person of extremes myself. An all or nothing type of person. I’ve just been built that way. I find a hobby, I dive in 1000%. I did this with sports, music and any other thing that interested me.

When I was 15, my Mother was about to remarry. Because of this, I would be switching high schools. Leaving all my friends behind (It sounds trivial now, but when you’re a teenager, your social life is the most important thing in your world). I had a friend who was a Pastor’s daughter and invited me to her church’s Youth Group regularly. I wasn’t raised in religion, although, unsure why, I’ve always had a belief that there was a God out there. I always turned her down. Not interested in getting deep into religion that early in life. But when it was time to move away and separate myself from my friends, I finally said yes. This would allow me to still see my friends that I knew I would come to miss.

I went to that Youth Group and something happened. I felt like the Pastor might as well have said, “Dominique” in front of everything he talked about. I was in. And I was going to give it 1000%.

The thing that my 15 year old brain didn’t understand yet about religion and its relationship with the world was that everything in the bible is contextual. Some things were even written in code, like the book of Revelation. There are so any things, that if we took literally, we would all be walking around maimed from chopping off some part after sinning. Either way, I was determined to tell everybody about my new found obsession and somehow convince them that it was right for them as well.

It was all I talked about. I read my bible and prayed constantly. To the point where one of my closest friends approached me at school one day and said, “Dominique, I am not like you and I will never be like you. I can’t talk to you anymore because all you talk about is your religion.” That moment hurt. I can still feel the sting. But still, I trekked onward. Around that same time, even my new Step-Father asked me, in front of all of my new siblings, “Don’t you think you’re taking this God-thing a little too far?” I simply replied, “How far is too far for God?” Yeah. I was that person.

I lived in that place for a long time. 1000%. In the extreme. Unrelenting when it came to anything that opposed my belief system. Over time it turned into a place of judgement.

The problem with that, though, I was not a judge. Or even The Judge for that matter.

It wasn’t until years later, where I had a few moments of falling flat on my face, where I learned what true grace was. The grace my own Jesus had told me to have with others. I didn’t even know what it really was until I needed it for myself.

I learned that there is no perfection. But there are a lot of people who need somebody to reach their hand out when they stumbled and disappointed everyone else around them including themselves. It wasn’t until I was in that season myself, and heard that quote, “The truth lies in the tension between two extremes.” that it actually made sense.

Balance is necessary. Even in something like religion.

Being extreme often comes at the cost of something else. When I was a soccer player in high school, if I only focused on being the absolute best runner, I wouldn’t be strong at kicking or defense. If I can’t kick the ball straight into my target it doesn’t matter how fast I can run.

When we obsess over one area, we lose focus on other things that are not just relevant in our lives, but necessary. Balance is necessary.

I have a tattoo to remind me of this (Actually, most of my tattoos are some sort of reminder. If you know me, you know I have a terrible memory). For me, the quote was particularly relevant when it comes to grace and truth.

If truth is found in the middle, between two extremes, that would mean that my truth might be different from another persons truth. Mostly because each of our narratives are different. Even if we experienced the same life events together.

You see, that’s because my perspective is MY truth. And somebody else’s perspective is THEIR truth. And often times, they may not match.

My step-dad has 9 sisters. They all remember their parents VERY differently. They each have their own perspective. Their own truth. And they are also a very stubborn bunch who will not concede or conform to the perspective of others. Their reality is their truth. Even though they lived many of the same moments.

The difficult place to arrive at is a place of respecting another’s truth. Regardless of whether it lines up with our own. My brother and I lived the same scenarios within our upbringing. I’m certain our stories would sound very different. Either way, both are true. It’s how we now perceive those moments, even though we experienced them together in real life. And so neither of us should attempt to downplay the other’s.

We need this.

This place of respecting differing perspectives. They challenge us. They stretch us. They teach us to love in spite of personal opinion and bias. Taking time to listen, and hear out the story of others different from ourselves and exercising empathy gets us farther along as a human race.

This is love.

Not hatred. Not condemnation. Not slandering. These are the results of extremes.

Seeking understanding beyond our own; that is love. Knowing that it is necessary to move forward and grow.

So next time you find yourself sharply in disagreement with another, challenge yourself to understand them more. Have grace.

Their truth might look different than yours. Search for it somewhere in the middle.

Overcoming the daunting task of getting started.

There it is. The mountain in front of you. Waiting to be hurdled so you can get started in the pursuit of your dreams and goals. There’s no way around it. It must be tackled. Progress must commence.

When it comes to beginning the pursuit of our dreams, most of us have no idea where to start. Eventually allowing ourselves to be filled with the pressure of it all, we become paralyzed. We get no where. Progress does not commence.

Or some of us do just enough to get started and then don’t follow through. I’ve done this plenty of times. I start this cool new “thing” and tell a bunch of people about it and then my inspiration fizzles out in about a week. Then decide I just wasn’t that passionate about it after all.

Getting started and continuing can be difficult. There are a few things that I have found to keep me focus and grounded.

Here are 6 things to help you get started and stay focused:

  1. Create a master plan.
    Have you ever seen a house built without plans? Me neither. They generally begin with a blueprint; a sketched layout of the floor plan, equipped with rooms, doors and windows. There might be additional sketches mapping out the plumbing and electrical throughout. But it begins with a skeleton. If all the detail was right there to begin with, it would be a cluttered mess and difficult to follow. Our initial structure of our goal or aspiration should be very simple and clean. So, begin with deciding on your big picture and break it down into its simplest form. Meaning, you might start with where you would like it to be in 1 year. Then work backwards to decide what that is going to take. I write, so for me, that may look like a 75,000 word non-fiction book. I know my topic already, so I decide the breakdown and flow of the book by charting it out into chapters. For you, it could be becoming a fashion designer and your goal is to have a closet full of items to showcase within 6 months. You decide you will need to have 4 sections in your closet for items of all for 4 seasons. Whatever your dream or goal is, Be intentional about big picture planning up front. Know what you are working towards. If you don’t have a target, mentally, there’s no way to track and measure your progress. Also, without a big picture plan, you may be tempted to release something haphazardly. When something is not presented the right way initially, it is difficult to get it on track later down the road. Give your big picture time to incubate. This will help prevent something from fizzling out later, or releasing the wrong idea altogether.
  2. Break the big picture into bite sized snacks.
    You know those bite sized snacks that you always end up eating far more than originally intended? They are so small that you convince yourself to eat plenty of them, eventually totaling out to be several of the candy bars you avoided in the first place? Well, they are on to something psychologically, there. We can take our big picture goals and break them down into smaller steps that are much more realistic, removing the element of being overwhelmed with such a daunting task. Let’s go back to the book example. If I know I need to write a minimum of 75,000 words and I have a goal of writing this book in 4 months, I can break it down into smaller portions for myself. That would be 18,750 words a month, which would be 4,687 a week or 670 a day. 670 words a day. That is doable. Suddenly, the overwhelming task of writing a book isn’t so overwhelming. It’s doable. More than doable, as this 1 blog post is far more than 670 words and is written in one or two sittings. Suddenly, I am no longer paralyzed.
  3. Establish Habits.
    Now to get those words written and to stay on task, I have to establish a routine. This routine may consist of quarterly, weekly and daily habits. If I need to write 670 words a day, I need to make sure that I have time set aside to accomplish this task. My morning routine looks like me waking up several hours before going to my day job, mapping out my day (broken down by every half an hour), scheduling in my exercise, my writing time and everything in between. It is possible to have a routine for those of us who do not work a regular 9-5 type of schedule. It may seem rigid, but for the days you fall off the wagon, you can’t be too hard on yourself. It happens. It takes time to build new habits. People say, approximately 21 days, some studies say sooner. Have grace with yourself.routine-1
  4. Accountability and inspiration from others.
    Have you heard the quote, “Do not cast your pearls before swine?” It’s good advice. But what it doesn’t say is “Don’t tell anybody about your pearls.” It’s important to share our dreams with others. Although, Science has proved that merely sharing our dreams with others can sometimes bring enough temporary fulfillment than actually pursuing them. There needs to be a balance. Many people know what my goals and aspirations are. A few, I meet with frequently to make sure I stay on track. I texted my friend, Fadi about a month ago telling him I needed “A kick in the pants.” Which means, “Let’s have coffee and remind each other why we are doing what we are doing, again.” We share our progress and what we are working on; or sometimes, what we aren’t working on. I generally leave those meetings feeling renewed and ready to kick ass again. I also have moments where others inspire me. When I see others out there, pursuing what they are passionate about, it lights a fire within me. Surround yourself with others who are taking action in the field you want to impact. Find groups that meet to discuss and learn from each other. Connect with other humans. We need each other.
  5. Continue learning.
    We can only get so far with our limited knowledge and understanding. Plenty of us may not have the slightest idea on where or how to start. Yes, we have a master plan and know some steps to take, but we need a little bit more than that. Skill. Skill is required. I know there is a whole lot of “Fake it till you make it” out there, which may work for some of this or for a short period of time but it is not sustainable. Invest in yourself. Invest in your craft. The interesting part about living in our time is that almost everything has been done before and we can also probably find it on the internet. Information is more available to us than ever before. We are in the technology age and if we actually harnessed the accessibility of technology in the right way, the sky is the limit. I’m not talking about getting the ultimate high score on candy crush. I am talking about tapping in to the most vast resource of knowledge and information that has ever existed. Free how-to videos, online webinars, entire books on your cell-phone, it is all available to us if we just took advantage of it. Feed your mind. Challenge what’s out there. Evolve it to better us. Evolve to a better you. If you are always learning, you are always growing. If you are always growing, you can challenge yourself to stay relevant and always have something to offer. Things go obsolete real quick these days. Don’t let that happen to you or your dream. Learn. Evolve.
  6. Keep your promises.
    The very last tip in helping you get started and remain focused, is to keep your promises…to yourself. I consider myself to be a woman of my word. I will do whatever it takes to keep my promises, unless it’s to myself. We all could probably stand to be a bit better with that. So when you finally commit to yourself to set out and take some action, don’t break your promise. It’s easy to get derailed, to give up, to refuse to shake it off after a fall. Remind yourself that you made a commitment to your endeavors. If you were giving advice to somebody you cared about after a moment of discouragement, you’d remind them to remain committed and that failure is temporary. Treat yourself the same. Keep going. There was a reason you started.

So what are you waiting for? You told yourself you were going to go do that thing, remember? You need you to do it. We need you to do it.

Now go get started.