Second Wind: Part One

A Three Hour Tour

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to do something for the first time … sail a boat.

A friend of mine is basically “Hobie-Wan-Kenobi” and he had just returned from a few days of riding his Hobie on the Gulf of Mexico with his brother, also an experienced sailor. See the photo.

Our families enjoyed a weekend cookout at Lake Oconee, and Hobie-Wan brought his 14 foot sail boat.

My first mistake was showing any interest at all. Small talk was my intention. “You been sailing long?”… “Who taught you how?”…”Looks like fun.” Innocent comments that were certainly not meant to communicate, “Will you teach me how?” Me and my big mouth.

The next thing I knew we were heading away from the dock, my hand holding a steering mechanism (I won’t pretend I know what it is called) and my head ducking the sail as it moved back and forth across the boat.

Hobie Wan gave great instructions about turns and laying off the sail based on the wind direction and other important information. I did a lot of nodding and pretended to understand. Unfortunately, I must have seemed confident.

Immediately we turned the boat around and went back to the dock where Hobie Wan proceeded to climb out. Excited about heading up to the house for another hot dog I started to stand up myself. That’s when my friend went Herman Melville on me and gave the boat a push back toward the open water.

Before I could object, the sail caught some wind and I was moving across the lake at a pretty good clip. “You’re doing great!” were the last words I heard.

The next 10 minutes are a blur. I did my best to remember Herman’s words, but I must admit the trip across the lake was awkward at best. After a few adjustments and mess ups, I made it to the other side, ducked, and turned for home without flipping the boat.

Feeling more confident with each gust of wind, the thought occurred to me, “I could actually  get used to this.”

Then it happened. Just as I was about half way across the lake and beginning to think I would survive the excursion without going Gilligan and turning it into a three hour tour, the wind died.

It is amazing what goes through your mind when you are out on the open water by yourself.

“I wonder how dumb it would look if I just jumped in and pulled the boat back to the dock. It’s only a half mile and I’m a decent swimmer.”

“I wonder how big the catfish are in this lake?”

“Where are my kids with the Jet Ski when I need them?”

“I bet wife put Herman up to this?”

“I wish Gilligan were here.”

You will be glad to know I made it back without the help of the Coast Guard. But not before I discovered a couple of leadership lessons.

Over the next couple of days I will tell you what I learned. Stay tuned …

Leadership Begins at Home,


When was the last time you had an adventure and felt challenged?

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Four Steps to Help You Quit Your Job

I’m often asked how I made the switch from leading in an organization to starting my own leadership company.

I’m not sure there is an easy answer. Truthfully, the whole process felt squishy.

Yesterday morning I ran across an interview Anderson Cooper recently did with Fast Company Magazine. Cooper’s answer to one of the questions helped give language to my idea of squishy.

When faced with taking his own career risk Cooper said, I knew rationally that my fear of taking a step didn’t make sense. I had talked to enough successful people to know that the path to success is often meandering. It can appear to be a series of random events and only in retrospect can one look back and connect the dots.”

Looking back, my journey was not squishy. While there were times I was meandering, there were also concrete things I did to ultimately help me make the break. I can now even connect many of the dots.

If today finds you feeling unhappy and hopeless in your work, I believe the four things I did during my transition can help you with yours.

Four Steps to Help You Quit Your Job … 

1. Define. The first thing I had to do was define what it was I wanted to do. This was a process. A process that started with paying attention to who I am. “Defining Questions” like … Where is the energy? … Where is the effectiveness? … What is the need I can meet? … and Where is the affirmation? all helped me identify a preferred future.

FYW imageI wrestled with this for so long I literally was able to write a book with my friend Dan Webster to help others work through this process. If you need clarity on sorting out what YOU are born to do (or know someone who is drifting in their work), I highly suggest reading FINDING YOUR WAY: Discovering the Truth About You.

2. Align. The next thing I did was line my life up with what I had defined. I set my sights on building a company focused on encouraging, coaching, and speaking to leaders, teams, and organizations. I spent most of my time outside of my real job looking for opportunities to do those three things – it is the direction I pointed toward. I say it all the time, “Your direction always determines your destination.” It was certainly true for me. Every time I took a baby step I found myself closer to where I wanted to be.

Like me, you must align with your target. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes to walk toward your dream, you likely have a lack of passion and subsequently the wrong target. I knew I had discovered my dream because my Defining Questions were answered. I was effective, energized, able to meet a need, and people kept encouraging (and even paying) me.

3. Refine. Step three was to keep refining. This included narrowing my focus and more importantly, working on myself. When I evaluated my definition I continually wondered, Is this really what I want to do with my life and is it the right fit for who I am and my skills?

compass-bw2As the process unfolded, I kept making adjustments. The challenge was that it required massive amounts of time, energy, thinking, questioning, and failing.

Believing I was planted instead of buried, helped me stay the course when others doubted me. Having a clear definition of what I wanted, served as my compass and helped me stay the course when I doubted myself.

Another part of the refining process was to listen to trusted counsel. More than once I asked those closest to me, Am I nuts or could you see me actually making a living at this?

Additionally, I refined by working on my skills and expanding my network. Every day I asked, How can I improve so people would be willing to pay me to do what I love? And, Who can I add value to today?

4. Resign. The last step was the hardest. I’m not sure why, but actually resigning was brutal. I think it was because I was so comfortable. I kept telling myself things like, “No one quits their job with three kids in college.” … “You’ll loose your health benefits.” … “What if you fail?”

All questions to be considered, but for me, indicators that I was a consumed with comfort. Ultimately, chasing comfort was killing me!

As a Bible-reading person of faith, I kept looking for a verse encouraging me to be comfortable (don’t waste your time, you won’t find it … at least it wasn’t in my Bible). And yet, over and over I discovered verses where God commands His children to be courageous. Ouch! … the opposite of comfortable.

As I played my life forward in my mind, I knew if I didn’t courageously go after my dream I would be disappointed in myself and ultimately end my life with uncomfortable regret. On the other hand, if I decided to go for it and failed, while I would be disappointed I wasn’t good enough, I would have no regret. 

The command to be courageous became my crisis point. Would I play it safe and grasp at security, or would I get-my-Cortez-on and burn my boats?

I struck a match and chose to resign.

Warning 1: Do not recklessly resign! Knowing I had thoroughly defined, aligned, and refined increased my courage and helped me surrender to what I needed to do.

Warning 2: Do not wait too long to resign! Go ahead and put your last day on the calendar and watch your urgency level increase – if you wait too long the moment will pass you by.

It has been over a year since I made the break, and I have never been happier in my work. But the fact is, it took me almost three decades to find my dream job.

I’m confident if you will define, align, refine, and resign you can land in your sweet spot much sooner.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are the effects of choosing comfort over courage?

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Buried or Planted?

Yesterday I asked the question, “Are You Happy in Your Work?”

The answer must be no, because all day I was hit with frustrated feedback.

Assuming there are those of you looking longing for escape, let me remind you it’s not too late. You are not forgotten. There is still hope.

A couple years ago I sat in your chair … knowing there was more, but afraid to make the break. Thankfully, I summoned the courage and haven’t looked back. You can do the same.

In the mean time, I encourage you to think like my friend who I quoted in yesterday’s post. Seek to appreciate your position while planning your promotion.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how you can plan your promotion, but today let’s start with the other, which is often the hardest, appreciating your position.

Truthfully, when you are feeling stuck, it is difficult to appreciate anything, much less your job. But the reality is, your current role is a gift. It is either preparing you for what’s next, or causing you so much pain you will ultimately muster up the courage to move on – probably a bit of each. 

The question is, how do you appreciate a job you no longer want to have?

The answer is simple. You can either view yourself as buried, or see yourself as planted. While the circumstances are the same, the attitude is drastically different.


Buried feels hopeless. Planted embraces preparation. Buried is depressing. Planted knows peace. Buried focuses on the circumstances. Planted focuses on the future. Buried is bitter, while planted is grateful.

Please don’t give into temptation and abandon your ambition. Instead, appreciate the fact that you are employed, and like a seed planted in the ground, keep germinating. 

Seeds are a great reminder for those in vocational limbo. Even though it can’t be seen or felt, growth is happening. Eventually, a plant will mature and bear fruit. You will too. Stay the course.

Just as a seed often needs water, sunlight, and fertilizer to sprout, there are three things you need while you are waiting on your dream job.

  1. Growth. The bottom line is, you need to focus on getting better. Work on the skills you will need in your dream job while continually improving at your current job. Your capacity to grow will determine your capacity to lead. See yourself as planted in the perfect place to become a better leader. Work on your communication skills, how to work with people and resolve conflict, and how to improve your work ethic. All things you will need in your next career.
  2. Struggle. Seeds don’t become shades without struggle. They don’t even get out of the ground. Someday others will benefit from  your pain. Until then keep striving with a focus on those you will be better prepared to serve, rather than seeing yourself as buried. Trust me, learning to struggle will be worth it because it will teach you to become better at struggling. Seriously, struggling will be #1 on your job description if you ever intend to be great … even when you land your dream job.
  3. Encouragement. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am if it were not for a few important people who helped encourage me while I was planted. Dan Webster and Chuck Cusumano are friends who listened more than anyone should be required to. Both kept fanning the flame and challenged me to stay the course. My amazing wife also continually encouraged me. Even on the days when I felt buried, she listened, prayed, and believed. Like me, you need some trusted confidants who can talk you off the ledge and keep you focused on what is true rather than what you feel.

So the big question is, do you see yourself as buried or planted? I’m convinced if you will choose the latter, prioritize growth, embrace the struggle, and surround yourself with the right people, you will soon find yourself with a promotion to your dream job.

Tomorrow we will look at how to plan that promotion. Until then, appreciate your position and the opportunity to be planted!

Leadership Begins at Home,


What advice would you give to someone who feels stuck in their career?

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Are You Happy in Your Work?

I have a friend who wants to change jobs. He has applied, tried, and interviewed multiple times. So far he has hit one dead end after another.

Only, here’s the thing. Stuff is happening behind the scenes.

During a recent lunch, I asked him how he is holding up. His answer convinced me he is going to be fine and ultimately land a great job. He said, “I’m working hard to appreciate my position while planning my promotion.”

Wow! What a great attitude and approach to a draining process.

If there is a dream job you still want to go after, I encourage you to appreciate your position while planning your promotion. Over the next couple of days we will look at how to do both.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Why do you think so many people are unfulfilled in their work?

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