Archive for February, 2008

Breaking Through Barriers That May Limit Your Potential

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

We all experience moments in life when obstacles seem to crowd our goals and aspirations. Whether you are a leader of an organization, an employee in a department, a small-business owner, a student, the President or even just a regular guy, we have all experienced many barriers to our goals. I’ve seen so many people with great dreams that would add tremendous value to society but every time they try to plug into their dreams, they get knocked down by societal barriers.

Regardless of your situation or status in life, I want you to know that you can smash any barriers that hinder your life goals and your organization’s direction. I know this full well because my life has been about smashing barriers. I come from a community that is not well regarded in terms of access to higher positions in my country – Kenya. I was denied the opportunity to come to the United States four times before I finally got the Visa. I came to this country with a big dream and only $140 in my pocket. Imagine all the barriers I have had to surmount in order to get to where I am now. When I told people that I wanted to speak for a living, a lot of them said, “You are barking up the wrong tree, son. You’ve got a heavy African accent, no money, no contacts, ….how do you ever expect to do this?” Well, I didn’t have to know the “how” since I had a solid “why”. My passion has been one – to help people – and that is why barriers are getting smashed as I begin to slice the frontiers of developing people and empowering them to live a better life. Here are some ideas:

Three Core Hammers for Smashing Through Barriers

1. Generate a Solid Idea of Your Life Purpose

Purpose is the key to understanding the “why” of life. When you know what your purpose is, you will not lose heart in the face of obstacles and barriers. Understanding purpose enables you to stay committed and motivated towards pursuing your goals. Purpose produces passion and that is essential in overcoming challenges. Leaders in organizations need to have a clear picture of what the organization’s purpose is.

2. Develop an Enduring Vision

Lots of people have vision but very few stick to it when barriers come their way. If you will smash through barriers, you need to have an enduring vision. The United States as a country has come through many generations of challenges because of an enduring vision that was cast by the founding fathers. I succeeded in finally being able to come to the United States because I had an enduring vision.

3. When Knocked Down, Get Back Up!

I like reading biographies. One of the stories I have enjoyed so much was that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had a steady stream of barriers throughout his life and he smashed through all of them. Look at this:

In 1816 his family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them. In 1818 his mother died. In 1831 he failed in business. In 1832 he ran for state legislature and lost. In 1832 he lost his job and wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.In 1833 he borrowed money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the next year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt. In 1834 he ran for state legislature again and won. In 1835 he was engaged to be married. His sweetheart died and his heart was broken. In 1836 he had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months. In 1838 he sought to become speaker of the state legislature but was defeated. In 1840 he sought to become elector but was defeated. In 1843 he ran for congress and lost. In 1846 he ran for congress again. This time he won, went to Washington and did a good job.In 1848 he ran for reelection to congress and lost. In 1849 he sought the job of land officer in his home state and was rejected. In 1854 he ran for Senate of the United States but lost. In 1856 he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s convention and got less that 100 votes. In 1858 he ran for US Senate again – again, he lost. In 1860 he was elected President of the United States.

My! That’s a long list of barriers for just one single guy! But you know what? He had purpose and vision plus he got back up each time he was knocked down. You can do it too! Let’s smash through barriers!

Here’s a helpful resource:

Battling for your Prophetic Destiny is packed with insight on how you can conquer every barrier as you pursue your purpose. Your destiny is secure!

Cross That Finish Line

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

One of the most prestigious events of the Olympic Games is the Marathon – 26 miles – 385 yards of one of the most severe tests of human endurance. In the 1968 Summer Olympic Games, held in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania started with the other runners but fell way behind the leaders.

At the finish line – the 100,000 plus spectators packing Olympic Stadium – cheered the winners of the race. Other runners entered the stadium and crossed the finish line to the cheers of the crowd. The race was over. Other events took place. Thousands of spectators had left. Then, one lone runner entered the stadium – John Stephen Akhwari. Akhwari’s pace was slow. His steps were wobbly. His knee was bloody and bandaged from a fall earlier in the race. He looked terrible. As He entered the stadium and began to slowly complete that last lap around the track the few remaining spectators began to realize who he was and what he was doing. As Akhwari slowly – painfully – crossed the finish line – they cheered – saluting the man’s determination.

After the race, Akhwari was asked – what kept you going? Why didn’t you quit? Akhwari said, “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me here to finish”.

Becoming a Meaningful Specific Rather Than a Wandering Generality

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

One of the quotes that had great impact on my life when I was in college was Zig Ziglar’s famous question, “Are you a meaningful specific or a wandering generality?” This quote came to mind as I was thinking about the ingredients that make a life of purpose, direction and productivity. A keen study of the lives of people who excel will reveal that the main ingredient for their success is usually one thing: passion. Their dedication to a cause, belief in people and commitment to living their best life come from their passion. They find the one thing they really enjoy doing, then do it with passion. Passion is the key ingredient to success. 

Where does passion come from? How can we use it to become meaningful specifics? Passion is born out of desire – having a dream, vision or longing to see something different from a current situation. What do you see in your future? What’s your dream? Martin Luther King Jnr. was a very passionate man because he had a dream for racial equality. Princess Diana had a passion for charity work because she wanted to see a better world. Your passion will enable you to soar from obscurity and into the limelight. Your passion will enable you to realize something greater than yourself. Your passion will enable you to be a meaningful specific. 

Passion is effective when it is birthed from the inside. You must be motivated intrinsically. You cannot exhibit passion on the outside when deep down you are shallow. You’ve got to cultivate it deep within yourself. That comes by immersing yourself wholeheartedly into pursuing your vision or dream. Here are two key things that generate passion:

a). Relentless Dedication – In order to become a meaningful specific, you must be relentlessly dedicated to making your dream come true. What are you doing on a daily basis that is adding value to your ability to fully become who you were born to be? Are you being true to the voice within you that is calling you to perform at your optimum level?

b). Steady Focus – Steady Focus comes from always having your vision right in front of you. Think about why you have immense success driving every day – the windshield is right in front of you and you are always looking out through it! It’s the same thing with your dream. You must keep it right in front of you. There are many ways that you can do this. Write it down and recite it throughout the day. Design your environment to remind you of your vision every day.

Prepare for Your Dance!

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

There is a Kenyan saying that “He who spends time adorning himself knows he is going to a dance”. This saying simply means that nothing is more beautiful than a person who is prepared for his or her time when it comes. Preparation is the key to securing your future. Are you adorning yourself? You should be, because there’s a dance awaiting you. The dance is the future that you were destined to live.

One of the most beautiful things in life is a man or woman who is ready when his or her time comes. You may not be in the ‘dance’ of your life right now, but you can prepare because the truth is that every human being gets the opportunity to experience their dance. The problem is that very few are ever ready when the moment comes.

Start adorning yourself. Invest in personal growth. Read books that will prepare you for the future. Develop yourself into the kind of person who will shine on the dance floor when destiny finally says, “Here’s your chance”. Get ready! The quality of dance you expect in your future determines the amount of adorning you will do today. Raise your expectations. You shouldn’t be expecting to go to some mediocre dance. Your goal should be to dance in the most sophisticated dances reserved for the ones who have invested heavily in themselves.

An important thought: Life was never meant to be a battle. Life is supposed to be a dance. Larry D’Anges said, “If you don’t learn to dance with life, life will pass you by and get another partner“. And I say this: “If you don’t learn how to dance today, you won’t shine on the dance floor tomorrow“.

Empowerment: The Ultimate Goal of Leadership

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

There’s good leadership, then there’s great leadership. Good leadership takes people from point A to point B. Great leadership empowers people so that they can go from point A to point B. What do great leaders do? 

First, they articulate a clear and compelling vision. They are visionary. They communicate a common vision that gives people a purpose and meaning. It outlines the priorities of the group and the direction that is is going in. 

Second they act confidently and optimistically. The leader’s confidence, conviction and optimism is contagious. It rubs off on the followers. Lack of this weakens leadership of its potential.

Third, they express confidence in their followers. Great leaders have high confidence in people and make them feel good about themselves. They foster their confidence and optimism.

Lastly, they ead by example. One leadership proverb says, “Example is the main thing in influencing others.” Their example leverages the whole organization and enables people to come into their full potential.

Equipping People With the Skills for Leading Change

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

When I was in college I was elected chairman of a club on campus that was composed of students who were eager to develop and grow their leadership. One of my very first tasks was to change certain initiatives and processes that the group had operated by. As I did this, I discovered that there were five key things that worked so well.

1. Communicating Clear Vision

Success in handling change boils down to how well the vision for change has been communicated. The vision needs to be rational and understandable to constituents. This brings about a sense of shared purpose and makes it easier to initiate actions to achieve that purpose.

2. Giving People Authority to Move in the New Direction

Once people have bought into the new vision, they need to be given the authority to implement it. Vision brings responsibility. Responsibility without authority causes frustration. People need to know that they have the authority to implement the new direction within clearly stated guidelines.

3. Aligning ‘Structures’ to the Vision

All the information that people recieve, the personnel that work with them and the systems that are used to drive the mission must be aligned to the vision. This ensures that any actions taken in implementing and executing the vision are not blocked. Vision is delicate and without a proper alignment of all structures, it can result in disaster. 

4. Providing the Right Skills and Attitudes

Nothing empowers people more than proper and relevant training. Without the right skills and attitudes people feel disempowered. Training should be built upon the current skills and attributes of your people. The focus should be on expanding them so that they can handle the change and lead it effectively. 

5. Confronting those who Undercut the Change

Nothing disempowers people the way a bad boss or manager can. Change causes friction but it can result in disaster when key people undercut it. When confronting such people start on a positive note. Clearly outline the problem and encourage a response. Show that you understand their position and explain why their actions are wrong. Indicate the desired action and reiterate the positive aspects of the person. 

Mind Management

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

The key to success is the quality of one’s thinking. One of the main obstacles to success therefore is the state of one’s mind. In order to achieve the full potential of one’s capabilities the mind must be guarded and consistently refreshed with insight that allows it to flourish. We’ve all heard of the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”. That’s true. We need to feed our minds with the good, the powerful and the great. I encourage you to commit to feeding your mind with good stuff on a daily basis. Find books that inspire and read them. Stock your car with motivational tapes that you can listen to while driving. Manage your mind. It is the key to your accomplishments.

Thoughts on an Individual’s Role Withing a Team

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Being part of a team is the highest calling of leadership. Any leader within a team has the obligation to model mental maturity to his or her teammates. In order for the organization’s dream to be realized, there must be great teamwork amongst the members. Here are three thoughts to enhance your role within the team:

Think at a higher level – Your quality of thinking sets the tone for the rest of the team. In team meetings, it is important to think at a higher level by bringing something to the table. Be resourceful. Team dynamics improve when you contribute effectively. Share insights and ideas that will better the team. Be a team player and demonstrate mental maturity.

Admit it when you are wrong – Everyone falters every once in a while. It is a sign of great maturity when you can admit that you were wrong. Such an admission sends a great message to the team and enhances cohesiveness. This goes hand-in-hand with taking responsibility for your failures. Be a team player and demonstrate mental maturity.

Put others before your ’self’ – Teamwork is about togetherness – Together Everyone Accomplishes More. This calls upon every member to lay aside their personal desires and root for the team. Every single effort must be targeted towards making the team look great. Egos must be put aside. Being part of a team means being an uplifter. Be a team player and demonstrate mental maturity.