Priorities: Family – Career Balance for a Happy Retirement

Have you ever been made aware that your priorities don’t match your actions?

I have and it hurts. I always felt that I was good at controlling my destiny and that my energy matched my motives and my objectives.

Where did I stumble?   And who let me know?

I was becoming focused on career to the detriment of family, and thankfully my wife let me know. More thankfully, I woke up and listened.

Too many friends didn’t heed this peril and paid for it in ways they could never have imagined.

For many, including me, career is important. It provides our economic lifeblood, future security and if well chosen, a deep level of satisfaction. It also tends to thrive when you are passionate and focused upon its demands.

So then why do we struggle with the tension between career and the other aspects of our life?

It goes back to the first question above – putting our actions where our priorities lie.

For many, if you were to ask – lose your family or lose your career, there would be no contest. Many would give their lives for their family and loved ones yet few would give it for their careers. (Military and emergency services personnel are arguably the exception.)   But even though we value our family and our relationships, we seldom invest the time and more importantly, the emotional energy that we give to our ‘career’.

It is only when we are reminded – do we step back and look at our actions and realize that alignment is required.

There are so many moral, emotional and altruistic reasons to be looking after all of the needs of family. The secret benefit that most of us fail to realize? – –  is that you will perform better, last longer and be more effective at work, if you have your family / loved ones fully satisfied by your attention. That way, they in turn can support you. They are your fuel, your backstop and your safety net. Get the career – family balance right and look forward to a wonderful retirement.

Retirement is not important when you’re working and establishing a career, but let me assure you that it is most important when the time approaches. Are you prepared? If not, I suggest you keep in mind; the career – family balance.

Meeting Planner Know your audience but really know your Point of Contact

I enjoyed a coffee with a fellow speaker and we were discussing the importance of bringing value to not just the audience but also the people that are supporting you.

I am speaking of the good folks that work to get you on stage and ensure you can perform at your peak.

The first point of contact is your event or Meeting Planner. They have a responsibility to ensure that the speakers and other presenters are suitable to the task. They also coordinate many of the details to ensure you arrive on time and are prepared to deliver as expected. Hopefully your success will ensure that you are invited back again.

So what can a speaker do to ensure the Event Planner is eager to have your services?

Simple as it sounds, you should focus on cooperation. The lower the maintenance you are to the planner and the other support staff the more appreciated you will be.

They have many stressful duties before and especially during a conference and if you are professional, provide clear communication and assist in making their job easier, you will have a much higher likelihood of being recommended and perhaps even given greater positions on the agenda – if not this year, the next.

Low maintenance as a professional speaker, is basically polite consideration, few if any demands and a complete understanding of the organizers’ needs.  This can be shown by your professional independence and courtesy of being well prepared.

So, please – arrive early, provide your technical requests well in advance and have your own back up plans should the technology breakdown.

Your time slot may be shortened or moved or any other forecasted event can send many speakers and the planners into a tail spin.

Be part of the solution and you will score big points to all involved.

Remember you are there to put a light into the hearts of the audience and your audience includes your hosts at all times.



Advantages of Building Your Distant Goal

Have you found yourself engaging in a scattered approach and find difficulty in maintaining; or even establishing a clearly focused goal? Like a poorly polished telescope lens, the light is refracted and it is awkward to see a distant goal. So we set closer more practical goals.

Yet, is that what we want?

Is it enough to simply limit our goals to the near and accessible because we can’t visualize a distant goal?

Let’s peek over the telescope for a minute and use the spotting scope on top instead. What if we were to build an audacious goal that would embarrass our very soul to reveal? There is an expression, if you could not fail, then what dreams would become your goals. Make it big and bold – nothing is unrealistic. Then – give yourself a fair and reasonable time to achieve it.

Remember, we always overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period and drastically – repeat, drastically underestimate what we can accomplish in a long period. That is because we don’t have the knowledge, gifts and skills to do it today.

When you set that distant goal, it does several things.

  1. It buys you valuable time. Yes it is time to fail or procrastinate or lose focus again. But it also buys you the opportunity to use this precious ticking commodity to prepare and set shorter goals and objectives that align with our long term focal point.
  2. When this focal point is far enough ahead, it also provides you more lateral maneuvering room to explore your passions and gifts that you create along your journey. Each time you make a choice, you can measure it against the criteria – does this activity assist my experience, pleasure and fufillment in my journey to my long term objective.
  3. It sets the trail for many other shorter goals that you can setup along the way. And as a child crawls before he walks and runs; ensure that first tasks are EASY. We need encouragement, and reinforcement. We will have doubts and failures, so we need to meet simple objectives then feel the gratification of meeting them. This will build mental muscle memory (read habits) that will slowly empower you to progress with greater ease and finesse.
  4. It is easier to complete smaller goals if you have your aim focused on a greater more distant goal. The first goal is simply a step on your journey. It will seem less daunting and have greater purpose in its importance when you tie it directly to the objective of your higher path.

This overarching goal will provide you the guidance to align your actions and provide you with the direction to measure all of your smaller goals against. But we need to keep the focus clear. And it is so far away. How do we do that?

How do we polish that telescope lens?

When you pick out that ‘dare to dream’ audacious incredible goal, you may wish to stay tuned for our 2015 blog when I describe 3 things to bring your distant goal into brilliant focus.

For now, I wish you all a very prosperous and fulfilling New Year.

Personal Mission Statement

My challenge to you is to write out a mission statement for yourself.  Right now. You can send yourself an email or put it on your desktop as a note.  Spend the moment right now to define who you are.  It is one of the best ways to work toward the goal setting that we all need in order to change the perspective on our abilities.

Write your mission statement now.  Put it in the first person.  If you would like an example here is mine. For good measure, I also included my Value Statement.

Dale’s Personal Mission Statement- Bring out the best in others. Through dynamic and caring communication, I describe life experiences and values to enhance the performance and actions of those who seek to have a better life.

If you notice this Mission Statement covers the Why, the How and the What.  You must have a “Why“.

Dale’s Personal Value Statement – Present to people with honesty and integrity – providing interest and value so that they can be inspired to improve their lives as well as those around them.

There are many fine examples available online, including some very successful celebrities.  I hope you find one that matches your values.

Notice the “Why”in the Mission Statement of Starbucks –

Our mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.”

Exciting Radio Interview

Wow, the wonders of our internet age. I joined Twitter; gathered a following and followed others; made some connections and within no time, I have an interview invite from someone more than 3,000 miles away.

Domonick Domasky is an author and host of an Inspirational Talk show.  His friendly approachable character made the opportunity to share some stories a pleasure.  If you have time to sit with a cup of your favourite beverage, I invite you to listen in.

Just click on the Title below.

Taking Flight to Your Dreams.

The Gift of Giving – It’s not for who you may think

Growing up, I was amazed at how happy those that served others often felt. They seemed to have a truly inner satisfaction that the rest of us were missing.

I also wondered why I didn’t have a ‘calling’ like so many others to volunteer as willingly as I should.  What was I missing that led me to chose more self-centered pursuits?

Some research shows that people normally develop through 3 phases of maturity.

Dependant, independent and interdependent.

The first is obvious as an infant; we are totally reliant on others for our nurturing and survival.  Once we become able children we exert our independence – pushing away help and accepting the challenges on our own.

Finally, we realize that our needs are best met by enlisting the help of others to match up with our own efforts to produce a finer result.

So that may serve our needs but what about the needs of others?  What motivates us to reach out and help?

Ironically it may even be a selfish act.  Needed, altruistic and admired – but selfish all the same.


Because it meets our needs more than we can possibly understand.  By turning around the paradigm of looking after ‘me’, we find that joy, freedom, inspiration and satisfaction flow richly into our lives in ways that we never expected.

So how do we start?

  •  Observe.  People who need your help are all around. You know when you start to focus on any idea and it will start to appear all around you.  Just bought a new white car by Nissan?  Notice all of the white Nissan’s on the road? – so it is with people that could use a hand. Think about helping others and your thoughts will manifest the opportunity.
  •  Take action. Small at first, but make the first step. Say hello and then while assessing their needs, determine how you may help.  Ask, “Can I help you?”  It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you may meet rejection but above all don’t take it personal. Many in need don’t see it or don’t trust and they certainly are not in the most receptive state of mind.
  • Be Generous.  Your time – your money – your energy and maybe most difficult – your pride and reputation.  It costs to be generous – but as many will attest – it is more than worth the investment.
  • Tune out the radio station – WII FM  ‘What’s in it for me’.  When you truly give without expectation of return, you will soon find that the returns are not external.  They come from within. And when that happens, you have reached lasting joy that just can’t be derived from material or selfish means.

Like most pursuits, they take time to master. And the learning can be filled with ups and downs.  Know in your heart you are moving in the right direction and by taking small – real steps each day, you will meet your goals.  (And your needs!)

“Big Leadership” principles

Big Leadership is a term used by Major General Perry M. Smith, retired USAF.  General Smith is an author and speaking coach on Leadership.

His premise holds that many leaders in the high ranking positions follow not only the main principles of leadership but must exercise vision, long term thinking sometimes referred to as strategic planning, and take bold initiatives often with less than the full information on a problem.  They must also be motivators down through many organizational layers by developing a foundational culture of delegation and empowerment.

Another feature Smith holds high is the concept of Ethics.  Many senior leaders understand that their decisions have a significant impact on many people yet they are routinely challenged by ethical dilemmas to bend the high road for what is perceived to be for the greater good.  This seldom serves the leader or the organization and General Smith’s advise is to stop this ill perceived behaviour rapidly.  Greater long-term respect will result.

A vital behaviour demanded by these high positions involve avoiding micromanagement.  Learn to speed read and use dictation.  Ask for plenty of feedback.  Ask good questions.   For example, can you tell me from your perspective anything that I may have missed in this discussion that may lead to a better alternative – or cause further problems?

His article written  in the late 1980s still holds great value today.  He ended it with with these quotes.

General Smith’s favourite “one-liners” for senior leaders.

Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Gen Matthew Ridgway: “My greatest contribution as

Chief of Staff was nourishing the mavericks.”

Max Depree: “We cannot become what we need to be by

remaining what we are.”

Jim Stockdale: “Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain

authority by giving it away.”

Benjamin Disraeli: “The secret to success is the constancy

of purpose.”

Anonymous: “I am interested in the future because that

is where I intend to spend the rest of my life.”

Times are changing more rapidly than ever but there are fundamentals of leadership that always pertain.  Leadership doctrine – immutable truths that transcend the passage of time.  Wow how’s that for a heavy testament?

Time to lighten up.  Next time….

Leadership and the Responsibilities of Authority

Leadership is a great topic for discussion.  Like it or not, we are exposed to many examples of leadership (or lack of it) in our daily lives.

So when we look at the highest level of who we call “leaders”, it is often with wonder and occasionally with contempt.  Why is that?

The responsibility of someone in authority carries a heavy burden and they are held in great accountability.  As social animals we accept that we sometimes require someone in charge. That individual who has the skills and competency to carry us as a group through challenging times.

The head of state – Prime Minister or President are the most obvious examples. They hold the power to direct the outcome of their peoples.  Their actions are viewed with a critical eye.  The perception held by their followers can have a profound outcome on their success.

As the previous post suggested, leadership is within all of our reach.  But being designated as ‘The Leader’ is often a positional assignment – or authority.

This authorization to hold a position and influence the outcome of an organization or even a society carries massive responsibilities.  Unlike the leadership practices that many of us provide to our immediate subordinates, peers or children, these high level assignments do not permit one to make errors without great risk.

Positions of authority often require the leader to take action without all of the information.  In Military terms, a General may be only given certain pieces of intelligence and must use every bit of knowledge he can muster in the time provided to be decisive and accurate.  ‘Risk management or the fog of war are terms that relate to what occurs for CEOs and Presidents and occasionally even those in lesser positions of authority when timely action is required without the benefit of full background intelligence or knowledge.

So, how does one become competent at holding positions of authority?

One way is to practice making decisions. This sounds odd but we conduct decision making everyday. We just don’t think about it. Good leaders, learn from their decisions. They practice this art and analyze what works and what doesn’t. They also appreciate the impact of their decisions. Not only on the objectives but also on the emotional impact of others.  This is not a ‘touchy – feely’ kind of emotion.  All people make their decisions based upon emotion – even if we couch it with terms like logic, analysis and objectivity.  The final action to execute a decision is an emotional one and – like it or not – it follows with an emotional impact on ourselves and on others.  Marketing people understand this.  They know that even if you decide to buy a beige Volvo for all of the safe and logical reasons; the purchase is an emotional one.  Successful leaders also recognize this.  That is how many of them have been able to influence their armies and their masses throughout the ages.

So I suggest you can practice and be conscious of your decisions.  But by all means make them.  Pilots are well trained in decision making and this serves them very well both in the air and on the ground.

Our next topic will bring some insight into what Maj Gen Perry M. Smith, retired USAF would term ‘Big Leadership’.

Management vs. Leadership

Managers as leaders?  Of course they are.  But so are many others in an organization.  It’s been said that managers look after things, and leaders look after people.  Logic might suggest, that if the tasks don’t involve other people, then there is no requirement for leadership.

Now Stephen Covey relates a great story in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People –a group is tasked to clear a path through the jungle.  The manager organizes each task such as sharpening machetes, removing brush and making schedules for the workers.  The leader climbs a tall ladder and looks over the top of the canopy.  After scanning the horizon, he shouts down, ‘Wrong jungle!”  To which the manager replies – “Shut up – We’re making progress!”

This story illustrates a somewhat narrow perspective of how a manager may doggedly work to carry out an assignment without questioning the purpose, goal or even its effectiveness.  But this is only one example of the difference between the leadership and managers.

The role of manager is an assignment giving one authority over others.  The purpose is to organize and direct all resources – including people – to complete tasks efficiently.  Management is based upon the assumption that once more than a few people are assigned a task or objective; there is a requirement to have an individual with authority to direct activities.  For example in the army you may have a fire team of a few soldiers working independently. Once they require more soldiers, a supervisor – corporal is assigned to lead a squad of say 8-13 soldiers. When several squads combine they require a Sergeant for a platoon and so on. The terms and numbers may well vary among nations.

The second perspective is that all people are at times leaders and they don’t need formal authority to exercise this skill.  For example, we all have a way of leading others within our ‘circle of influence’.  An example may be when we help a fellow worker, or set an example by taking initiative that gets noticed by others. These can have an impact and may inspire others to take action.  This influence of changing other people’s behaviour not often credited to good leadership – and yet it may occur at almost anytime that we are in contact with others.

So, managers are leaders.  But as my son once told me when he was only 12….”Dad, just remember you’re ‘special’ and ‘unique’ – ….. just like everybody else”.   Next time you have a chance to observe a manager (or anyone with authority), notice how they perform.  Do they rely on their authority or their leadership? And how easy is it for others to recognize the difference?

In the next topic we address how we often think of leaders as people in power and control.  And yet this may only be a result of their given authority.  We will discuss the responsibilities of authority.

Leadership – the Civilized Animal

Why is it that we deny our animal instincts?  Is it that we feel superior to the beasts in this wonderful world?

What natural behaviours can we observe in animals that help us reflect on our own desires – and ultimately our behaviour?

For leadership, I suggest we look at a variety of  ‘social animals’.  It is in this context that we may discover why we feel and react as we do when it comes to leadership.

Some speakers such as Simon Sinek articulate this point with great clarity.  His TED talk resonates with my own values on leadership.  Perhaps it is because I have been cut from the ‘Fighter Aviation’ cloth where leadership is valued and cultivated throughout our professional lives.

But it is the animal world where we can observe how the pack instincts behave for the benefit of the many.  Whether this is in our community, family, business, or educational institution, we have a natural behavioural instinct and thus organize our structures to support leaders and followers.

When we stray from these natural behaviours and patterns, we quickly discover that we are falling ‘off purpose’.  Our performance suffers and our harmony stumbles and ceases to resonate with the safety and success of our collective wellbeing.

What leadership behaviours do you find in your organisation that emulate a wolf pack?