Unlocking Your Full Potential

I look for analogies and learning opportunities in everything. And while making sure not to miss any teachable moments with my children, I often find myself over-analyzing the shows they watch on television and pointing out the life and work lessons in them. I’m actually amazed that my son is still willing to watch his shows with me.

Saying that, one of my son’s favorite toys/shows is Lego Ninjago. Short synopsis, the four main characters are young ninjas that are charged with battling evil doers trying to take over the city of Ninjago and surrounding areas. Early in their development, their Sensei (Wu) taught that each of them had special and unique powers/abilities that they must find within themselves and tap into. This process was often referred to as “Unlocking Their Full Potential”.

Throughout the season, the four ninjas competed with one another, fought alongside one another, trained and eventually believed in their abilities enough to evolve into the Ninja masters they were born to be. But just like with any team, drama and issues arose because some evolved and unlocked potential before others. So as expected, egos were bruised, jealousies arose and self-doubt set in.

Don’t we all know someone like that? People that are so talented and driven…but never quite realize and/or unlock their full potential. Is that you? Carrying so much promise inside, only to have that potential stifled by fear and uncertainty. Do we too often put our dreams on the shelf and under-perform because we’re worried about what others will or won’t say about us or how are teammates might react.

After 13 episodes, the formula for successfully unlocking one’s full potential looked something like this:

SenseiwuteaAccept Tutelage
When someone is available to teach and mentor, take advantage of it! We miss our opportunities to grow and evolve sometimes because we fail to listen to those that have been in our shoes once before. Sometimes we have to just shut up and listen. There are no new issues, just different people having them. There is wisdom out there to be obtained, we just have to be receptive enough to apply the principles that we acquire from those that have been there before.

Patience Is Still a Virtue
In seeking to unlock full potential, one must understand that just because others around them are moving up and ahead, the time still might not be right for you. Be happy that promotion is in the neighborhood and stopping at your neighbor’s home. Being happy and celebrating others for their good fortune will make your wait better and may even bring about something even bigger and better for you! We must be careful of what we ask for because we just might get it before we are ready for it. But that wait makes receiving it just that much better.

Ninjago GroupThere Is Strength In Numbers
We shouldn’t have to go through everything alone. As strong as we are, we still occasionally need support and someone to help us fight through our development difficulties. From cheerleaders…to people to bounce ideas off of…to people to emulate, we need a good team. And don’t worry about your ideas or opportunities being taken from you, as true potential can’t be stolen from you because it’s predestined to be yours. There is no need to be guarded because those around can’t take what’s rightfully yours…and celebrating your successes are a lot more fun with a great group of supporters.

Each of us has something special on the inside that is just waiting to come out and shake the world up. The only thing holding it back is us. Once we listen and learn how to tap into it, exercise patience and surround ourselves with the right influences, there’s no telling how far we can go and how much evil we can defeat.

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Professional Irrigation

According to Justin’s Labor Statistics, a lot of people get unhappy with their jobs during this time of year.  Holiday sadness and stress can make people feel as if they need a change and the cold and blahness outside affects everyone’s moods.

The-Grass-is-Greener-on-the-Other-SideBut the worst thing to do when feeling blah is to make dramatic, life-altering decisions, like leaving a job just because something looks a little greener across the street.

I liken it to the grass in my yard. I know that during this time of year my yard looks like crap. Everything is brown and dead. But as I drive through my neighborhood, there’s this one house where the landscaping is still immaculate, despite the climate. The yard is full of color and all kinds of pretty crap (I’m a yard hater). While I never see the residents actually in the yard, it’s evident that they are doing something that I’m not. But yet I use their end result as a barometer to measure my success, not fully considering their effort and struggle to achieve the results.

If I want my grass to be green like theirs, I have two choices…take over their house or figure out what it takes to improve MY yard. Notice I didn’t say “figure out what they’re doing and replicate it at my place” because my grass might need different care than theirs.

Even if I were to kick them out and move in, I’d soon learn that if my habits and actions do not change, that once green and supple yard will begin to look just as dry and brown as the one I so eagerly ran from. Just wanting it to be a certain way isn’t enough.  It’s about the work we’re willing to put in to something that yields the results we seek.

Hate your job? Are you watering YOUR grass!?!? Are you tilling the soil, researching what it needs and caring for it properly? Are you investing enough time to make it work or are you just doing the bare minimum that just keeps it presentable? Are you spending the time to get to know it, what it reacts to, much like the relationships with co-workers and clients? Are you tackling your issues with a one-size-fits-all solution (like a mower) or are you using a variety of tools and focusing on details.

Man-watering-grass-in-desert-550x550Picking up and moving without a plan doesn’t fix the issue, you fix the issue. And if it’s deemed unmanageable after you’ve tried everything, by all means, call in the experts or relocate.

By watering your own lawn (current situation), it can be just as green and productive as the next person’s. We can’t prosper always worrying about what someone else has and always thinking that you have to find something else to be happy. The reality is that if you do something different or creative where you are, you’ll create something that others will want to emulate…and there will be no reason or time to hate on the plush greenness in someone else’s yard.

Frankenmentor

Mentorship is so important in business, as one can always gain a wealth of knowledge from those that have been there and done that. From networking, to advice, to encouragement, these relationships can be mutually beneficial and educational for mentee and mentor alike.

Like any other business decision, these relationships must be kept in professional perspective and well thought out on the front end to help in avoiding disappointments from unrealistic expectations that we may have set.

Mentor Brain-Trust: Strength in Numbers
Being really successful in an area alone does not qualify someone to be YOUR mentor. To have a successful mentoring relationship, one must decide what it is about that person’s success that touches a cord with you?

Is it their business acumen that you admire? How they are able to quickly dive in and understand any given professional situation and help bring about a positive outcome.

Is it their ability to create and foster relationships? Do you admire the fact that they know no strangers and everyone seems to connect with them, love them and respect them.

Does their passion inspire you to be better and to do better? So much so that you want to study what they study, experience what they experience and go where they go.

Like every member of a team has their own unique strength, can we not have multiple mentors that fill our different professional needs based on their individual strengths?

20131102-164051.jpgIs it even possible to get everything you need from one person, or is it better to draw from the positive attributes of several that we consider influential or successful and learn for them all, creating a “Frankenmentor”:

  • One piece from the scholar
  • One from the business person
  • One from the teacher
  • One from the networker
  • One from the entrepreneur, etc.

…until we are mentee-illy complete. Not only learning different skills from each individual, but also learning how to manage multiple relationships in the process.

Pitfalls of Having Only One Mentor
Because we sometimes hold our experts and our mentors to such a high standard, we feel as if in order to be a mentor that they must be all of these things to us before we commit to learning from them. For this reason, many of us don’t have any one person that we consider to be a mentor.

When we believe in someone, it is easy to forget that the person we’re looking up to is a human being just like us. When our professional faith is wrapped up in only one person, we subject ourselves to disappointment when (not if) this person missteps, misspeaks or makes a decision that we may not necessarily agree with. Not because they are no longer any expert in their given field but because we put our trust in a gap that we weren’t originally looking for them to fill. And if one relationship fails, we are not left mentor-less.

“Being on a pedestal doesn’t exempt one from gravity.” – Justin Harris 2013

20131102-164141.jpgSo to maximize our mentee experience, it’s my opinion that we diversify, just like with any other investment and have several mentors. By spreading the educational risk around, we learn and observe each mentor in moderation, getting the best from each and forming a quality whole, ultimately learning several styles, techniques and philosophies to help us become even more successful in our given area.

Knowing exactly what we need from each mentor forces us to be specific in what we ourselves are willing to give to each mentor, so that realistic expectations can be had by everyone involved and the collaborative learning is directed, intentional and ultimately meaningful.

Blogaversary | Holy Grail

In May of 2012 I was forced to make many tough professional decisions. While trying to find my way, I did what self-help folks have been preaching for years…make goals, write them down and post them where I can see them everyday.

Holy GrailI accepted the challenge. Because these goals were being drafted at a professionally unfulfilling time, it was difficult planning long-term while short-term hell was all around me. To escape the hell, I had to run toward something, not just from something. I had to make sure that the goals I set were not a destination, but a never-ending journey for sustained success. I needed a “Quest” to prove myself to myself, but I didn’t want to find comfort in achievements as we often times do.

I wrote 20 goals in all, 12 of which I actually accomplished. 4 of the main goals/checkpoints for the year were:

  • Start and maintain a blog
  • Get a twitter account and attract 500 meaningful followers
  • Get more involved with SHRM, locally and nationally
  • Attain HR certification

Checkpoint 1: Blogging
I barely knew what a blog was a year ago. On July 16, 2012, I started ruHRelevant.com because I couldn’t let my thoughts and philosophies be buried in the bureaucracy and routine of “traditional” HR. My first post was Are You Listening To Your Body, addressing the lack of communication I saw coming from management in these traditional environments.

My little blog now has a regular following and I also contribute to a multi-contributor site called Performance I Create with 9 other rock stars. But I’m thirsty for more.

blog picCheckpoint 2: Social Media
This time last year I had a barely active twitter account that I hardly looked at. It was hard for me to get into it and I couldn’t figure out why everyone was using “pound signs”! But I was amazed at the number of practitioners that were willing to teach and share their expertise with me through this medium. When people down and across the hall would hold back info and knowledge, my connections around the world poured into me directly and indirectly. In one year I’ve obtained over 900 meaningful followers and I’m learning from them daily. But I am still thirsty for more!

TNSHRMCheckpoint 3: MTSHRM and SHRM
Having never attended a SHRM conference, I’ve been really looking forward to opportunities to meet many of my fellow practitioners face-to-face and to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Shortly after rejoining my local chapter, I was given the opportunity to join the Social Media team for the TNSHRM13 state conference here in Nashville. I’ll be treating my time there like I’m headlining…and ensuring that everyone there knows how to do the Wobble. It’s still not enough though. I want more.

phrCheckpoint 4: Certification
At the time I had written out my goal list, I had already failed my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) once. So that was my grail of grails. I spent an insane amount of time preparing. Maintaining balance was extremely difficult…family time, work, and my new writing commitments. On June 8, 2013, after 2 years of attempts and exactly 1 year to the date of putting the goal on paper, I attained my HR certification. I learned a lot not only from the books and tests but also from the process itself. Though the PHR has been attained, the desire for more knowledge and understanding cannot end with the letters.

This post serves as a challenge, and a reminder for myself that we cannot get complacent when accomplishments are marked off of our lists. Our goals should merely be checkpoints and rest stops along the way to bigger and better things. Reaching one grail must motivate and propel us to the next.

This has been a great year for us. And I will continue to chase multiple grails, because they can only hold so much at a time…and my thirst for impact and achievement in this world can’t be contained in just one. And while the cup runneth over and I drink, I’m already planning for the next…and I believe that we will all benefit from the overflow.

Stay thirsty my friends!

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Under-Dreaming

“Every dream has risk associated with it. Some might have more than others, but each dream comes wrapped in some degree of risk. If it doesn’t, it’s not really a dream.” Excerpt From: Acuff, Jon. “Quitter.”

Waking up in a cold sweat is supposed to be what happens when we’ve had nightmares. But more times lately, it’s been because I can’t see where my dreams are taking me. Even more scary is the feeling that I’m unable to take my dreams where they and I need to go.

We wake up before we see what happens, then can’t get back to it quick enough to pick up where we left off.

As I get older, my nightmares have graduated from…
“Will I ever get that degree or certification?” to
“Will I find a career where I can be happy?” to
“Am I mature enough to be a husband?” to
“Can we afford kids?” to
“Am I creating and leaving behind a legacy for them?”

Will my grandkids be able to confidently say that I died a happy, fulfilled man, or will they remember me as a pissed off old dude that felt as if he never lived out his dream or potential.

photo-1Are we in workplaces or around people that allow us to chase our passions, or are we allowing our current situations to put the fire out before they’ve had a chance to really spark?

Often the daily grind of life and task-driven jobs zap us of the energy we need to feed our dreams. We’re so drained from nothingness all day that we are rushing through our lives simply to get to the weekend. Free time is reserved for trying to forget what we’ve been through all week instead of planting seeds for our future.

When time is made to map out our dreams, in comes fear and doubt. Too much logic, not enough courage. In comes thoughts of where we’ve been instead of where we ultimately want to be.

If you are living your dream, please don’t stop. You’re where I and countless others are trying to be. If you know what yours is and are on your way, keep pushing. If you are still hoping and waiting on that epiphany, don’t wake up yet. And if you see it, but don’t know exactly how to bring it to fruition, do not under-dream in efforts to avoid naysayers, dreamless individuals or colleagues that can only see how your worth profits them. While all won’t be supportive and many will not be able to contribute to your dream, having one is critical to our professional and personal lives and our ability to live them more abundantly.

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