Thankful for Clarity on Clarity, Deeper Learning from Leaders, & the Presence of Speaking

Day 2,229


In one of our learning sessions today the speaker shared this thought provoking insight, “Clarity is controllable.”

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a leader is providing the necessary clarity of goals for my team. This comment reminded me that of all that I do as a leader providing clarity is amongst the most important, if not the most important. What a perfect reminder for me to be intentional about being completely clear in our vision and goals!


One of my favorite The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson is one which the line is, “Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full.” That is exactly how I am feeling after 24 hours of our Express Leadership Academy Alumni Retreat. So many ideas are already stuffed into my brain bucket, I’m afraid if I add any more some will slosh out when I walk!

What I’m most appreciative for is the opportunity to learn from other leaders. Yes, the strategy and tactics are fantastic, but I’m talking about the deeper learning that is there is I remember to watch for it below the surface. How does the leader show their values in the way they communicate? If I listen to a deeper frequency there are more profound and impactful lessons to learn. There were two specifically today which moved me deeply.

One leader who is amongst the most successful in our 800+ offices showed such a deep level of humility. She’s done a superb job of quieting ego while continuing to lead the way to success. Her integrity shown through so clearly as well, everything she does is with excellence. She’s focused on the most important and gets at it. As I re-read Meditations I can’t help but see how she embodies so many of the Stoic principles.

Another leader is exceptionally courageous while also leading with dynamic clarity. She is willing to try new things, to see where the world is going and get there before anyone else does. She reminds me of the Wayne Gretzky quote, “Most people skate to the puck, I skate to where the pick will be.” That takes courage and old fashioned guts. New ideas are never easy and are often criticized… until everyone realizes just how brilliant the idea really is.  Her courage to do what’s right is truly uplifting.

There is no question I can draw inspiration from both of these leaders at a level deeper than their tactics and strategies. From them I can learn to be a better me. I am so thankful today for the opportunity to learn from them.


Speaking in front of a group is one of my favorite ways to be 100% focused in the present moment. There is no room to day dream, to drift off, or to consider all the things going on in life. 

There is only the audience to focus on, watching their nonverbals and responding accordingly. What’s hitting home, what’s not. Who had a deeply emotional connection to the specific line. Which phrases or points packed the most punch. The speaking itself is muscle memory, the true presence in in the micro adaptions to the audience to provide them the best possible experience.

Having an opportunity to speak to an audience is a practice in forced presence and focus, I am so appreciative for that opportunity!


Thankful for Taking a Breath, a Life Changing Moment, and Listening with Presence

Day 2,198


What a ride home it was today! While waiting at a red light I was rear ended. I pulled to the side of the road, saw there was damage, and then got back in to pull over in a safer place. While I did that the driver of the other car hit the gas and drove away.

Rather than getting angry I took a deep breath – heeding my advice from yesterday’s blog. I calmly called the police and they were able to get everything rolling. While I sat in the car and awaited further instruction I took another deep breath and started typing this blog.

I would normally have gotten very upset in a situation like this. Having just written about this very topic only yesterday helped me remember that what was done was done, there was no point in wasting emotional energy over it. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! 😉


Way back in the day a friend really caught my attention by asking a very simple question.

“Are you okay? You don’t seem yourself.”

For ways I’ll keep to myself that question literally altered the direction of my life for the better. I can honestly say the likelihood of my life being the same is almost zero thanks to her moment of focus, concern, and caring. I learned so many valuable lessons in that moment – about myself, life, and others. It was transformative.

The question was simple, the intent heartfelt, the impact profound. I appreciate that question, that moment, and that friend tremendously.


Sometimes we must listen with more than our ears. I know, technically you can only “hear” with your ears, but I swear there are other ways to “listen” to other people. Today I’m thankful I paused to really listen and take the appropriate action. I’m also thankful for the moment I described above as that helped me see the right action to take to help.


Thankful for Being Humbled By and Learning From Loss

Day 2,128

Our LuLu is definitely showing her age more and more quickly each day. She’s got some serious elbow issues that are causing a great deal of pain. The vet has her on a few doses of pain pills to help until we figure out if there’s any viable way to help her get healthy-ish.

LuLu has quickly brought the specter of loss into my life again. In many ways I know Death awaits us all, but when it gets close enough to sense it feels like a whole different level of awareness.

This evening I couldn’t help but chuckle at a somber realization that here I am, my book about grief just about to be published, and I’m humbled the impending sense of loss. We haven’t even gotten the worst of news, yet the feeling of loss is already catching like wildfire… and it feels wildly humbling. There is zero control I have in this part of the future, I have a similar feeling to being in Iceland alongside the mountains – I am so powerless and insignificant compared to the power of death and of nature.

While this feels (& sounds) very dark in many levels, there’s also an appreciation for the sensation buried down deep past the emotions. If I allow myself to look into the abyss of loss and don’t struggle in futility to gain control the sense of being completely humbled can feel oddly comforting and centering. I can only control how I respond, how i react, and how I process the moment. Truly letting go and accepting the lack of control, the tremendous powerlessness allows me to more clearly focus on choosing my response, how I frame the loss, and how I find purpose in the loss. It still hurts like hell, but there is a faint glimmer to be found when I look deeply enough for it.

We feel the fullest loss for those who we’ve loved most. The more the hurt, the more the love there’s been. As someone put it when Dad was dying, “don’t be sad for what you’ve lost, rejoice and be grateful for what you’ve had.”

As I laid next to LuLu on the deck, snuggled with her, and rubbed her belly I was on used on all we’ve been blessed to enjoy together. She’s brought me so many smiles, so much joy, and more love than I’d dreamt possible from a furry companion. LuLu has created so many awesome memories I will cherish forever and continue to talk with family about for as long as I’m blessed to walk the earth. I’m so fortunate for all the love she’s given in our years and years together.

I’m thinking back to what I learned from losing Dad I’m also reminded to more deeply appreciate each moment I get with her. She’s not gone yet, and who knows, she could still be with us for a very long time. One of the beauties of loss (& yes, I just said that) is the reminder it provides us to appreciate each moment we have. The specter of loss may be looming, but it doesn’t have to create shade.

As the old saying goes, “the nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.

Tonight I’m choosing to embrace the specter of loss. I will use it to create flowers in the garden of now until my tears water the flowers of tomorrow.


Thankful for an Interesting Realization – the Negativity of the Word “Should”

Day 2,030

In a conversation earlier today a teammate reminded me of a story we’d both recently heard from a cohort. The cohort had shared how the use of the word “should” was a personal battle cry for them, hearing it made them immediately stand up AGAINST whatever action the other person said “should” be done. My teammate and I both bristled thinking about both the times when we’ve heard that used on us as well as the times when we’ve used it when talking with others. It felt really uncomfortable, but we both kind of laughed it off and then moved on with our day.

In a different conversation with another person the word came up again. This time the other person immediately shared that “should” is a judgement word and has some very negative connotations. When we dove back into the use of the word my brain really had to pause and digest. What was being said was 100% spot on and truly enlightening on so many levels.

Quite often, when I use the word should it really does the exact opposite of what I’d like while also showing judgement on the person and/or their action. What even got me more was the realization that there are so many better ways to help each other than using “should.” Specifically, starting with the age old “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Rather than immediately passing judgement and sharing my supposed “right” way, what if I paused to ask more questions to understand the “why” of the situation? How much more enlightening would the conversations be to listen, learn, and grow rather than immediately move into “fixing” mode?

As we dug in the person also shared how they have heard of using an actual clicker to track all the times they say judgement words like “should” throughout the day. Without having one in hand my mind was already pretty rocked by catching MANY times those six letters came out of my mouth through the remainder of the day.

Wowza… The gap between who I am and who I’m called to be spread a little wider today, didn’t it? Hmm… that’s not quite right. Maybe a better analogy would be – the fog lifted to help me more clearly see how much of the gap I didn’t know existed? Yup, I’m leaving this whole long thought process in here, this blogging thing really helps me work things out and it feels right to leave it as a clue for my future self to go back to one day.

Sometimes all you can do is smile as you realize just how big the gap is, and realize that it just means there’s more opportunity to grow into who we are called to be. 🙂

If you want more info all you have to do is Google “should judgement word” and your mind will be blown as mine was.


Thankful for Remembering Lightbulb Moments Aren’t Created In an Instant or Alone

Day 2,025

Been an excellent day for a wide variety of reasons stretching from getting to know teammates better, learning new tricks, seeing the boys excel in school, having unexpected downtime, making progress in the areas that matter most, seeing incredible potential, and a profound sense of calm. As per the norm, throw in a handful of moments which remind me of the value of purpose. Wild. Even as I type all this my brain can’t quite realize this was all in only one day. Wowza!

Earlier in the day we had our monthly Think Day in Winona – that time when we pause reality for four hours to focus on working “on” the business rather than merely “in” it. Many insights, new ideas, and potential solutions throughout that thinking time together.

At one point I had one of those “Eureka” moments and had an excellent idea. For the briefest of seconds there was a tremendous sense of pride as my ego gave itself a quick pat on the back for the genius is so obviously thought it was in that moment… and then reality kicked in. This wasn’t a struck by insight moments in which I caught lightning in a bottle, nothing could be further from the truth.

This stroke of insight and genius was the result of MANY hours of life lessons, training, learning, thinking, and the like. When I really dissect the genesis of the idea I could see the different influences of books and articles I’ve read as recently as earlier in the day and as far back as a couple of decades. Conversations with clients, teammates, mentors, friends, family, and strangers all planted the seeds of the idea. Stories shared by others each left their own individual impacts. The focus on our values, the intensity of my preoccupation with purpose, and even some huge takeaways from a training in London, Ontario about 20 years ago all played into this idea. This wasn’t a spur of the moment, flip the switch, A-Ha moment… it was the culmination of a tremendously large number of hours spent honing a craft and knowledge.

As I was then complimenting my work ethic, drive, and wisdom, I realized something. This wasn’t even my idea! Honestly, it was an idea from a teammate which was generated by another teammate which was the result of a different idea from a conversation about an entirely different topic. This wasn’t “Mike’s Incredible Genius,” rather, this was the work of so many teammates, mentors, coaches, associates, clients, and the like. This was their idea, their genius all put together and on display.

By the time I’d realized this I was chuckling to myself, I swear I could even hear Dad loving call me one of my favorite nicknames in moments like this… “dumbass,” a la Red Foreman from That 70’s Show. 100% in a loving way, and 100% well deserved.

A stroke of genius which seems so obvious the moment it is uttered that we kind of stop and wonder how we all missed it. Not a lightning strike of insight – rather, the result of many, many, many hours of hard work, learning, and sharing of ideas between an incredibly large network of wonderful people, without any single one of which the idea may have never came to fruition. I just happened to have the opportunity to help connect the dots, I was the one who found the last puzzle piece laying on the floor after all but that piece was put together.

Those magical “Lightbulb Moments” are usually the result of so many hours of learning by so many people. I am thankful for that reminder today.

Not gonna lie, it felt good to put the last piece of the puzzle in place, but it feels even better to stand back and look at what we all created together. That’s success.


Day 1,982 – Thankful for Re-Reading a Classic – 1984 by George Orwell

For some reason the book 1984 has been calling out to me over the past couple of months. Once in a while it may be a news story which catches my eye and ignites a desire to pick it up. As I’ve read other books there may be a direct reference or even just a subtle hint which gets me thinking about the classic again. After putting it off I’ve picked it back up and have been rewarded with a wildly rich experience.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the quote about no person ever stepping into the same river twice. This maxim certainly holds for reading books. I’m a very different person than the one who’s read this book twice before and have the benefit of more years of life experience to view it from.

The story may have been written long ago but the struggles within it are almost as if Orwell were writing this story with the benefit of a crystal ball. Profoundly thought provoking, it’s got my brain going in so many directions at once.

If you haven’t read this book before or it has been more than a decade I’d recommend giving it a read. Very timely and guaranteed to cause discomfort in a beneficial way.

Time to get off my telescreen and get back to reading 😉


Day 1,969 – Thankful for a Well Stocked Tool Belt and Many Hours of Practice

I am continually reminded of the power of intentionality. By taking time to figure out what I really want in life I’ve been very blessed to see so many opportunities to live into my dreams and goals. Whether it is just my mind seeing more of what I want to look for or if there are truly more opportunities I really don’t know and I don’t really care which is right. Life is better when I spend time focused on what I would really like to focus on and accomplish.

Recently I was selected to give a keynote address at a conference I’d applied to. The funny thing is that I actually put in two applications. The first was with my business owner hat on, focused on recruiting, retention, and the importance of communication between leadership levels during a workforce shortage. I was positive this would be the one selected, it fits the theme of the event and is right in my normal wheelhouse. The second was a bit of a flier. Living into one of my goals for the year I went out on a limb and took a risk. It was something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time but I was nervous about being rejected, I felt very vulnerable. It was on a different topic I am very passionate about, one that I’ve worked on, and one I’ve written about often.

I only convinced myself to do it by convincing myself that it would be okay because the work based proposal would be the only one to be selected. LOL – and now look at how the tables have turned!

While that was fantastic news there’s something I’m much more thankful for today.

After finding out I was selected yesterday I panicked for exactly one breath and immediately moved into confidence. After the initial shock passed over I went into creative mode. I smiled and knew I would be successful in this.

I went back to my tool belt and selected the resources I would nee to start building. There were a couple of books I remembered reading which would help me out. I reached out to a mentor right away to give her a heads up of what was on the horizon. I started jotting notes to myself. I dug into my manuscript and old blogs and started pulling material forward.

Each of these tools were available so readily as I’d worked on preparing them long before they were needed. All the books I’ve read, the coaching I’ve received, the writing I’ve done – they all were at the ready. My confidence soared as I realized I had everything I need to be successful.

Additionally, my confidence was growing stronger as I have practiced for this many, many times. I’ve put in so many reps, so many hours. Between trainings, speeches, meetings, and the like I’ve honed my craft for hours and hours. All that practice will come in to help spring me forward into this project. Without all those hours and all that practice I would have so much further to go, so much more work to do.

In many ways it is the confidence I’ve felt when running a marathon. I’ve put my practice miles in and now it is time to perform. Knowing I’ve put in the work needed to get to the starting line helps my mind see that this is doable, a project I’m excited to dive into.

I am so thankful for prepping my tool belt early, for putting in the hours. Time to put them all to work to create something awesome!


Day 1,968 – Thankful for Yoga Opening My Mind for Five Words of Wisdom

There are so many reasons I enjoy yoga tremendously. Throughout the day many of those benefits were in my thoughts. My body was very loose even though I was in the car a lot today. I felt incredibly well rested when I woke up this morning, the workout last night helped my drift off to sleep quickly and deeply. The calm and stillness from the focus of the practice last night rolled right into this morning and has stuck around all day. Those benefits were awesome, but there was another reason I was thankful for yoga last night.

Five simple words which have been turning in my head since the last third of last night’s practice…

Nick, our instructor, was pushing us hard yesterday in a very good way. He kept encouraging us to go just a little further, to hold our breath a little longer, to move into a slightly more difficult position than the one we’d chosen. Long story short, he was helping us find our edge and push right up against it in a highly supportive environment.

At one point after we finished a difficult pose he shared five words he’d learned from a past teacher. When Nick shared the coaching I was completely present, my breathing focused, my mind cleared of any thought other than my breath. He spoke and I listened intently. The words struck me powerfully, such a juxtaposition to the deeply quiet calm I’d slipped into throughout yoga.

Since sharing the words of wisdom they’ve been reverberating in my mind for so many reasons. They seemed to unlock something I’ve been unknowingly struggling with. With those five words in mind I handled several things differently today than I ever would have.

Yoga helped me get to a quiet place in which I was ready to truly hear the coaching and let it sink in completely. One more reasons to love yoga, it helps me quiet my brain and my soul so I can listen completely.

The words of wisdom?

“See your students as powerful.


Day 1,883 – Thankful for Remembering to Listen

Two wonderful reasons to remember to listen today, both for very different reasons.

The first was remembering to listen rather than react. My mind quickly races to an answer, long before a question is asked. If I react too quickly I miss hearing the correct question and answer incorrectly. Pause, listen, think, and then respond if necessary. Too often I’ve responded when response was needed. Today reminded me of the power of listening completely and then responding in due time. Remember to listen rather than react.

The second was remembering to listen closely and attentively in the stillness. The voice can be heard anytime, but I must find stillness to hear it. Create space, eliminate noise, and listen with more than my ears. In that space if I listen closely with my soul I will hear the call. Remember to listen closely in the stillness.

Two simple lessons, both profound. Remember to listen, the reward is so much greater than talking and responding.


Day 1,883 – Thankful for Remembering to Listen

Two wonderful reasons to remember to listen today, both for very different reasons.

The first was remembering to listen rather than react. My mind quickly races to an answer, long before a question is asked. If I react too quickly I miss hearing the correct question and answer incorrectly. Pause, listen, think, and then respond if necessary. Too often I’ve responded when response was needed. Today reminded me of the power of listening completely and then responding in due time. Remember to listen rather than react.

The second was remembering to listen closely and attentively in the stillness. The voice can be heard anytime, but I must find stillness to hear it. Create space, eliminate noise, and listen with more than my ears. In that space if I listen closely with my soul I will hear the call. Remember to listen closely in the stillness.

Two simple lessons, both profound. Remember to listen, the reward is so much greater than talking and responding.