I announced a week or so ago that I have begun a new book. Below is the first draft of the introduction. I will be posting draft chapters all along. All of these will be edited and cleaned up and added to in the final version, but it will allow you to follow along with me as I write, and perhaps, just perhaps, you’ll get something out of it.
If you do, please share this with others. Share. Quote. Post. Whatever it is you do. Let’s spread the word.
This is the 1st draft of the introduction. My publisher tells me I need to let you know this is copyrighted by me, just for legal protection.
I have always had trouble explaining what I do in twenty-five words or less.
Part of the problem is that I am what one of my corporate clients called “The Last of the Great Generalists” I’ve been part of three technology startups over the years. If you have never done a startup, it is a different experience from most people’s jobs. To say the first few folks who launch a startup wear different hats is an understatement. A typical day in my startups had me being an engineer, an HR person, Marketing guy, business strategist, manager and creative – all in a single day.
As companies grow, there is a tendency towards specialization. Titles actually come to mean things. This person does this and that person does that. I have always been able to avoid that, and have been able to continue in my wide-open job description, often being called in to work on a host of special projects that went far beyond my title. Each project was a learning curve, and I love that. I have been blessed to do work I love, never be bored, and have more than my share of success.
When I decided to leave the corporate world and launch out on my own, I had sort of an idea of what I wanted to do, and I spent a year adding to my expertise. I read. I took classes. I got new certifications. But I was left with the same issue. There was no 25-word definition of what I do. I work as a personal life coach, specializing in people who want to build their leadership skills, and artists, and spiritual leaders. I have corporate clients who use my generalist’s skills to start or build businesses. I help organizations market better. I help those same organizations build a leadership culture. And I write, am an artist and corporate/architectural photographer.
I have been able to do all those things not because I am hugely smart or insanely talented, but because I am a very good watcher and very good listener. Given time, you can see the patterns of what works and what doesn’t, and why. And if you see those patterns, you can change them.
The same is true of our lives.
Here’s what I have learned. Few of us see ourselves very well. We have a built-in bias about ourselves that can be overly optimistic or overly pessimistic. And we spend a lot of our time and energy looking for the secret to success, as we define it.
Forget that. There are no secrets.
I don’t care who you are or what you are, whether you are an individual or an organization. I really don’t. There is no secret to getting from where you are to where you want to be. Forget the Facebook ads that show up on your feed every day claiming to have the secret to this or the secret to that. They lie.
OK, that might be a little strong. Actually, most of them work. But not because they have some mysterious secret, but because they apply what we who study success already know: There are no secrets to success.
People repackage it. People give the steps new names, new wrappers, and they do it loud and proud. But pay attention. Read the books. Invest in enough of the programs they are selling, buy enough of the books and you start to see it, how they all say the same things.
I should know. I may have the world’s largest collection of self help books. It all started when I was in my twenties as I began to read books by Norman Vincent Peal (The Power of Positive Thinking), Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) and Zig Ziglar. I had in mind the kind of life I wanted, and I was sure that if I just found the secret to getting there, I’d launch.
And I pretty much did. I have loved the work I have been privileged to do. Companies I was a part of succeeded. So did the organizations I was part of. My life was pretty close to what I wanted. But still, I read. I bought programs. There was, I believed, some secret out there that would take me further. If I could just find it, I reasoned, I’d launch into the stratosphere.
Instead, I came crashing down.
I don’t blame the books or the programs. No, I ran into a divorce and I frankly didn’t handle it well. I came undone, falling into a few years of dark depression, and putting myself into therapy. I had no idea at the time that I was about to enter the best period of my life. Because it was in therapy that I learned the first important lesson we need: That there are no secrets.
I thought my pain was unique. As we delved into my childhood and my life and success and failures, and figured out anew who I was and why, I wanted to believe all my issues were unique. My therapist, a wise and wonderful woman, persisted in telling me how wrong I was, that pretty much everything any of us experience has been experienced by zillions of others, and that we know the paths out.
I resisted that idea of course. I was sure that there was a secret that would touch into my uniqueness that would get me out of my dark place. And all I had to do was find it.
But my therapist is a persistent woman. She never stopped hammering home and once I gave up my hard-headed insistence that no one else could possibly get where I was and listened to the tried and true therapies guess what happened.
Yeah, I dug right out, got my depression under control, and reclaimed myself. Life became good again. I moved forward. And that was my first exposure to the idea that there are no secrets.
A decade or so ago, I left my startup/corporate world and moved towards the work I do now, coaching and consulting with individuals and companies that want to move forward, grow, and follow their dreams. I didn’t do this willy nilly. I looked at my own successes to find where I excelled, and where I found the most joy. I asked myself what got me excited and left me satisfied, and it always came down to empowering the people and organizations around me to rise.
Knowing that, I went back to school. I studied coaching. I studied organizational success. I talked to business leaders and I talked to people who had worked for me. “What,” I asked, “Made a difference? What got you where you wanted to go?”
I studied. I joined the John Maxwell Team. If you don’t know John Maxwell, you should. John is the author of over 70 books on leadership and success. Over fifty of them have made the best seller/s list. He’s been named as the most influential leader in self-development and leadership. And he trains and certifies coaches, consultants, teachers, and leaders to go out and help others. It’s a rigorous training, with hundreds of hours of courses and an ongoing education component. And at the center of his philosophy is the idea of servant leadership.
Which happens to be just how I see leadership, and what I wanted to be at the center of my own coaching and consulting practice.
So, for almost two years, I poured myself into self-examination and education. I didn’t want to be a fly by night, take ten hours of classes and call yourself a coach kind of coach. I wanted to be a coach well prepared to serve my clients. I read. I talked to people. I took courses. I reread a lot of the self-help books that I had collected all my life.
And that is when I realized that my therapist’s words to me: “There are no secrets.” pertained to success in life and business as much as they pertained to the therapy that dug me out of my emotional hole. Reading them all over a short period of time, it lept out at me. All these books said the same thing! No matter how they tried to gussy it up, they said the same thing. For forty years and longer (I’ve only been reading these books for forty years, so…) they have been saying the same thing with different terms and takes.
And yet… we still think there are secrets. We buy into the idea that there are secrets, and if we just latch onto it, all will fall in place.
That’s half true. There are no secrets, but if we latch onto what people have been telling us for decades and longer, all will fall into place. Really. I’ve seen it work in my coaching. I’ve seen it work in my consulting. These things work. They have always worked. No matter who writes them down or teaches them, or what terms they use, these things work.
Maybe we need the idea that there is a secret. It gives us an excuse when we don’t succeed. We tell ourselves we just haven’t found the secret yet.
But that’s not true. The gig is up. The secret is out there in plain view. Because there is no secret.
I have a personal mission statement. I drafted it a couple of decades ago and it has stood up remarkably well over those two decades. No matter what I have done for a living, those principles, because they are true to who I( am have stood. And the first principle? That my first purpose in life is to help others reach their potential. I do that now in all my work, and it is what I want to do in this little book.
And this book? There is nothing new in it. Nothing at all. All I do is is consolidate the books I’ve read and take you through a journey that tells what has already been told a few hundred times.
I am not a great original thinker. But I am a pretty good teacher. In fact, I am a really, really good teacher. And so that is what this book is. More a teaching than an exposure of any secret I have. I’d ask you to treat it more like a class. Read a chapter. There will be a few questions at the end of each chapter. Answer them honestly, and with some thought and time to let the questions and your answers settle in before you move to the next chapter.
Do that, and I think you will be surprised at where you go.
Be well. Travel wisely,