Your Path to Greatness

Today’s guest author is Ben Newman, a distinguished author, sales expert, international speaker and coach from St. Louis. In 2012, The Napoleon Hill Foundation recognized him as one of the Top 51 speakers and thought leaders in the world. Ben is a four-time author, and his latest book, Own YOUR Success: The Power to Choose Greatness and Make Everyday Victorious is a #1 business best-seller; it was ranked #2 in August 2012 by 800.CEO.READ for “What Corporate America is Reading.” 

Success is defined in different ways by different people, but more and more it has become synonymous with money and status.  Real success, however, is less about results or a bottom line, and more about the process of achieving goals and dreams. 

Many business people today are overwhelmed by the need to maintain results-driven success.  Continue reading


Success Story: Changing Our Thinking to Reach the Sky

This inspiring guest post is from Heather Stubbs who puts her work and life experience as a stage and concert performer to good use today as a speaker and presentation skills trainer. Here Heather shares the longer-term view of work she did with disabled young women…recounting the successes and joy!

Whatever your challenges, you have the potential to stand tall, glowing with the knowledge that you’re a worthy, valuable human being. That’s what’s happening for a group of young women I met nearly two years ago. They are all people who are supported by Community Living, an organization which helps connect people with intellectual disabilities into their community so that they can participate and be included as rightful citizens.

Community Living in Peterborough, Ontario received funding through a project initiated by the Ministry of the Status of Women Canada. Combining that project with the desire to raise CLP’s profile in the community, the Director of Operations, Barb Hiland, decided to embark on a series of public presentations in which women with intellectual disabilities would speak about themselves and their experiences and, ultimately, conduct presentations to the public about issues pertaining to women living with intellectual disabilities. Knowing there would be training required, Barb hired me to spend four coaching sessions with these young women. In Use Your Gifts, I wrote about how inspiring it was to work with these enthusiastic students.


Eight young women from the group carried on to become “Ambassadors” and leaders for the Status of Women and Community Living Peterborough. Take a look at some of their accomplishments. (What follows are not their real names.) Jenny gave a presentation at a Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, speaking clearly and seriously; Cathy thanked a crowd of over 600 people at a fund raising activity. Christie won the Youth Award at Community Living Peterborough’s AGM for her contributions to increase awareness of women’s issues. Maggie speaks so well that she volunteered to do an interview for the local TV station. The interview publicized a Community Living event to which she donated one of her paintings. This week, Maggie has a photo shoot with a provincial magazine for an article on accessibility. She was chosen as a model from many across the province and will be paid significantly for her time.

Barb tells me that Linda is now a member of Community Living Peterborough’s Board of Directors and a member of People First, a self-advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities. Barb has no doubt that she will be President of the Peterborough Chapter some day. She is on too many committees to remember, and she just shines!

These eight young women have conducted presentations all over the community – over 40 and counting! They carry their heads high and have all the confidence in the world to speak up to have others hear their voices. They are now mentoring another eight women to follow in their footsteps.

Meeting with the PM

Recently I received an email from Barb Hiland to update me on the latest accomplishments of my public speaking students. Barb said, “As the pinnacle of our goals, we hoped to go to Ottawa and see the Prime Minister to thank him for the funding and to tell him about all of the personal accomplishments these women have made to our community.” That dream came true in May of 2012, when four of the eight young women were well received by Prime Minister Steven Harper, as well as the Minister for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose, and Peterborough’s MP, Dean Del Mastro. I have on my computer screen some photos of the event. I wish I could share them all with you, but I don’t have permission to publicize them. The one that particularly gives me goose bumps is of tall, willowy Jenny, formerly so shy, standing at full height, shaking hands firmly with the Prime Minster of Canada, and looking him squarely in the eye. What a transformation!

Training = Growth

Barb writes, “All the women have done exceptionally well. Their former teachers are ‘stunned’ at their growth and they never envisioned such a positive future for them. I think it was critical to have you come so early in the Project and teach the group about public speaking and the skills they needed to develop. It was our most intense topic for training, but well worth the investment. It had a huge impact on the young women’s development and ultimately, their success. Public speaking training instilled them with confidence, and as a result, the sky is the limit for their success.”

Do you find it challenging to speak in front of a group? When I think of the challenges these young women have overcome, I realize that the only thing that holds us back is what’s in our head. When we change our thinking, truly, the sky’s the limit!

“Reach for the Sky” Image from Exploding Dog



This Week’s Fav Leadership Reading

Setting Employees Free To Do Good (Nicole Skibola, Forbes)

“The next time you’re thinking about ways to engage your workers, think about the intersection between your business growth and your community and give your employees the chance to shine.” My last corporate America employer had an employee volunteer day. Tens of thousands of employees donated their time and love on a given day. The givers and the getters all ended the day feeling like they had made a difference.

Lost Dignity at Work (Jeremy C. Garlington, The Garlington Report)

If you’re an employer who has established currently having a job as a requirement for hiring, read this post and reflect whether or not you’re living up to that lofty mission statement your organization probably has been doing good. “It would serve large employers and their leaders well to evaluate whether the value called the dignity of work still exists in their workplace.”

The Real Definition of Success (Paul Castain)

The Get Your BIG On team loves pithy posts. Ones that stop you dead in mid-coffee sip. Ones that prompt self-reflection. Paul’s post on the meaning of success does just that…and throws in a “triple dog dare” just for good measure.

How Leaders Turn Screw-ups into Learning Opportunities (Mike Figliuolo)

Effective leaders intent on developing the talents of their team take advantage of teachable moments. Mike recounts several incidents from his military career in which mistakes became the catalyst for learning rather a mark of failure. “As a leader, the most important part is your reaction to these events. Those reactions are what end up defining you in the eyes of your team.”

An Introvert Tackles Political Leadership Camp (Ashley-Nicole Weatherington, WE-News)

What a great story of personal development! A shy young women, fearful of public speaking, steps into her power and expands her comfort zone by completing a six-day political leadership program. Well-done, Ashley-Nicole!

Quote of the week. Here’s a really good one to chew on! “Practical life teaches us that people may differ and that both may be wrong: it also teaches us that people may differ and both be right. Anchor yourself fast in the latter faith, or the former will sweep your heart away.” ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


Weekly Fav Leadership Reading

The perils of bad strategy (McKinsey Quarterly, June 2011 by Richard Rumelt. Requires free membership)

Wondering whether or not your organization has a solid strategy? If you have doubts, read Richard’s stimulating article to ascertain whether your firm has bad strategy masquerading as a good one. “Like a quarterback whose only advice to his teammates is ‘let’s win,’ bad strategy covers up its failure to guide by embracing the language of broad goals, ambition, vision, and values. Each of these elements is, of course, an important part of human life. But, by themselves, they are not substitutes for the hard work of strategy.”

9 Things Successful People Know (Success Magazine)

Frank I. Luntz has defined nine elements he believes are necessary for success. While we disagree with including perfectionism on the list, the other eight have merit and a worth a look-see to determine if you have those competencies. The discussion questions at the end of the post help direct one’s thinking and self-reflection.

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work (TED Talk)

If you or your boss or anyone within your organization is hung up on the value of office face-time, grab a solitary cup of coffee or glass of wine and listen to Jason share why most of us get so little tangible work done at the office. I’m betting you’ll never think about M&M’s the same way again!

Don’t Let the Bear Market Ruin Morale (BNET by John Baldoni)

With all the turmoil in the financial markets and across the world, it’s highly likely that your employees are feeling fear and uncertainly at work. John offers three easy to implement ideas for re-assuring your team. “When times are uncertain, people look for strong leadership. Make certain with your people that they do not need too look far for it.”

Thought of the week. If you’re a parent or work with young people, you’ll find this quote inspirational. “Reverence is an emotion that we can nurture in our very young children, respect is an attitude that we instill in our children as they become school-agers, and responsibility is an act that we inspire in our children as they grow through the middle years and become adolescents.” ~Zoe Weil


Fav Leadership Reading

Inside Pfizer’s Palace Coup (CNN Money post by Peter Elkind and Jennifer Reingold with Doris Burke)

Wow, talk about a fascinating story of dysfunctional leadership! This article is long but well worth the read. It details the rise and fall story of Jeff Kindler, former Pfizer CEO. It’s all here: ego, backstabbing, cliques, insidious competition, rudeness, callousness, passivity and more. Everything on the shadow side of leadership…great lessons for NOT to behave.

How to Find a Child’s Missing Shoe (and Other Entitlement Issues) (Richard and Linda Eyre for Success Magazine)

While the central thrust of this article is helping children understand ownership, the points made and process diagram are useful for adults (and leaders, too!). “Jason felt no sense of ownership for his shoe! Why would he? He didn’t buy it; he hadn’t given up anything for it. He hadn’t even picked it out. And without ownership, he couldn’t have felt a sense of responsibility.”

Making Vs.Taking Decisions (Matt Angello on Bright Tree Consulting Group)

In this interesting post, Matt compares the western style of “making” decisions with the European model of “taking” decisions. It’s a nuanced distinction, to be sure, yet one worth pondering as one considers the economic shambles still enveloping us and the disarray in Washington.

Michael Watkins’ ‘The First 90 Days’ (book review by Patrick Brigger)

A very succinct and informative book review: this abstract provides the ten challenge areas new leaders face and four leadership situations defined with a “Stars” model - start-up, turnaround, realignment and sustaining success.

First Look: Leadership Books for August 2011 (Michael McKinney on Leadership Now)

Check out Michael’s sneak peak of five new leadership books being released this month…just in time, perhaps, for some vacation reading!

To ponder, courtesy of Lewis Carroll:

“Speak when you’re spoken to!” The Queen sharply interrupted her.

“But if everybody obeyed that rule,” said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, “and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for you to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that — “

“Ridiculous!” cried the Queen. “Why, don’t you see, child — ” here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation.

Shoe photo from Chixpix


Success - What’s Your Target?

The article title “Are you willing to pay the price for success?” did its job. I began reading.

Hard work is the key to success, so work diligently on any project you undertake. If you truly want to be successful, be prepared to give up your leisure time and work past 5 PM and on weekends.  ~ Charles Lazarus

By the end of the second paragraph I knew this article was something aimed at “first act” me – that ambitious woman who was all too willing to pay the price the author offered up as requirements for success: long hours, the Blackberry grafted to my palm, living out of suitcases, singing the corporate song and perpetually doing more with less.

“Second act” me would love to introduce the article writer to Marilyn, a client who says “I’ve lost my way and don’t know what to do.” (Hey, I’d like to chat with him, too.) Marilyn, like so many others (including me!), enthusiastically anteed up the big blind for corporate success, and paid it over and over again for 20 years.

Marilyn achieved the success she sought – the coveted senior vice president role for a large multi-national firm.

Now, after two years in her long sought treasure, Marilyn questions not so much the price (that was clear and understood from the beginning) but rather the success itself, i.e., all that for this:  longer hours, more travel, a single-minded business focus on the bottom line and the stock price, and greater pressure to do more with less.

As Marilyn described it, it was just more of the same only on a bigger scale.

“There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way.” ~Christopher Morley

What the article author and Marilyn did was define the price. Neither defined success.

  • Is success the corporate corner office, the lofty salary, the grand job title?
  • Is success feeling contentment, knowing that you’ve made a difference?
  • Is success public acclaim or being a celebrity?
  • Is success being able to work from home wearing your sweats and no mascara and/or not shaving?
  • Is success writing that anonymous six-figure check to your favorite charity?
  • Is success having a home on both coasts, a luxury car, designer clothes?
  • Or is it something totally different? Even a combination of the above?

“Every human has four endowments: self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom: the power to choose, to respond, and to change.”  ~Dr. Stephen Covey

Whether we define and measure success by or with things or outcomes or feelings, the choice is ours. There’s no right or wrong answer.

The key for fulfillment comes with knowing what our personal success target is.  That way, when we claim our prize, we’re getting what we truly wanted.

Have you thought about what success means to you?



The Subtleties of Success

This inspiring guest post comes from Tristan Bishop  ( Twitter as @KnowledgeBishop). From his early days defining the knowledge management vision for the first online bank (Wells Fargo) to his current role at Symantec, Tristan is a role model for thought leadership and generosity.  The BIG team is delighted he’s sharing his insightful views here!

In rare cases, a concept can be more easily defined by describing what it ISN’T, rather than what it is. For example, many Physicists describe “darkness” as “the absence of light.”  The Physics Classroom states it this way:

“Black is not actually a color. Technically speaking, black is merely the absence of the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum.”

Much like darkness, success is a concept best described by what it isn’t.  Just as all that glitters isn’t gold, that which seems to be successful isn’t always so.  When most folks think of success, they associate it with achieving a given objective. But true success is deeper and richer than this.  There is a subtle difference between genuine success and moral failure: a thin dividing line that many miss.

Here’s the D.E.A.L.

I propose that true success lies in achieving the objective, WITHOUT sacrificing in these four areas:

1. Devotion

The most common regret expressed by the dearly departing is that they spent too much time striving and not enough time connecting. As the saying goes, no headstone reads “If only I’d spent more time at the office.”

Consider this: If turning a profit requires turning your back on loved ones, can such an endeavor truly be called a success?


Although no one begins an initiative with a plan to stray from their moral compass, temptations and shortcuts inevitably show. Amazingly, there ARE those who reluctantly choose astounding profit with a side of guilt over modest profit and a clear conscience. 

Consider this:If an objective is met at the expense of one’s own ethics, can it truly be called a success?

3. Altruism

Ambition is a powerful thing, and like most forms of power, it can be used for good or ill. The way to measure if ambition if healthy or corrupt is by taking a sober look at who benefits from the resulting achievements. If many prosper through the ambition of one, the ambition was pure, and led to success.

Consider this:  If you’re the only one to benefit from your victory, can it truly be called a success?

4. Loyalty

Notable tennis champion Althea Gibson has famously said, “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” I believe this to be true of nearly all victories. But as projects meet with inevitable complications, many blame partners and absolve themselves. When stakes are high, too many dispose of relationships in order to protect reputation.

Consider this:  If you break trust in order to claim credit, can the accomplishment truly be called a success?

So you see,  subtle though it may be, supposed success that demands such sacrifices is simply no success at all. So be true to your values and honor your conscience. You’ll reap the reward of genuine victory in your life and leadership.

Art by D.Cash