Recover with honor

I’m sorry to call you so
late,” said Cynthia, the senior project manager on one
of my company’s largest consulting projects. The clock
beside my bed showed 3 a.m.,
and I knew from experience
that this call would not bring
good news.

“The new system is scheduled to go live in three days,
but we’ve just discovered a
problem,” she said.

I could hear the urgency in
her voice as well as the
sounds of her team scrambling in the background.

“One of the major features of
the system has a fatal error
that only occurs under very
specific circumstances,”
Cynthia said. “We can fix it,
but we’ll need two weeks.

There’s no way we can
make the launch date.”

I was stunned fully
awake when I realized
what this would mean to
our client. Intense preparations, including international travel, training, press
releases and a public
launch celebration, would
have to be postponed.

I dreaded the thought of the
call I would now have to
make.

When you fail, be the
first to admit it

Over the next few hours, I
reviewed the problem in
detail, listened to explanations
of why our testing process had
failed to detect it and carefully
planned the message I would
give to our client. But through
it all, I was fighting the temptation to keep the problem
hidden.

Each time I thought of calling our client, I imagined a
series of reasons why full disclosure wasn’t necessary. My
mind raced with rationalizations, including the high likelihood that the error wouldn’t
be discovered and could be
quietly resolved in the background without the client ever
knowing it existed.

But then I asked myself a
simple, but powerful, question
— What would I want someone else to do in the same situation? The answer was
immediate and clear: I would
want to hear the full truth as
quickly as possible. A few
minutes later, I placed the call.

When you face your next
failure, you will be tempted to
either hide or deny it — a
temptation made stronger by
all the times you have seen
others respond in this way.
But if you have the courage to
disclose all the facts, no matter how painful, you will begin
to rebuild trust with those
who depend on you.

When you fail, take
personal responsibility
for the resolution

The most important statement I made in my call to the
client was, “I take full responsibility for the resolution.”
Making this statement elevated my commitment from the
level of an organizational
imperative to the higher level
of a personal promise. It also
created an accountability that
kept me going through the
long days and nights that followed as we worked to fix
the problem.

Success belongs to everyone on the team, but failure
must be owned by the leader.

The next time you fail,
make yourself publicly and
personally accountable for
the resolution. Become the
leader who is willing to
place your own reputation at
stake. When you do, you’ll
find that this level of commitment not only drives your
performance, but it also
earns the respect of everyone around you.

When you fail,
be willing to learn

It was hard for me to accept
all that happened on this project. I had wanted to be the
leader who stood proudly at
the podium during the launch
celebration — not the leader
who had to admit and own a
major failure.

But a single failure can
teach you more than a dozen
successes if you are humble
enough to learn. By accepting, and recovering, from
this failure I was forced to
grow in ways that I now
know were essential to my
future success.

Throughout your life and
your career, you will
inevitably experience failure,
particularly if you are
attempting great things.
When you do, remember that
it is not failure that defines
your character; it’s how you
recover.

Choose to recover with
excellence and with honor,
and you will transform your
mistakes into the experiences that ultimately make
you the leader and the person you want to be.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and
their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans more than 30 years,
including a decade as CEO of a company recognized four times as one of the “25 Best Companies to Work
For in America.” Jim is also a nationally recognized keynote speaker and the author of “Choose Your Life!
a powerful proven method for creating the life you want.” He can be reached at [email protected].

Transform your goals

“I’m not sure why my company hired you,” said Jeff,
a new coaching client.
“I’m really good at setting
goals, and I really don’t think
I need any help.”

Jeff was partially correct.
He regularly set goals for
himself and for his team.
Unfortunately, he seldom
achieved them — a characteristic that had led his company to suspect he was not
the leader it needed. Hiring
me was a final attempt to
help him.

As we continued our first
coaching session, I asked
Jeff to share the goals he
had set for the coming year.
He withdrew a binder from
his briefcase and opened it
on the table in front of us.

“This binder contains all
of our goals as a team, broken down into four major
categories,” Jeff said
proudly.

Over the next few minutes, Jeff reviewed the
four categories, each of
which contained at least
five goals. All told, he had
set more than 20 separate
goals for his team, all of
which were classified as
“high priority.”

When he finished, Jeff
leaned back in his chair and
said, “Now, do you still think
I need help?”

With real compassion, I
said, “Yes.”

Decide what’s important

The first difficulty Jeff
faced is one that affects
almost every leader — saying no to the relatively
important in order to focus
on the truly important.

Without question, this is
easy to say, but it’s hard to
do. It’s hard to say no to a
good idea, even in deference
to a great one. It’s also hard
to say no to an idea that’s
politically correct to support, even if it’s not the right
focus. Most of all, it’s hard to
say no because limiting your
goals increases your risk if
you choose incorrectly.

But the more goals you set,
the more you spread the
focus of your team. Set
enough goals, and the focus
on each one will be so small
that it is almost meaningless.
Limiting the number of goals
is the only way to ensure
that enough time and talent
will be applied to achieve
exceptional results.

When I forced Jeff to identify the most important goals
out of the 20 he had chosen,
it was like a root canal without anesthetic, but he eventually narrowed his list to
three.

Assess new behaviors

Jeff’s next assignment was
the most often overlooked
aspect of effective goal setting — identifying the new
behaviors his team would
need to adopt.

Jeff and I made a list of the
changes that achieving the
three goals would require of
his team. The list contained
existing activities that would
now have to be performed at
a higher level, requiring the
team to identify best practices, document new standards and develop training.
The list also contained
entirely new activities for
which even more change
was required. In the end, we
identified more than 26
changes that would have to
be fully adopted for the team
to succeed.

Changing human behavior
is hard, even in the best of
circumstances. While it’s
common for a leader to
assess the staffing, technology and expense requirements
of achieving a goal, it’s rare
to see an assessment of the
behavioral changes it will
require. Identifying this critical aspect in advance
allowed Jeff to understand
the magnitude of the changes
and to plan accordingly.

Prepare to follow through

Despite all we had done, the
most difficult aspect of achieving Jeff’s goals still remained
— following through.

In the next few weeks, we
engaged his team in refining
and solidifying our analysis,
knowing that they would
identify things we had
missed. We also designed performance tracking that would
enable Jeff to remain focused
and detect early warning
signs when progress was
stalling as well as regular
communication methods and
personal accountabilities for
each member of his team.

Jeff ultimately transformed
his goals from a list of things
he hoped he would do to a
set of results he knew he
would deliver. In the end, he
became the leader both he
and his company wanted
him to be.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and
their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans more than 30 years,
including a decade as CEO of a company recognized four times as one of the “25 Best Companies to
Work For in America.” Jim is also a nationally recognized keynote speaker and the author of Choose Your
Life! a powerful proven method for creating the life you want. He can be reached at [email protected].

Do one thing

I’m totally overwhelmed,”
said Karen, one of my coaching clients. “Now that I know
what I really want, I can’t find
the time to pursue it.”

A successful partner in a
law firm as well as a devoted
wife and mother, Karen had
originally come to me because
she felt an unsettling longing
that something was missing
from her life.

Through a powerful coaching exercise, she uncovered a
passion that had been buried
for years — the desire to be a
writer. Although Karen was a
successful lawyer, often using
her writing skills to prepare
compelling legal documents,
she realized she was longing
to write fantastically imaginative stories for children. It
was a dream she held as a
teenager but had abandoned for a more financially rewarding career as
an attorney.

Like so many others,
Karen’s challenge wasn’t
only discovering her passion; it was finding time to
pursue it.

Start small

After years of postponing
her dream, Karen’s first
impulse was to write for an
hour a day, but a closer look
at her calendar revealed that
even an hour a week would be
a challenge — a conclusion
that left her discouraged.

To combat this, I had her
make a list of actions that
would move her forward,
while requiring no longer than
10 minutes each to complete.
Her list included more than 20
simple ideas, such as brainstorming two different titles,
writing a one-paragraph summary of her main character,
creating three possible
names for this character and
asking her children which
name they liked best.

Because each item on the
list was so easy to do, Karen’s
confidence was quickly
restored, and she was anxious to get started.

Are you longing to pursue a
passion but overwhelmed by
the whirlwind of your life? If
so, then make a list like
Karen’s and do just one thing
this week to begin. Although
each task may seem insignificant by itself, starting small
will enable you to take the
critical first steps.

Remember, whatever you’ve
dreamed of being cannot happen until you begin.

Keep your promises

“Are you coming?” The text message from my
friend Sam flashed on
my phone just as I was beginning an important meeting. In
an instant, I realized what I
had done.

One week earlier, I had seen
Sam in the airport, and after
catching up briefly, Sam had
suggested that we have lunch
sometime soon. When I enthusiastically agreed, he said
“How about next Tuesday?” I
knew that I was not traveling
that day, so I accepted and
made a mental note to check
my calendar later to be sure I
was really open.

By the time I left the airport,
my mental note was lost.

When Tuesday arrived, I was
starting a meeting in my
office while my friend Sam
was waiting at our favorite
restaurant. When I called to
explain, the disappointment in his voice was
clear, but what he said
struck me to the heart.

“I understand what happened, but I wouldn’t have
expected it to happen with
you,” he said.

I can still feel the sting of
those words, but I also know
that they taught me one of the
most valuable lessons in the
business of life: the importance
of keeping your promises.

Keep the promises
you make through
your words.

When I accepted Sam’s invitation without knowing
whether I was available, I
made a promise that I was not
fully committed to keep. But
when I failed to even write it
down, I reduced the level of
my commitment, and the
value of my word, to almost
nothing.

When you make a promise,
are you absolutely committed
to following through, or is the
phrase “if I can” the unspoken
caveat behind your words?

Sometimes, the pressure to
accept an invitation or agree
to a deadline is so strong
that you commit without
knowing whether you can
really deliver. Even if there
are consequences to saying
no, the risk of saying yes
when you’re not sure is
greater because you are
gambling on two fronts.

First, you are gambling
with your own integrity, and
if you fail, you’re risking
damage to trust that is hard
to rebuild. Second, you are
gambling with the integrity
of the person to whom
you’ve committed, because
he or she has likely made
other commitments based
on your promise to deliver.

I did not know that Sam had
invited his son to join us for
lunch that day, promising that
I would be able to offer guidance on a career decision he
was facing. By disappointing
my friend Sam, I also caused
him to disappoint his son.

Starting today, resolve that
every promise you make will
be one that you can, and
will, keep, barring only catastrophic circumstances.
Don’t say you will complete
the report by noon, assuming that delivery by 3 p.m.
will probably be acceptable.

Instead, set the higher
standard of saying what you
will do, and then doing what
you say.

If you do this consistently,
you will become known as a
person who can be trusted
and that trust will become the
foundation for success in your
career and your relationships.

Keep the promises
you make through
the life you lead.

The painful experience of
disappointing my friend was
made worse by my being the
author of a book on character
and authenticity in life — a
book that both Sam and his
son had read.

It’s important to remember
that in every belief you
express, in every role you
accept and in every aspect of
the image you project, you are
making promises — promises
for authenticity, integrity and
consistency — promises to
which your life makes you
accountable.

Before you talk about your
values or accept a leadership
role where certain attributes
are implied, understand that
from that moment you will be
expected to live up to them. No
one expects you to be perfect,
but these decisions set a standard — one which you will
have to strive for consistently.

Thankfully, my lunch with
Sam and his son was rescheduled and our friendship
remains strong and vibrant.
But I have not forgotten the
lessons I learned that day.

Be careful to make promises
you can keep, and be committed to keep the promises you
make, and you will build trust
and integrity in all you do.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and
their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans more than 30 years,
including a decade as CEO of a company recognized four times as one of the “25 Best Companies to
Work For in America.” Jim is also the author of “Choose Your Life! a powerful, proven method for
creating the life you want.” He can be reached at [email protected].

Become the bridge

“I really need your help,” said
Susan, the human resources
executive at one of my consulting clients.

The anxiety in her voice was
clear, and I knew that whatever
the problem was that prompted
her call, it was serious.

“Over the past year, we’ve
hired some great new talent,
but we’re having trouble integrating them into the team,” she
said. “Most of the new people
are younger — some of them
were even hired directly from
college — and now they’re having tremendous conflict with
our senior people. The tension
between the generations is
escalating. If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to have
a crisis on our hands.”

After two hours of brainstorming, Susan and I agreed
to take the entire team off-site for an open dialogue that
I would facilitate, hoping
that we would find answers
to the challenges undermining this valuable team.

From the moment we
began the off-site meeting,
tempers flared. The senior
members of the team, mostly
composed of the baby boomer
generation, portrayed the new
team members as lacking
respect and a strong work ethic.
The new team members, all of
whom were members of the
millennial generation, accused
the seniors of being inflexible
and unimaginative.

Susan’s assessment had been
right — this was a team in crisis.
After taking a much needed
break, I reassembled the entire
team into pairs — one senior
teammate with a newly hired
one — and gave them a radical
assignment. For the next hour,
they were not allowed to discuss any of their differences.
They were only allowed to discuss the characteristics that
they both wanted to see in the
team. When the hour was over,
each pair would explain what
they had found in common and,
more importantly, why each
characteristic was personally
important to both of them.

As soon as the first pair finished their report, I knew we
would find the answers we
needed. Pair after pair described
characteristics that bridged
the generations, and as they
explained why each characteristic was important, their passion and commitment to see the
team succeed were clear.

Soon, they had a list of shared
characteristics that exceeded
their differences, but they also
had something far more valuable — an understanding that,
while their approaches might be
different, they actually wanted
many of the same things.

Leadership that is authentic.

While the baby boomers wanted leaders whom they could
respect and trust, the millennials wanted leaders that were
“real.” What they discovered
was a common desire to be led
by individuals who would tell
the truth even when it was difficult, who would acknowledge
their mistakes, and who were
genuinely passionate about the
company and their team.

Work that matters.

Initially, one
of the greatest differences was
the boomers “work ethic” contrasted with the millennials
perceived desire to only do
tasks that were interesting or
appealing. In the end, both
generations discovered that
what they really wanted was a
sense of contribution — to see
the connection between their
work and the team’s ability to
reach its goals. As one of the
boomers summarized, “Every
one of us wants to feel valued
and to know our work is
important.”

Companies that stand for something.

In the wake of recent
scandals, both generations were
passionate about working for an
organization they could believe
in. This meant having a clearly
defined set of corporate values
and ensuring that the company’s
actions were consistent with
them. But it also meant going
beyond simply making a profit
to supporting service to the
community and preservation of
the environment as part of the
company’s mission.

Lives that can be balanced.

For both generations, flexibility
was essential. While they
agreed on the importance of
making a significant investment in their jobs, they needed
the ability to creatively balance
that investment with priorities
such as family and health.

As the day came to an end,
this divided team was now
joined through the understanding of all the team members had
in common. Whatever challenges remained, they knew
they would meet them together.

Look deeply today at the people on your own team and you
will likely find that the things
you share outnumber your differences. Start now to focus on
authentic leadership, integrity,
inclusiveness and flexibility, and
you will become the bridge that
unites the generations.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and
their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans more than 30 years,
including a decade as CEO of a company recognized four times as one of the “25 Best Companies to
Work For in America.” Jim is also the author of “Choose Your Life! a powerful, proven method for
creating the life you want.” He can be reached at [email protected].

Leverage your limitations

I was already complaining
before I arrived at the
dojo that day. I was tired from four days of business
travel, and my ankle was
throbbing with the pain of a
sprained Achilles tendon
that wouldn’t heal.

As I stretched to loosen my
53-year-old body, I looked
around at the other students,
most of whom were almost
three decades younger. I
envied their youthful energy
and thought of how much
more difficult it was for me
to keep up my training with
the added challenges of my
job, a demanding schedule
and my aging muscles — all
obstacles that I believed
they did not face.

At this same moment, I
noticed a new student in the
class. She was a beautiful
blond girl standing patiently
while one of the instructors wrapped a protective
cloth around her left hand
in preparation for sparring.
Even though I could only see
her left side, it was easy to tell
that she had the lean, muscled
look of an athlete.

“Now, there’s a perfect
example,” I thought. “Youth,
athleticism, beauty — that
young girl has everything.”

And then she turned to face
me. Where her right arm
should have been, there was
only a portion extending from
her shoulder about six inches.

As the class began she took
the spot next to me, saying
“Hi, I’m Cindy.” For the next
hour, I watched in amazement as this remarkable
young woman responded to
every command from the
instructor. While I struggled
to complete my push-ups,
Cindy finished them easily
using only one arm. Jump
squats, forward rolls, lunges
and sit-ups were all done as
well as anyone else — and
without a single complaint.

But most remarkable of all
was Cindy’s ability to spar. She
refused any help with her boxing glove, opting instead to
hold it in her teeth while
working her hand inside and
then sealing the Velcro closure
with her chin.

In the ring, she was fearless,
jabbing with her left hand and
slipping the blows that would
have been defended by her
missing right. Her punches,
knee strikes and kicks flew
with devastating accuracy.

When class was over, I
introduced myself and asked
Cindy if she would tell me
the secret to her unshakable
spirit. Over the next 30 minutes, she gave me three powerful keys to overcoming
life’s challenges.

Accept who you are. Most people spend tremendous energy
in hiding their limitations, and
then live with the fear that
others will discover them.
The need to be perfect can
become a debilitating prison
whose walls are defined by
all that you lack. As Cindy
said, “My amputated arm is a
part of me, a part of what
makes me unique. If I hide it,
I’m only making myself something less. But if I just accept
it, then I’m free.”

Self-confidence and a strong
sense of personal worth come
from more than just your
strengths — they come from
accepting every aspect of
who you are. When you
accept yourself, you know
your own value without
needing the acceptance of
others to confirm it.

Take responsibility for your life. “It’s easy to let your limitations become an excuse for
all the things you didn’t have
the courage to do,” Cindy said.
“I could have believed that a
person with one arm could
never be a fighter, but it
wouldn’t have been true.”

Refuse to let your limitations
define you, whether it’s a
physical limitation like Cindy’s
arm or your financial position,
education or age. Instead,
have the courage to push out
of your comfort zone. You’ll
never know your true capabilities until you try.

Leverage your limitations. “Not
having an arm has actually
made me a better fighter,”
Cindy said. “Because I can’t
defend on my right, I had to
become quicker to avoid
being hit. Because a left jab
is my only punch, it had to
become stronger. And
because I only have one arm,
I had to really develop my
kicks. My real strengths as a
fighter all came from my one
limitation.”

Look for the leverage in
your limitations and focus
on where they can make you
stronger. When you do, you
will find the courage and
strength to move beyond
limitation to create the life
you want.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and
their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans over three decades,
including 11 years as CEO of a successful technology company recognized four times as one of the
“25 Best Small Companies to Work For in America.” Jim is also the author of “Choose Your Life! a
powerful proven method for creating the life you want.” He can be reached at [email protected].

Learn to laugh

Iwas excited to speak to
the class of newly hired
employees. As CEO, I had always taken pride in personally relating the company’s history as well as its
strong values-based culture
to each new hire class.
Approaching the room, I
could hear the program
leader introducing me,
recounting the many successes the company was
enjoying and letting the class
know how special my opening message would be. I felt
my chest swell with pride as
I listened outside the door.

Smiling and confident, I
entered the room with a
sense of importance. Holding
my morning coffee, I
walked to the front and
welcomed everyone to his
or her first day with the
company. After placing
my mug on one of the
classroom tables, I casually sat on the corner of that
same table, adopting the
relaxed posture that I imagined a CEO should take, and
started my message.

Instantly, the world turned
upside down. I had failed to
realize that putting my entire
body weight on the end of
that table would cause the
other end to flip skyward.
Within seconds, the table
was literally soaring, accompanied by a dark waterfall of
steaming coffee, and both
were flying straight toward
me. I sprawled helplessly on
the floor with my legs
splayed in the air and
uttered a high-pitched shriek
while the class looked on in
disbelief. Although the table
missed me, the coffee didn’t,
and I was bathed from head
to toe in scalding java.

I will never forget the
image of each newly hired
employee, astonished and
immobile, looking down at
the CEO who had just
screamed like a child.
Clearly, it was not my best
moment. But then a miracle
happened.

The absurdity of how I
looked and what they must
be thinking became so clear I
started to laugh. It began as a
chuckle but quickly grew into
a doubled-over belly laugh as
I crawled to my knees wiping
coffee from my face. Within
seconds, the class started
laughing with me and soon
we were roaring so loudly
that people from other offices
were coming to see what was
happening.

In more than a decade of
giving the welcoming
address, this particular session is the one I will remember because it taught me
again the power of laughter.

Learn to laugh at yourself.
Regardless of your role or
title, it’s easy to take yourself and what you do too
seriously. If you’re not careful, you will cross the line
that divides responsibility
and obsession, and you will
find that the price of pursuing perfection is much too
high. Laughing at your
mishaps and mistakes
reminds you that you aren’t
perfect and aren’t expected
to be. Like an instant vacation, laughter restores your
sense of perspective and
enables you to relax, making
you not only happier but
also more effective.

Learn to laugh at life. Over
time, your day-to-day worries can be like too much
spyware, clogging your
mind’s ability to function.
Your imagined consequences
will almost always be
greater than your real ones.
But when you really laugh,
you sweep away all the
debris of your difficulties,
both real and imagined, and
return to your day with a
new ability to tackle your
challenges.

Learn to laugh with others.
The ability to laugh makes
you more vulnerable and
approachable — as a leader
and as a person. These qualities enable the people in
your life to connect with you
more easily and, in the end,
help you to build a greater
sense of unity in your team,
your community or your
family. Whatever else my
new hires learned that day,
they knew they could always
laugh with me, and I believe
it made me a better leader.

In the survival kit of life,
laughter is surely one of
your greatest tools. Use it
today, and every day, to
uplift your spirit and connect to the people who
matter most.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders
and their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans more than
three decades, including 11 years as CEO of a successful technology company recognized four
times as one of the “25 Best Small Companies to Work For in America.” Jim is also the author of
“Choose Your Life! a powerful proven method for creating the life you want.” He can be reached
at [email protected].

Pursue your dreams

A soft rain began to fall
as my wife, Donna, and
I walked up the narrow lane from Montefiridolfi
toward the Tuscan villa that
had been our home in Italy
for the past eight days. We let
the raindrops run down our
faces, walking silently past
waves of budding vineyards
on the rolling hillside. Rounding
a curve in the road, we discovered a path leading
upward to a massive iron
gate and decided to see what
might be on the other side.

The gate barred the
entrance to a small graveyard,
surrounded by brick walls
higher than our heads. We
knew not to go in out of
respect and reverence for
those buried inside. But as
the rain continued to fall,
we stood outside the gate
and looked silently
through the bars at generations who had lived,
worked and died in this
small village. Row upon row
of gravestones marked each
life, and embedded in every
stone was a portrait of the
one who had died. Dozens of
faces, infant and old, smiling
and stern, all looked back at
us, standing outside the gates.

Never before had I witnessed a scene like this one.
It was as though I stood on
the threshold between two
worlds, looking across at all
these people who had gone
before — people whose
faces would forever stand
sentinel in this quiet space.

My heart made a silent
request of each face staring
out from that graveyard — a
request for wisdom that would help me, still in the
land of the living, to truly
fulfill the life I had been
given. Though unspoken, the
reply was as clear as any
voice I have ever heard.

Bring no regrets in here.
Leave nothing unborn out
there.

You may think of death as a
tragedy, particularly if you’ve
known the deep pain of losing
someone you loved. But the
message I took away from
that Tuscan graveyard was
that the greater tragedy is
what can die inside you, still
unborn. The talents you were
afraid to share, the people you
were too busy to truly love
and the dreams you never pursued — these are the things
that can make death a tragedy.
There is no greater loss to the
world than the life you were
meant to live but didn’t.

What unexpressed talent
are you holding back?
Is
there an artist trapped inside
you — a poet, musician or
painter longing to share a
creative vision? Were you
born to be a teacher, mentor
or leader but are still waiting
to begin? If so, then use that
talent today to help someone
else. Take a step toward
writing by composing letters
to soldiers serving in a distant land. If you would like
to teach, find someone in
your company or community
who can benefit from what
you know.

Even if you must balance
these activities with your current job, begin to say “yes” to
the life that calls you. Using
your gifts in service to others
will bring the double joy of both
expressing them and of seeing
the impact they can have on the
world around you.

What fears must you overcome to really live? The greatest obstacles you will ever face
are usually the ones you imagine but never experience.
Remember, fear lives in the
future, but faith lives in the
present.

Focus on the blessings that
surround you today and on
your belief in the dreams that
were placed in your heart. Then
take the smallest, safest step
and watch what happens. The
energy and excitement you will
feel at having faced your fear,
even in a small way, will give
you the power to take the next
step and the next.

As I turned to leave the graveyard that day, the rain ceased
and in its place a vibrant rainbow appeared, arching beyond
the farthest hill. Its beauty
reminded me of an ancient
promise: “If you bring forth that
which is within you, what you
bring forth will save you.”

I knew that visiting this place
had been no accident, for these
few moments I had spent
among the dead had taught me
how to truly live.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and
their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Jim’s leadership experience spans over three decades,
including 11 years as CEO of a successful technology company recognized multiple times as one of the
“25 Best Small Companies to Work For in America.” Jim is also the author of “Choose Your Life! a powerful proven method for creating the life you want.” He can be reached at [email protected]

Share your wisdom

It was a moment when I felt
deep satisfaction and the
pain of loss, mixed in equal measure. Bill, a young man I
had mentored for 10 years
and who had become one of
my closest friends, was now
leaving my company. Although
our friendship would endure,
we both knew that my time
as his mentor was coming to
an end.

On his final day, he gave me
a gift that would become one
of the most powerful symbols
in my life. It was a small
wooden box that held two
simple items: a candle and a
bar of soap.

According to ancient legend,
when a martial artist reached
the point of mastery and was
ready to begin the role of
teacher, he was given this
same gift. Its contents were
to remind him of his true
purpose on the journey
that lie ahead.

A candle because the
teacher’s purpose is to
bring light to those he
teaches — the light of illumination, of wisdom and of
spirit. And a bar of soap to
remind the teacher that
knowledge and discipline are
to make things clean, to wash
away the grime of ignorance
and intolerance.

But for the teacher, the
deeper meaning of these two
gifts is the most important:
In being used for their destined purpose, both the candle and the soap disappear.
They are absorbed into the
bodies, minds and hearts of
the student, where they
remain forever.

Through this gift, Bill was
expressing his thanks for the
teaching I had offered over
the years. But he was also
expressing the more important message that those lessons
had been absorbed and were
now a part of him, ready to be
offered to those whom he
would help along the way.

I was humbled by this deeply
meaningful gift and all that it
represented. The joy I felt in
knowing I had been helpful to
this remarkable young man
was matched only by my gratitude for all those who had
also taken the time to help me
over the years.

You can have this same
combination of joy and gratitude, if you will do these
three things:

Never stop learning. Every
circumstance and every person you encounter has something to teach you. Learn to be
grateful for all that they can
offer. The harshest leader I
ever worked for taught me the
most about the value of kindness and respect — the qualities that have helped me be
successful. If you consistently
adopt the mindset of a student, you will humbly avoid
thinking you know it all, and
you will enrich your own store
of wisdom and experience to
share with others.

Teach what you know. Like
the candle and soap, your
experience is most valuable
when it is actually put to use
in helping the people around
you. Look for opportunities to
share your talents and experience, whether through teaching a class, writing a blog or
becoming a mentor. One day,
all your accomplishments will be forgotten, but even the
smallest contribution you
made to another person’s
growth will be passed on
indefinitely.

Be willing to disappear. The ultimate goal of every
true teacher is to be surpassed by the student.
Whether this involves years
together or a single conversation, make this your constant objective. If you’re not
careful, the gratitude and
appreciation of the person
you mentor can be addictive
and can lead you to subtly
sustain the relationship,
even after its purpose has
been fulfilled. Instead, like
the candle and soap, be willing to share what you have
to offer and then gracefully
relinquish your role as
teacher, allowing the relationship to evolve into a
new one.

None of us stands alone. Moreover, there is no accomplishment for which we can
take sole credit, for behind
us is a long line of teachers
who have shaped us in some
way. Whether they taught us
formally or through the message of their ideas and their
example, their lessons are
deep inside us.

When you are willing to
take your place in this never-ending cycle, you make a
contribution that will last
long beyond your lifetime,
and you will discover a new
sense of joy and purpose in
all you have learned.

JIM HULING is CEO of The Jim Huling
Group, a strategic consulting company enabling leaders and their teams to
achieve extraordinary results.  Jim’s leadership experience spans over
three decades, including eleven years as CEO of a successful technology company
recognized multiple times as one of the "25 Best Small Companies to Work For in
America."  Jim is also the author of Choose Your Life! a powerful
proven method for creating the life you want.  He can be reached at
[email protected].

Be truly connected

You’ll never make it,” my
friend Steve said to me
one day over lunch.

“You’ll give up before the
weekend is over.”

He smiled in smug satisfaction,
having issued a challenge that he
was confident I couldn’t meet.

Throughout our lunch, I had
been routinely checking my
BlackBerry for new messages
and had even interrupted our
conversation to type a quick reply. Frustrated by my distraction, Steve accused me of being
addicted to the device and its demand for responsiveness. When
I disagreed, he challenged me to
go through an entire weekend
without using it.

The terms were simple, and
I was confident I could meet
them. From Friday night until
Monday morning, I would not
use the BlackBerry, either for
e-mail or as a cell phone,
except in an extreme emergency. If I succeeded, I
would win lunch at our
favorite restaurant as well
as the satisfaction of being
right. Both rewards made the
challenge worth pursuing.

It began simply enough. I responded to a final set of e-mails
before going to bed Friday night
and then turned the BlackBerry
off for the weekend. When I
woke the next morning, I fought
the impulse to check my e-mails
over my first cup of coffee.
Throughout the day of household activities and errands with
my family, I constantly reached
for my hip where the BlackBerry
would normally have been holstered and was surprised that I
had created such a strong habit.

The pressure to know what
messages had arrived began to
mount, and, ultimately, it was so
great that I really had to fight to
keep my commitment. Twice, I
literally felt the BlackBerry vibrate on my belt, even though
it wasn’t there. More important,
I began to have very real anxiety that somehow I was missing
things and falling behind. It was
a palpable fear that I wasn’t
connected.

And then it hit me. Maybe
Steve was right.

If the BlackBerry had become
this dominant in my life, what
was I really missing? What moments with my wife were ruined
by glancing at my e-mails while
she tried to tell me about her
day? What risk was I taking by
reading an incoming message
while driving in traffic? And
what opportunities to think, to
pray or to dream were being
lost as I filled every spare moment with my thumbs flying
across this little keyboard?

The fear of losing my connection that weekend was real. But
instead of my e-mail, I should
have feared losing my connection to my life and to the people
who matter most.

In the months that have followed, I’ve learned that my
BlackBerry, or any other device,
can be either a powerful servant
or a terrible master. The choice
is up to me — and to you.

Here are three disciplines that
enable me to make the right
choice.

Focus on people first. Whether at work or at home,
make connecting with the people in your life the first priority.

When you’re talking with someone, really listen and refuse to
even look at your device until
the conversation is finished.

You’ll have ample opportunity
for messages later, but you can’t
afford to miss these moments
of real connection.

Intentionally disconnect. There is an ancient archery
teaching that says, “You will
break the bow if it is always
bent.” This applies to life, as well.

While you may feel productive by being on call at every
moment, you really aren’t. Eventually, your energy and capacity
diminish and an unconscious
resentment of all you have to do
begins to undermine your best
efforts.

Turn the device off, and take
time to recharge and reflect.
When you return to your work,
you’ll feel the difference.

Be effective, not simply
responsive.
I recently heard
another executive cite the
BlackBerry as one of the greatest leadership challenges that
he faces. After my own experience, I believe he was right.

If you are not careful, you will
become obsessively responsive,
spending your day reading and
replying to every incoming message, regardless of its importance. Use the device to help
you respond to important messages but have the discipline to
focus on the most effective use
of your time and energy.

I won the challenge with Steve
that weekend, but, through his
challenge, I also learned to focus
on the true connections to my
work — and to my life — that
make all the difference.

JIM HULING is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services company that has achieved industry-leading financial growth while receiving numerous national, regional and local awards for its values-based
culture and other work-life balance programs. The company was recently named one of the 25 Best Small
Companies to Work for in America for the third year in a row by the Great Place to Work Institute and the
Society for Human Resource Management. Huling is also the author of “Choose Your Life!” — a powerful,
proven method for creating the life you want. Reach him at [email protected].