20 years ago today I left the corporate world and started the company now known as The Kevin Eikenberry Group. A moment like that is cause for reflection, and I want to share some of that reflection here with you. In twenty years I’ve learned much about a lot of things – this short list was crafted (after sorting my much longer list) to be of value to those we serve – leaders at all levels and individuals who consider themselves learners – whether they are leaders by title or not.
This list is necessarily short – and that is on purpose. I took a different approach four years ago and did a series of 16 posts about 16 lessons from 16 years (you can read them by going to this page and scrolling down through them (the links may not work, so you will need to scroll – sorry about that!).
For today though, 5 lessons, learned, relearned and reflected on. I share them today for your benefit, for these lessons, when applied, will help you lead better, learn better and live better.
Let’s get started.
Human beings are learning beings
We are built to learn, and at some cellular level we all learn every day. What we don’t do enough is learn intentionally. From hundreds of conversations I have learned that people are at their best when they are learning. When we are learning we feel alive, we feel meaning, we feel purposeful. Learning quenches the human drive of curiosity and when we do this intentionally we feel better, and perform better too. One of the most powerful ways to learn is to do what I am doing in this article – reflecting. Everyone can do it and it costs nothing but some focus and a bit of time. Our lives are complicated and the challenges we face are significant – to succeed and make a difference in this world we must be learning.
Understanding change changes everything
One of the most popular requests I get as a speaker is to talk about change. Why? Because it is all around us, it is complex and our lack of understanding of it causes consternation, frustration and much more. We experience change personally, interpersonally and organizationally. Change is a pervasive part of our world and life, and when we begin to understand how it happens, why it happens, and how we choose it, it makes us more proactive, more understanding, and better able to help others too. Time spent understanding how change happens and how we choose it will fundamentally change your understanding of and ability to succeed in the world.
The paradox of personal accountability
Here is the paradox – We control little, but can influence most everything. This is a fundamental truth in life that most of us at one time or another try to change, ignore or deny. When we take personal responsibility for what we can control – our choices, our reactions, our emotions, our actions – we are more effective people. When we deny our ability to influence our world and other people by the choices we make, we become victims. And when we live in the land of victimhood, we can’t grow, improve or get better results. The bottom line – while we can’t control anything but ourselves, that is plenty to work with, and when we live from that reality we will be happier, healthier, and more successful.
Development is development
Personal development or professional development, what is the difference? Not much in my mind. When we go to work, we bring our whole selves – and most things we learn at work transfer to application in the rest of our lives anyway. Sure, you may never need to use a specific procedure outside of work, but most all of our work is about interaction with others, influence, communication and so much more. When we begin to think about every developmental opportunity as both professional and personal, we will become more successful in all spheres of our lives faster.
Everything is about choices – and they all matter
We have choices on everything – and how we exercise that choice makes all the difference in our results. Some choices we have relegated to habit and our sub conscious, but all of those are still choices and could still be changed. We often think about the big choices, as we well should. But it is the smaller ones – the mindless TV instead of the book, the carrot cake instead of the carrot, and rolling out of bed after the snooze versus ten minutes of purposeful morning planning – that change our lives. Og Mandno wrote in one of my favorite books, this line – “use wisely your power of choice.” It is a power and the choices are ours to make – and they all make a difference.
These five lessons aren’t the only five I could have chosen – in fact I kept trying to add more as I was writing, but these five have made a huge impact for me. In reading them, I hope they provide you with a challenge to explore how these lessons can make a difference in your life and work.