Even Superman has Kryptonite

My mother had a little quote on the wall that may have contributed to my restless identification of what is missing/wrong.

“When you’re through improving yourself – you’re through.”

I work with a guy and over the years we have both witnessed an evolution in our leadership styles but recently I was repositioned to gain an interesting insight from my colleague’s journey.

He truly lights up a room.

If you asked a dozen people I bet the common theme would be the “positive general demeanor this guy brings to wherever he goes”.

Over the past couple decades he and I have used each other as a sounding board for our next big thing.

I always focused on the area of most vulnerability.

He focused on the areas of most opportunity and what could be.

For the longest time this drove me bonkers.

I actually leveraged this “What If” approach in several complex spreadsheets which later also evolved but more on that later.

How could he avoid leaving the backdoor open to threat unless we considered every possible what do we do if ?

One day during a particularly stressful period of change, I found myself thrashing through ideas.

After I finished my view he asked me for an equal number of positive outcomes possible if we were to leverage our strengths instead of focusing on the risks .

Some might call that clichè

Some might call it naively oversimplified.

But what most recognize in my friend is a positive luminescent creative personality .

A guy who gets things built.

Conversely even attempting to consider the countless negative possibilities that might result, requires reflection, analysis and strategic preparation… all of which when done thoroughly are very demanding in terms of energy.

This time when he said “focus on your strengths not your shortcomings”,

I heard:

“Invest more time in leveraging what you you do well and less time focused on how your shortcomings may be limiting you”

For the longest time I thought the smartest guy in the room was the one who saw the train coming before the crash.

Being aware of the potential vulnerabilities while still moving forward is the benefit of experience and belief in self. Both are good tools to have. Assuming the carpenter has the energy to use it.

And like any tool, experience can only be used if :

A) You can locate it.

B) It’s not all wrapped up in a bunch of past projects

Experience can only be truly leveraged when it’s value is untethered from any past outcome.

The past is not the best predictor of the future, an individuals ability to evolve is.

I thought about it and I contemplated about how my friend is seen by others.

I began to wonder if his perspective of “building from his strengths” affords him the energy needed to get things done.

When we move with confidence in the direction of our dreams we are fully experiencing life.

And that is energizing!

Perhaps the mindset established from a strong proven foundation of strengths is one that lights up the room.

The latest fashion in the Blame Game…

Dame Anna Wintour DBE is a British-American journalist and editor who has been editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and artistic director for Condé Nast, Vogue’s publisher, since 2013 was recently quoted on the topic of leadership.

Photo: Wallace Footwear

In my view, “leadership” for Dame Wintour has, in no small way, been been established by remaining effective and efficient in making extremely nuanced decisions.

Hundreds of times per day.

Within a highly influential, visible and competitive arena.

For decades.

How is this accomplished?

“Own your decisions”

-Dame Anna Wintour, DBE

So prevalent in our culture is the tendency to find someone else’s behavior at the source of our shitstorm that the courts are clogged with people seeking retribution.

Consider the old story that McDonald’s actually made someone a millionaire because they drank (too) hot coffee.

The claimant was reported as saying the company should have “warned him”,

And yet what should we warn of ?

….” sip don’t gulp hot beverages?

……That hot coffee, comes… hot ?

Or perhaps the warning should be:

“That the McDonald’s experience is not actually responsible to come through on any expectation to make everything perfect in the lives of their patrons.

Ok, there may be anothther side to that story but in inarguably this kind of reward for blame casting perpetuates the myth that someone else is responsible for our choices.

The skill required for the transfer of responsibility to blame, is subtle and one of the first lessons we learn. Learned before we speak when we point to our little sister as her diaper painting critics examine our latest mural.

Parents aim to wean youth off the habit with less than extremely effective parenting memes like:

“ And if Mitchel told you to jump off the roof would you?!?!?”

Well actually I did .. but that’s another story, though we did have a garbage bag as a parachute!

The point is, casting blame is insidious and almost primally wired .

Seeking or averting blame draws us backward into the problem, ironically misguided in some righteous pursuit of the truth.

The truth is – most often people did their best at the time with what they knew and were capable of.

Besides feeling morally, or intellectually superior what makes the blame game such a seductive mindset?

Think about it how useless and exercise it is:

Say for example, you’re driving to Prince Albert and the highway sign blew off at the point where you have a choice to go to Moose Jaw or head toward Prince Albert.

You end up in up in Moose Jaw .

Does identifying the individual who bolted the sign together help you get to see your peeps in PA?


Does locating the exact mile marker of the fallen sign ensure this catastrophe never occurs again?


The pain in any choice is directly proportional to the resistance in making it.

So how are we served by applying the principles of a binary justice system across all events in our lives?The idea that there is a correctable error that can change our past, fuels the obsession that better choices can be made today that will undo past pain felt from choices made at that time.

That’s like arriving out of breath at the top of a mountain to see a full Panorama and missing the vista because you’re too preoccupied looking down the path for an easier route.

The delusion of blame totally eclipses the lessons we learned through the pain learned as we journeyed through all the experiences that brought us to where we are today.

One cannot feel the ownership or accomplishment until one defines in their own life. Through choices accomplished or even mindfully attempted.

As ignorant, unenlightened or obviously wrong those choices appear retrospect and how challenging and unpleasant the consequences may feel.

It is only when our perspective shifts and we acknowledge that any given event is actually an event that is occurring in our life -can the light of our true self be revealed as is free to color the event in real time.

Photo:Talia Dezso photography thanks Talia!

And brighten the path that lies ahead.

So I concur with the words of Dame Wintour:

Whether it be JC Hammer pants or a weird personality, from the lips of the Editor of Vogue: “Owning your decisions” would be my right choice for now.

Not only will it make tomorrow’s past better but that image never goes out of fashion.

Light defined from darkness owned.

I recently watched a LinkedIn video discussing failure as a learning opportunity.

The challenge with failure is that it can really sting…

…My ego.

When I publicly stumble, I am reminded of my own limitations. I instantly find myself saying:

Damn I really am not who I think I project”

We imagine we look uniquely incompetent or worse, we feel we look deceptive or stupid or like we don’t actually know everything there is to know about everything.

Ok, maybe that last part is a stretch, but my failures certainly remind me not only of my practical shortcomings but also of the shortcomings in my self image.

They make me feel vulnerable in that I just might not be all that I secretly hope I might be.

Or want to be.

And then there is the surprise of failure.

I think surprise is why failure really stings- cuz it’s most often like your brother hiding in the closet waiting til you come into your room to jump out and scare the shit out of you.

It shocks us with the painful reality that at any point in time we are exposed to the startling alternate reality that things may not work out as we planned.

That’s because most days, typically we don’t start out with failure as an intention.

Most days I start out somewhere between “I’m gonna knock this outta the park” and “I will not strike out today.”

Failure reminds us that the self delusion of “I got this” precludes an infinite number of alternative outcomes. Each of which, though not resulting in what I imagined, may take me to an as yet unimaginable different experience.

Under one condition.

That we own our failures.

I have had more than one less than private full on cataclysmic f*ck ups.

In business, in relationships and in health.

But none have been more damaging than the one failure that kept me lashed to the past.

My greatest failure has been my failure to own my mistakes.

I spent decades trying to make a better past by rationalizing my mistakes, or worse, by not even acknowledging them.

Missing the obvious point of – how is it possible for me to leverage the insight I was to learn from any given experience if I failed to say “ ya that’s on me”?

I cannot possibly truly benefit from something that I don’t own.

If I fail to acknowledge that my mistakes are mine, then I can never use them to climb up from.

I was at the helm of a business when I allowed my love for the business model to blind me to the shifts in the macroeconomic forces that were part of globalization.

The business tanked.

More than a 1,000 people were affected.

And my heart broke.

For years that pain proved more than I could assume and I ran from the ownership of that failure.

I saw the failure like a prison tattoo claiming a pledge of eternal love …to a one night stand.

And in so doing I failed again. I brought the past into my present for more than a decade of my life.

I let it define me. I listened to the imagined voices of all of my critics limiting me to only one moment in my life.

And by doing this, I was blinded to any value in the lesson or even in myself at times.

I was just like Carrie Anne Mathison at the beginning of the series Homeland, muttering “I never want to miss something again”.

The irony of that perspective was that no matter how proficient I became at creating growth strategies based on “what if” scenarios for my clients, I failed to experience growth myself.

I remained tethered to my past.

It was only when I fully owned my past, that I became clear on how I might see and use the benefits of the experience to create a present moment that I am increasingly pleased with.

Not eternally pleased with.

Not always pleased with.

Not even consistently pleased with,

But definitely increasingly so.

Thank you Alain Guillot for sharing your thoughts on failure on LinkedIn it reminded me once again of the futility of “makingabetterpast” and that the purest form of failure is when we fail to own all of our lives.


If you would like to see Alain Guillot’s video I will share it on my LinkedIn page, I found it simply courageous and insightful!

The Drunk and the Spiritual Capitalist

I have a friend who is a drunk.

Even though it’s been a very long time since his last drink, that’s how he refers to himself.

One day I had to ask why.

“I recovered from my disease but it’s like it’s in remission, only unlike other fatal illnesses, I have the opportunity to keep it from rearing it’s ugly head ever again”

In my mind a ‘drunk’ was a guy without a home looking for change to buy his next bottle of Golden Nut sherry.

Some poor dude with questionable willpower and a weakness in character.

But my friend raised 8 kids and was loved in his community.

Ya, I said 8 kids!

No shit he drank!

“Disease?” I questioned

The ignorance surrounding the alcoholism is limitless“ he said subtly pointing out that I was once again acting in judgement prior to investigation, and he continued;

“In the sixties the American medical community acknowledged the genetic component of “alcohol use disorder” resulting in many like me finding a path to recovery.”

While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the disease idea, in my experience a lot of the opposition and steadfast refusal to see addiction as a disease comes from people who have suffered greatly at the hands of active alcoholics.” he shared.

In any case I just choose to remember that once pickled you can’t go back to being a cucumber”

Finally! Now he was speaking in a way even I could grasp – with analogies!!

Yet I was unconvinced. I mean I have known this guy since high school and let me tell you he could drink! So I decided to see how convinced he was.

“So you will never ever have another drink?” I asked.

“Not if I want to stay sober no” the answer came quickly and he followed,

Look, you know how you are with cookies ?

Now that wasn’t fair …though I have been known to pilfer twelve at a time while at his place watching the playoffs, he does make a crazy peanut butter cookie!

or chips?” He added leaving me completely defenseless.

Well that’s how I am with booze … One leads to five. Then five calls on eight and eight invites my inner asshole to come to town. It’s like posting a house party on Facebook …I lose the ability to choose!

Its kinda like an allergy-once I have one I really can’t say where it will end but we all know it doesn’t bring out my best self so why would I want to go there?”

It is true …he really became a dick at the end of his drinking days.

But I had to press (that’s what friends are for right?)

“ So what if they told you that you were dying?”

He looked at me and framed my question back to me.

“ If you somehow knew that tomorrow would be your last day what would you change ?”

Would you stop wearing those stupid Hawaiian shirts ?

Would you finally quit trying to prove your value to others?

Would you really continue to give a shit about winning the business game?

Would you really want to be identified in your last hours as a great strategist with business acumen?

Is that what would you draw your attention to if you knew this day was going to be your last?

Check mate.

In a flash my true heart values surrounding those I love that I would choose to spend my last hours connecting with came to mind.

With this awareness all past pain and current fears from past harms endured retreated, laying bare the activities I was so consumed by.

From this perspective I saw that all the things that I mindlessly let define me were truly minutia in the big pic.

No” I replied “I see now most of that shit is just for sheeple

He uses that word for humans who mindlessly follow the flock – not by choice.

And IPhone users. Then he gently went for the jugular of the debate

“Me too… but we don’t really know when our last day is do we?”

So when I put drinking into the right perspective the only solution I could adopt was to try to focus on one day at a time sometimes one moment at a time”

We went back to the playoff game in progress yet thought about what shared for a long time .

And I thought about how he said that when he had his first drink he lost his choice over having the second third and tenth.

Then it occurred to me that while I enjoy the thrill of business I can’t let it overshadow the simple fact that it is not my sole choice for what will not define my life.

Just like I can agree that a glass of red wine may go really well with a plate of penne puttanesca, a bottle before and after will make the meal less memorable.

I admire my friend’s awareness that his ultimate gesture of power is surrender.

Inspired by the lessons of that day I surrendered to the truth that I have no idea which will be my last and that all I can do is remain focused on a grateful heart for the time I have been given.

Which left me practicing gratitude (while often failing) for the most important things to me in my life.

Remaining mindful as I move through my day of the following paradox:

Is there really any other way to practice gratitude for all the days in our lives- other than living each as if it was the last we might live?