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At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable. – Christopher Reeve

What dreams do you want to achieve? What goals do you intend to pursue?

Whatever your answers to these questions, there is one critical trait that you need to depend on: grit.

Grit isn’t a word that we hear every day, yet it is an essential quality for goal accomplishment. People who have grit are able to cultivate hardiness when confronted with challenge and agility when circumstances change. It’s no surprise that the presence of grit determines if West Point cadets are retained after their first year, or who makes it to the stage in the National Spelling Bee Championship.

Grit isn’t a static quality. It can be developed in all of us. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Identify goals that you are passionate about achieving. Passion helps individuals heighten and sustain their efforts when the going gets tough.
  • Get as specific as possible with your goals. What is it that you want and when is it that you want it? Then, what are milestones you can cross to reassure yourself that you are on the right path?
  • Choose one big goal. Don’t tempt fate: Goal accomplishment can be very challenging because it requires us to start new habits. Don’t try to achieve five.
  • Decide what behaviors you would like to introduce, not ones that you would like to stop. It’s much easier to develop new habits than it is to halt old ones.
  • Grab an accountability partner. Share your goal with someone and ask them what they can do to support you. Remind them that it is your job to check in with them to update them on where you are and how you are doing.

Many of us approach the beginning of each year with great dreams and goals. Whether the changes you want to make are professional or personal, consider how grit can help you reach your goals.

The post The Critical Trait You Need to Reach Your Goals This Year appeared first on Lead Star.

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I’m a news junkie, so when I get a break I check the headlines. I have some go-to sites, and upon a recent Detroit Free Press skim I paused, clicked, and was amazed. 

The story I was reading was about a band, Greta Van Fleet, from Frankenmuth, MI, that’s nominated for four Grammys. 

“Wait … what … Frankenmuth?” was all I could think. I’ve driven past Frankenmuth on the I-75 corridor all my life. This town is really only known for its incredibly large Christmas store and, interestingly, family-style chicken dinners. I had to learn more, so I went to YouTube to hear their music. 

From the article, I knew the band members, comprised of three brothers and a friend, were all under 25. So I admit, I was expecting Hanson. I was floored when I heard Robert Plant-esque vocals coming from the lead singer. I love Led Zeppelin. So does my son, Judge, who’s 13. I couldn’t wait to pick him up from school so he could hear this band. 

When Judge got in the car, I skipped theHow was your day? question, which really only yields a muttered fine, and then went straight to, “Oh my God, you have to hear this.” When we got home, he downloaded all of their songs and then went to the basement so he could pound out the rhythm on his drum set, which made me incredibly happy. This was no longer just an Angie obsession. For Judge and me, this was a “we” thing – a shared passion, something incredibly rare for this mom and her teenage son. 

Later that week, Judge mentioned Greta Van Fleet was playing at the Fox Theater in Detroit, a classic venue for what will, one day, become a classic band. Fox Theater also only happens to be four hours away from where we live. I couldn’t help myself, so I spent far too much money on two of the best seats I could find. This was going to be our first concert together, and I wanted to make it the best experience possible. At least, that’s what I told myself to justify the expense. 

On the day of the concert, I headed to Detroit with both of my boys – Gard, my youngest, wanted to see his buddy, the son of a woman I served with in the Marines, who lives near the Fox Theater. I wanted to reconnect with Erin, too, plus – hey – it was free childcare, lodging, and my friend’s a pretty amazing cook. If we stayed the night, I could count on great conversation and a hot breakfast better than anything you’d find on a hotel buffet line. It was, what I believed, shaping into the perfect plan. 

On the way to Detroit, the kids and I were riding high as we rocked out to Greta Van Fleet – even the littlest Morgan joined in. This was a mom and son’s adventure and, man, we were all in. 

When we parked on Erin’s street, Judge verified, “We’ve got two hours until the concert, right? We’re not going to be late, right?” I reassured him it was less than a 10-minute drive to the venue and we were fine. When we got out of the car and started walking up Erin’s walkway, I noticed something odd. Their morning paper was still on their front porch. Even odder, when we all got to the door, we knocked … knocked again … and then knocked even louder. No answer. I then called my friend, no answer. I then texted my friend. No answer. All the while, both boys were looking at me wondering what the heck was going on. The oldest, especially, was growing anxious. 

“If they’re not here, we can’t go. Who’s going to watch Gard?” 

Gard chimed in. “They’re not here? Great. We drove all the way down here to see my friend. Now I can’t see him. This isn’t fair.” 

I now had two upset boys looking at me for a solution. And, hey, I didn’t have a clue what to do. But I knew that the most important thing to do when things don’t go your way is to pretend like you’ve got everything under control. 

“Boys,” I said in the best calming voice I could find. “We’re going to be okay. I’ve got this.” 

I loaded the kids and their bags back into the car. I then pulled up my most recent text exchange with Erin to see where things went awry. As I scrolled back to the beginning of the conversation, I noticed an error. My error. I asked her if she was going to be home on January 30th. The concert was, in fact, December 30th. I felt really, really stupid. 

I then fessed up to the kids and said, “Hey, I made a mistake and have the dates wrong. Erin’s probably visiting family, so she’s not here. Judge, plug in Fox Theater on your Google Map app. We’ll find a hotel nearby. We’ll then grab dinner. Gard, what do you want for dinner?” 

“Pizza,” he replied. And, because he sensed he had leverage, he added “and Coke.” 

Crap. He had me. “Okay, pizza and Coke it is.” 

“And, Judge. Are you ready? You’re going to go to the concert alone. I’ll stay with Gard while you have the time of your life.” 

And there it was. A plan. Rather, a Plan B. A plan that didn’t satisfy everyone completely, but addressed the situation so we were all marginally satisfied. Gard got a Coke, Judge got a concert, and I had two children who, for the moment, could live with the solution that was presented to them. 

After dinner, I called my husband to let him know the update and confirm the scenario was okay with him – letting our 13 year old go to a concert solo. He agreed this was a stretch experience, but trusted Judge was mature enough to handle it. I could tell Judge felt a little nervous about the situation, but I knew his desire to see the band outweighed any hesitation he had to attend alone. With that said, he let me walk him to the concert entrance and hugged me goodbye – in front of a crowd – before his 3 1/2 hour disappearance. 

During that time, Gard and I were glued to the hotel room TV – an Indiana Jones Marathon was on. During the commercials, I’d text Judge random questions, like “How was the opener?” and I’d receive quick, one-word answers. I even got an occasional question, like “How long is intermission usually?” and “The girl behind me keeps talking about flashing the singer. What’s that?” (I told him I’d tell him later and, in the meantime, enjoy the concert, eyes forward, and focus on what was happening on stage.) 

Around 11:30, when Judge got back to the room, there was one thing I knew: despite (or maybe even because of) my absence, he had an amazing time. He had so much to tell me, so much to share. He took pictures, videos, and walked through their set. He even told me about the best part of the night – when the lead singer pointed right at him and gave him a thumb’s up. 

“Really?” I asked. He nodded enthusiastically. “That’s amazing.” And it was. I knew this whole reconstructed evening meant a lot to him. It actually meant a lot to me, too. While this whole experience didn’t work out how I imagined, in the end, it worked out in ways that felt just right. 

Now, I’ve told this story a few times over the holidays, but I typically end it at the “thumbs up” part, without giving this experience reflection, and any lessons learned that can be applied forward. As I sit here and write this now, there are a few thoughts I’d like to share that might be useful to you as you approach 2019: 

  • Don’t Hate Your Mistakes. I think I kicked myself for two minutes after making my clumsy mistake. I then got over it. We all make mistakes. We all create unintentional problems. We all miss details or fail to communicate effectively. Don’t hate yourself for it. That’s life. Constantly put things in perspective: Did anyone die? Likely not. So learn from it. Grow! And, yes, do better next time.
  • Make Plans … But Be Flexible. I learned in the Marines that a plan is a reference point for change. I learned in church that God laughs at the plans you make. There’s truth in both pieces of guidance. Plans give you direction, but they don’t always pan out. Be okay with it and keep moving forward. If you don’t have a perfect plan, work to perfect your situation.
  • Find the Good in Plan B. When you’re forced to enact Plan B, stop ruminating about Plan A. Embrace Plan B. It’s what you have. You can’t time travel and change your circumstance. Accept and own where you are right now.
  • Laugh … and Encourage Others to Laugh with You. As I shared, I’ve told this story to a few people. In the end, I think it’s funny, and I want others to see the humor in it, too. I’m not perfect. (I think I’ve established that already.) I’m human. I don’t want to live with the pretense that I’ve got it all together, because I don’t. But what I do have is an insatiable desire to be real, and a sincere commitment to make each day better than the last.

With that in mind, let me wish you a great 2019 – a year full of hopes, dreams, plans made … and plans adjusted, and a great curiosity that keeps you inspired.

The post Greta Expectations and Van Fleeting Moments appeared first on Lead Star.

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I’m a news junkie, so when I get a break I check the headlines. I have some go-to sites, and upon a recent Detroit Free Press skim I paused, clicked, and was amazed. 

The story I was reading was about a band, Greta Van Fleet, from Frankenmuth, MI, that’s nominated for four Grammys. 

“Wait … what … Frankenmuth?” was all I could think. I’ve driven past Frankenmuth on the I-75 corridor all my life. This town is really only known for its incredibly large Christmas store and, interestingly, family-style chicken dinners. I had to learn more, so I went to YouTube to hear their music. 

From the article, I knew the band members, comprised of three brothers and a friend, were all under 25. So I admit, I was expecting Hanson. I was floored when I heard Robert Plant-esque vocals coming from the lead singer. I love Led Zeppelin. So does my son, Judge, who’s 13. I couldn’t wait to pick him up from school so he could hear this band. 

When Judge got in the car, I skipped theHow was your day? question, which really only yields a muttered fine, and then went straight to, “Oh my God, you have to hear this.” When we got home, he downloaded all of their songs and then went to the basement so he could pound out the rhythm on his drum set, which made me incredibly happy. This was no longer just an Angie obsession. For Judge and me, this was a “we” thing – a shared passion, something incredibly rare for this mom and her teenage son. 

Later that week, Judge mentioned Greta Van Fleet was playing at the Fox Theater in Detroit, a classic venue for what will, one day, become a classic band. Fox Theater also only happens to be four hours away from where we live. I couldn’t help myself, so I spent far too much money on two of the best seats I could find. This was going to be our first concert together, and I wanted to make it the best experience possible. At least, that’s what I told myself to justify the expense. 

On the day of the concert, I headed to Detroit with both of my boys – Gard, my youngest, wanted to see his buddy, the son of a woman I served with in the Marines, who lives near the Fox Theater. I wanted to reconnect with Erin, too, plus – hey – it was free childcare, lodging, and my friend’s a pretty amazing cook. If we stayed the night, I could count on great conversation and a hot breakfast better than anything you’d find on a hotel buffet line. It was, what I believed, shaping into the perfect plan. 

On the way to Detroit, the kids and I were riding high as we rocked out to Greta Van Fleet – even the littlest Morgan joined in. This was a mom and son’s adventure and, man, we were all in. 

When we parked on Erin’s street, Judge verified, “We’ve got two hours until the concert, right? We’re not going to be late, right?” I reassured him it was less than a 10-minute drive to the venue and we were fine. When we got out of the car and started walking up Erin’s walkway, I noticed something odd. Their morning paper was still on their front porch. Even odder, when we all got to the door, we knocked … knocked again … and then knocked even louder. No answer. I then called my friend, no answer. I then texted my friend. No answer. All the while, both boys were looking at me wondering what the heck was going on. The oldest, especially, was growing anxious. 

“If they’re not here, we can’t go. Who’s going to watch Gard?” 

Gard chimed in. “They’re not here? Great. We drove all the way down here to see my friend. Now I can’t see him. This isn’t fair.” 

I now had two upset boys looking at me for a solution. And, hey, I didn’t have a clue what to do. But I knew that the most important thing to do when things don’t go your way is to pretend like you’ve got everything under control. 

“Boys,” I said in the best calming voice I could find. “We’re going to be okay. I’ve got this.” 

I loaded the kids and their bags back into the car. I then pulled up my most recent text exchange with Erin to see where things went awry. As I scrolled back to the beginning of the conversation, I noticed an error. My error. I asked her if she was going to be home on January 30th. The concert was, in fact, December 30th. I felt really, really stupid. 

I then fessed up to the kids and said, “Hey, I made a mistake and have the dates wrong. Erin’s probably visiting family, so she’s not here. Judge, plug in Fox Theater on your Google Map app. We’ll find a hotel nearby. We’ll then grab dinner. Gard, what do you want for dinner?” 

“Pizza,” he replied. And, because he sensed he had leverage, he added “and Coke.” 

Crap. He had me. “Okay, pizza and Coke it is.” 

“And, Judge. Are you ready? You’re going to go to the concert alone. I’ll stay with Gard while you have the time of your life.” 

And there it was. A plan. Rather, a Plan B. A plan that didn’t satisfy everyone completely, but addressed the situation so we were all marginally satisfied. Gard got a Coke, Judge got a concert, and I had two children who, for the moment, could live with the solution that was presented to them. 

After dinner, I called my husband to let him know the update and confirm the scenario was okay with him – letting our 13 year old go to a concert solo. He agreed this was a stretch experience, but trusted Judge was mature enough to handle it. I could tell Judge felt a little nervous about the situation, but I knew his desire to see the band outweighed any hesitation he had to attend alone. With that said, he let me walk him to the concert entrance and hugged me goodbye – in front of a crowd – before his 3 1/2 hour disappearance. 

During that time, Gard and I were glued to the hotel room TV – an Indiana Jones Marathon was on. During the commercials, I’d text Judge random questions, like “How was the opener?” and I’d receive quick, one-word answers. I even got an occasional question, like “How long is intermission usually?” and “The girl behind me keeps talking about flashing the singer. What’s that?” (I told him I’d tell him later and, in the meantime, enjoy the concert, eyes forward, and focus on what was happening on stage.) 

Around 11:30, when Judge got back to the room, there was one thing I knew: despite (or maybe even because of) my absence, he had an amazing time. He had so much to tell me, so much to share. He took pictures, videos, and walked through their set. He even told me about the best part of the night – when the lead singer pointed right at him and gave him a thumb’s up. 

“Really?” I asked. He nodded enthusiastically. “That’s amazing.” And it was. I knew this whole reconstructed evening meant a lot to him. It actually meant a lot to me, too. While this whole experience didn’t work out how I imagined, in the end, it worked out in ways that felt just right. 

Now, I’ve told this story a few times over the holidays, but I typically end it at the “thumbs up” part, without giving this experience reflection, and any lessons learned that can be applied forward. As I sit here and write this now, there are a few thoughts I’d like to share that might be useful to you as you approach 2019: 

  • Don’t Hate Your Mistakes. I think I kicked myself for two minutes after making my clumsy mistake. I then got over it. We all make mistakes. We all create unintentional problems. We all miss details or fail to communicate effectively. Don’t hate yourself for it. That’s life. Constantly put things in perspective: Did anyone die? Likely not. So learn from it. Grow! And, yes, do better next time.
  • Make Plans … But Be Flexible. I learned in the Marines that a plan is a reference point for change. I learned in church that God laughs at the plans you make. There’s truth in both pieces of guidance. Plans give you direction, but they don’t always pan out. Be okay with it and keep moving forward. If you don’t have a perfect plan, work to perfect your situation.
  • Find the Good in Plan B. When you’re forced to enact Plan B, stop ruminating about Plan A. Embrace Plan B. It’s what you have. You can’t time travel and change your circumstance. Accept and own where you are right now.
  • Laugh … and Encourage Others to Laugh with You. As I shared, I’ve told this story to a few people. In the end, I think it’s funny, and I want others to see the humor in it, too. I’m not perfect. (I think I’ve established that already.) I’m human. I don’t want to live with the pretense that I’ve got it all together, because I don’t. But what I do have is an insatiable desire to be real, and a sincere commitment to make each day better than the last.

With that in mind, let me wish you a great 2019 – a year full of hopes, dreams, plans made … and plans adjusted, and a great curiosity that keeps you inspired.

The post Greta Expectations and Van Fleeting Moments appeared first on Lead Star.

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So it’s that time of year again. The time where we start to analyze and inventory our personal deficits so we can start planning for a new and improved version of ourselves beginning January 1st. Technically we could change now, but who are we kidding? Those leftovers aren’t going to eat themselves. 

Now how do we begin this analyzation process? More often than not we start by comparing.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be as physically fit as Jordan?  How great would it be to have the money to buy a new Jeep like Kristina’s?  I wish I had the self-discipline to eat as healthy as Brett or to be as present and full of gratitude as Stephanie! 

Unfortunately, social media makes comparing (aka scrolling) all too easy, and falling down the look-how-much-better-my-friends-are-doing-than-me rabbit hole can happen before we even realize it.  However, more often than not, we’re not really comparing ourselves to other people. We’re actually comparing ourselves to an ideal, perfect version of us. All the while forgetting perfection is unattainable. However, while perfection is unattainable, improvement is well within our grasp. 

So this year I’m challenging myself and you to cut out the middleman of comparing, and remember that to be imperfect is to be human. Let’s forgive ourselves for not being perfect and remember we have to have the compassion to be kind to ourselves first and then to others (because as it turns out we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly). 

Then instead of focusing on achieving perfection or the success of those around us, let’s focus on improving a little bit each day. When we make mistakes or fall off the achievement wagon (as we will) let’s not blame ourselves or feel shame, but laugh and say, “man I’m good at being human!”  When we’re grateful let’s not make it because we’re getting ahead in the comparison derby, but because we’re just a little better than we were yesterday, and no matter what day it is remember when it comes to being the best version of yourself, no one else can come close to comparing with you. 

Happy New Year!

The post New Year, Same Me appeared first on Lead Star.

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I was recently talking with a colleague about what it takes to succeed in a demanding role. She shared that she thought the successful leader would have, “high competence, medium ego and be low maintenance.” I chuckled at her witty criteria for doing well in a high-profile position. I clearly understood the high competence and low maintenance parts, but I questioned her about what she meant by medium ego. She said, “Well, you have to have enough ego to know that you are capable and can confidently get the job done. That amount of ego gives you the courage to try.”  
 
I often come across professionals who are high ego and high maintenance to the point that it becomes a barrier to their competence. They consider themselves very important and at times believe their needs are the most important ones. This mindset isn’t consistent with being an effective leader. Leaders who are “post-ego” care more about solving problems and helping others succeed than being recognized for their greatness. They are willing to sacrifice personal wins for team victories.

I believe that our world needs more post-ego leaders and I challenge you to become one. Consider incorporating the following into your leadership style: 
 
Shift Your Focus Away from Personal Accomplishment. It’s very easy to get caught up in the pursuit of status, notoriety, and prestige. Post-ego leaders are beyond that chase. They have moved past the need to be affirmed by achievement, though they once may have experienced a season of life where climbing the ladder of success and experiencing “look at me” moments was a thrilling pursuit. Being able to reflect on your past and recognize the times when your life was oriented toward personal accomplishment is a key attribute of being “post-ego.”
 
Be Others-Centered. I’ve observed that leaders who are truly beloved by their teams are the same people who share with me that they find life a more satisfying, joyful experience when they are others-centered, instead of self-centered. One CEO described it like this, “I have much more resilience to deal with inevitable setbacks and failures because I care more about the success of others than myself. It’s not personal anymore. I know that the lows are just a part of what you have to go through to lead people to a better place and a better level of performance.”
 
As leaders, confidence is important. Be cautious though, there is a fine line between a healthy amount of ego and arrogance. Challenge yourself to truly elevate the importance others have in your life. When you find that you are leading purely for the good of the team, magic happens.  

The post How to Become a “Post-Ego” Leader appeared first on Lead Star.

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Growing up, I never considered myself a creative person. I associated creativity with someone who was an artist or musician. My artistic and musical abilities were limited to rudimentary stick figures and learning how to play the recorder in 6th grade.

When I served in the Army, I learned that the ability to be creative was not exclusive to artists or musicians; it was vitally important to be able to influence outcomes and inspire others. We were taught that creativity was our ability to think differently and develop solutions that transformed traditional ideas. For example, when we lacked the necessary armor on our vehicles, we improvised by utilizing spare parts from our body armor to provide our vehicle with more protection.

In today’s business environment, creativity is more important than ever because businesses must be able to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that requires innovation and flexibility. The lifecycle of many products and services is much shorter than it used to be. Remember Blockbuster Video? Many of us have fond memories of renting movies there but their lack of creativity and innovation caused them to be left in the dust by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Without creative leaders, businesses are destined for mediocrity at best and extinction at worst.

Just like you would practice your golf swing to become a better golfer, science has shown us the importance of exercising our brain to become more creative. A study on identical twins by George Land in 1968 found that as we get older, we learn noncreative behavior that decreases our creativity. To combat that, we need to actively exercise our creative brain.

Here are some things you can do to help spur your creative side:

  • Get away from your desk. Go for a walk, ride a bike. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that we think more creatively when we are distracted, such as when exercising. This is due to increased dopamine levels in our brain and the distraction factor allow us to stop ruminating on ineffective solutions.
  • Break your routine. Do you stop at the same coffee shop every morning or sit in the same seat on the metro every day? Changing your routine can help provide you with different perspectives and expose you to different people.
  • Collaborate with others. Not only does this help bring more ideas to the table, but it also allows you the opportunity to inspire creative thoughts in others.
  • Make some noise. In this article titled “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition,” researchers discovered that mild levels of ambient noise led to more creativity in individuals by activating our abstract cognition.
  • Play with toys. Believe it or not, many creative design companies encourage their employees to have toys at their desks. I found the value in this first-hand through experiencing the impact playing with playdough had on my creative process during a recent executive education course.

My artistic skills have not changed much from elementary school as I am still limited to stick figures, however, my capacity to think creatively has. As a leader, start thinking of ways you can be more creative in your role and try out some of the tips above. 

The post Harnessing Creativity for Innovation appeared first on Lead Star.

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