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Why This Matters

FarberMy Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter tribes have seen me promoting Steve Farber's Leadership Intensive coming to Des Moines next week. But I have to admit, with limited space, I'm not sure I've done justice to exactly why YOUO as a professional should care enough to pay attention to the even, let alone register for it.

So I thought I'd share a synopsis of my journey with Steve:

I was first introduced to Steve's work back in 2004 when his first book, The Radical Leap came out. It was a time when I was devouing every business fable I could find, as I was working on authoring two such books and was at various stages in the writing process. Being a B-college instructor, I've also run across TONS of literature on the topic of leadership. Most of which was a heaping, steaming pile of common sense with a huge yawn on the side. The very word had been watered down. I had seen numerous people who had referred to themselves as leaders perform very poorly, and quite frankly, I was becoming skeptical and cynical that a real leader could exist. As for me, I was at one of those stalled moments in my career, and because my wife had chosen to take a sabbatical from work, I opted for a "safe route" in for a boring client on a contract project that was considerably less than inspiring, subcontracting for a firm which sapped my energy daily.

Any description I could provide for the impact Steve's book had on my outlook of leadership and on my personal introspection wouldn't do justice to what I actually felt and experienced. But that was just the point: until reading Steve's simple yet impactful LEAP (Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof), I really hadn't FELT nor EXPERIENCED anything from leadership literature. They were nice theories and words on pages. But they didn't DO anything to motivate or move me.

The extreme leader's mantra, "Do what you love in the service of those who love what you do," forced me to examine how I was running my career and my life. I knew I loved project management and helping companies get to the finish line, but often it was a job performed for people who more often than not, resentfully viewed project management as a necessary evil. I had, however, been on a couple of projects where my clients saw the value I brought to the table and expressed their appreciation for what I did and how I did it. BINGO! The entire formula was there! Do what you love in the service of those who love what you do. And I started being more selective about the clients with whom I would work. I listened differently during the interview process and began to turn down clients whom I knew would not love what I did. The right kinds of clients began appearing, almost magically.

While this was happening, the vast expansion of social media allowed me to meet Steve. First via blogging, then emails, then phone conversations, and finally in person at the inaugural SOBCon in 2007. About that time, Drake University had asked me to ramp up a new class called Leadership and Human Capital Development as a master's level elective. I used Steve's books, Radical Leap and Radical Edge (the sequel), as cornerstones to the class. I really wanted this class to be different for the students. I wanted them to experience what I had experienced a few years prior. But I was prepared for what really occurred.

Radical_Leap_ReenergizedI found students who were HUNGRY for real leadership, not just from their leaders, but from themselves. (Keep in mind, my students are mostly non-traditional students; professionals such as yourselves who work in offices and have families and goals and passions). Steve's challenge to use leadership to change the world resonated with them in ways I could never imagined. Over a third of the 100 students I had that first year made major life changing decisions within a few months of having taken the class. Many switched employers or careers. A couple of them went on to pursue their doctorate degrees. One of them challenged an abusive boss after years of putting up with crap. One accepted an overseas assignment with her company. Another uproooted herself and moved to another city after years of "playing it safe" (her story is still very special to me... the only student presentation to ever earn a standing ovation from her peers). The stories still keep coming in years after that class; Steve Farber's work changes lives and inspires people to change the world. Period.

As for me? I'm still an evangelist of Steve's work. I've been blessed with people who have helped me see past the gray cubicle walls into the world that could be. I love hearing my colleagues' and students' stories about changing the world (at least their small corner of it). This past year, I've been reminded how short and fragile life is. I've lost friends unexpectedly and had others journey through the gauntlet of cancer. In light of all these events, my daughter and I were talking about death a few weeks ago and she asked me what I'd do if I only had a few weeks to live. My answer surprised her. I told her I'd be ready, even at my age. Thanks to Steve's work, I've already accomplished a lot to change the world. I've made a difference in the lives of others. I've coached. I've inspired. I've introduced. I've taught. I've challenged. I've parented. I've authored. I've spoken. But the bottom line is this: I've loved. And I've done so for those who appreciate that love.

So what about you? You're sitting in a cubicle or an office. You're doing a job. It's mid-morning on hump day. You're already starting to think about the weekend. You're looking at your task list and your projects. You're checking in. You're calling. You're meeting. Do you want to exist? Or do you want to EXPERIENCE and FEEL something again? Or have you given that up as unrealistic, so you're content to spend over 2000 hours a year feeling nothing?

I wouldn't be much of an "evangelist" without an altar call, now, would I? There are two events coming up here in Des Moines. Next week, Steve Farber is here in the flesh for his 1.5 day leadership intensive. I can promise it will be a life-changing and world-changing experience. You can even get a 20% discount on this event by using JOHNSON (all caps) in the discount code. The second event is a one-day Extreme Leadership event at Drake. I will be facilitating that myself, but Steve's presence will be felt.

My motivation for sharing this is simple. People are either motivated by love or by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of losing a job they hate. Fear of not making a difference. This is your chance to change that fear into love. I've lived on both sides of the motivation spectrum. I'll take love any day. 

FREE VISION (Frames and Lenses Not Included)

Eyeglass FramesWith the Independence Day Holiday fast approaching, I decided to try a social experiment this morning on my Facebook page. I needed a news story from a respectable source which would cause a bit of partisan wrestling. The WSJ ran a story stating individual insurance rates for the healthy would most likely double or triple, while those in poor health would get a hike break. BINGO! Perfect.

Now you have to realize that my friends run the gamut of annoyingly liberal to frighteningly conservative. While a majority are comfortably in the middle, I know some who "fan girl" over Obama like a 12-year-old at a One Direction concert. I also know others who have their torches and pitchforks at the ready at the mention of anything Democrat. It makes my life interesting. But for this experiment, I was going to stay out of the way, except for the initial thought grenade I lobbed in their midst with minimal commentary on my part.

Over 50 comments later, they didn't disappoint. There was the usual political rancor and rhetoric. A few tried rational argument and cited sources. Some others shared personal stories. Others resorted to name-calling and generalizations. One insinuated I was elitist for having a print copy of the WSJ. Another called me out for stirring the pot first thing on a Monday (if he only knew).

Why did I do this? Fair question. It was all a question of vision, frames, and lenses. Being a glasses-wearer for the better part of my adult life, I'm used to having my optometrist prescribe the right lens strength for my eyes and then finding a pair of frames to fit my face and prevent my daughters from rolling their eyes in embarrassment. It makes a good metaphor for how we see the world. Our frames (beliefs, values, experiences) support our lenses (how we see the world now). My frame-lens combo wouldn't work for you, any more than yours would work for me. Yet we seem to do want to shove our glasses onto everybody else to make them see the way we do.

Part of the problem is we (collectively) seem to confuse fact and opinion. Like it or not, from a governmental standpoint, most issues are opinion. (They may be moral absolutes for us individually or for our religious community, but I'm not addressing those right now.) Our country was based on freedom. Freedom of religion. Freedom of thought. Freedom of activity. But if we assume the only freedom is our own opinion, we undermine the very intent of those founding fathers. For example, the number of uninsured people in our country is fact; whether health insurance is a right or a consumer good is opinion. How much a procedure costs is fact; whether it is another's responsibility to pay for said procedure is opinion.

Here's where the other part of the problem arises. Because we don't differentiate between fact and opinion (note I said "don't" rather than "can't"), we assume our self-anointed facts are reality and others' opinions are... well... WRONG. We no longer even bother to assess their lenses or frames; we just assume their eye doctor should be jailed for malpractice. It's easier that way. One of the most powerful experiences in my professional career was reading the "Seek first to understand, then be understood" chapter in Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

So my challenge to you this week is this: when you're celebrating the freedom of our nation, remember there are people whose frames and lenses are different from yours. Persuasion is an accomplisment. Celebrate THEIR freedom as well. Start your argument by assuming they are right and you're not. Learn about their frames and lenses. Then they'll probably be more open to learning yours. Doing so may help prevent unnecessary fireworks.

(And to my friends whom I mercilessly exploited today, thanks for playing. Don't think too harshly of me. My personal lens/frame combo means I like to play social anthropologist from time to time.)

Happy Independence Day!

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