5 Ways To Live A More Elegant Life

Photo by Qrodo Photos

Photo by Qrodo Photos

What Is Elegance?

The clean dismount of a gymnast from the balance beam. The smooth playing motions of a professional cellist. The foil handling of a fencing expert. The passionate speech of a CEO. The fluid hand motions of a symphony orchestra conductor. The graceful walk of a model down the runway.

When I consider elegance, I think of these types of activities.

The classic definition of elegance is as follows (from Dictionary.com):

elegance or elegancy (ˈɛlɪɡəns)

  • dignified grace in appearance, movement, or behaviour
  • good taste in design, style, arrangement, etc
  • something elegant; a refinement

The origin of the actual word is French (élégance) from. c.1500 and means tasteful, correct, harmonious, choice, of speech or prose.

In days gone by, people of means and “refinement” went to finishing or charm schools (mostly girls) to learning the fine art of the social graces.

While many of these types of schools are no longer functioning today, I believe something can be said of the importance of living a life of elegance. There are so many crude and rude people in today’s society. This makes no sense to me, especially living in the modern age of the 21st century. I would like to think that we as a society have grown beyond crude and rude, right?

In this post, I’d like for us to consider living a life filled with more elegance, more grace, and more refinement.

5 Ways to Live With More Elegance

  1. Dress up more. Today’s society has gone too far over into the casual appearance. If you really want to make an impact with those around you, consider “suiting up” on a regular basis like Barney Stinson. Also, wear quality clothes that fit you well. If yours currently don’t fit very well, then get them professionally tailored or budget for more that do. Be classy and dignified in your appearance.
  2. Watch your table manners. Using your hands to eat, licking your fingers, and wiping your dirty hands on your shirt will probably earn you a bad rap, especially in a professional setting. Consider using the “old school” table manners with your napkin and left hand down in your lap. Use the proper silverware to bring the food to your mouth. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t speak with food in your mouth, and so on.
  3. Float across the room. Do you walk like a trucker? Do you slouch? Do you hang your head and look down at the floor? Watch how today’s “power people” walk into a room. They walk with confident grace and ease.
  4. Speak with dignity. Have you ever recorded yourself speaking? Does your speech sound stilted, or do you have a pleasing tone and flow to your speaking? You might consider working with a vocal coach or joining Toastmasters International.
  5. Listen to more elegant music. I think some of the most elegant, intelligent music ever written comes from the Renaissance and Baroque time periods. Dial these two stations up on Pandora occasionally for a great “ear break” from today’s pop music noise. I’m listening to these two stations as I write this post.

Are You Living A Life Of Elegance?

How elegant is your life? Do you dress for success? Do you watch your manners at power lunches? Do you walk into a conference room with grace and ease? Do you have a pleasant speaking voice? Do you listen to quality music?

I would contend that living with more elegance in these five areas can dramatically improve your professional as well as personal life.

How about you? Do you have additional areas that you strive for elegance in your life? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.






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Setting Goals That Inspire Action In 2013

Photo by lululemon athletica

Photo by lululemon athletica

It’s That Time, Again

It’s hard to believe, but 2012 is coming to a close in just a few days. A new year is already knocking at the door! Have you given any consideration to your current goals from 2012 and any new goals for 2013?

How did you do this year? Did you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish? Do you have some current, incomplete goals you’re going to need to carry over into the new year?

This week, I’ve been in the process of reviewing my goals from this year and deciding my goals for next year.

In this post, I’d like to challenge you to think differently about your goal-setting process for 2013. I’d like to offer a slightly different approach that will inspire you to take action next year.

3 Words | 3 Pictures

For 2013, I’d encourage you to take a different approach to goal-setting than the “normal” routines that are published everywhere. The typical approach always seems so lengthy, making your goals difficult to remember. And, in order to remember them, you need to flip open a notebook and read through them at least once a week!

I believe there is a simpler, yet broader approach that still gets the job done in an efficient manner. Let me give you a personal example.

In 2012, I had a goal I was trying to accomplish. This specific goal was to achieve washboard abs in one year.

In a more traditional, goal-setting approach, I would have written out a goal that probably looked something like this:

By December 2012, I will achieve the physical look of “washboard abs.”

Now, that in itself is a pretty simple statement and easy to remember. But, I decided to take a different approach to my goals this past year then just sentence building. I used one word and one picture per goal set. So, I jumped online, found a picture of washboard abs and typed the word “healthy” over it.

I will admit right now that I don’t exactly have the “washboard” abs look I was going for in my picture. But, I will tell you that I am a whole lot healthier at the end of this year then I was last year. Back in January, I went to the doctor for a much-needed physical exam. All my blood work looked great. I’ve been eating much healthier for the entire year (more greens and proteins; fewer carbs). In May, I started working out 3-5 times a week, with a good balance of cardio and strength training. I have kept up this pace for the remainder of the year, and now I’m addicted to my workouts!

As a result of this one word “healthy” and washboard abs picture, I now have a “swimmer’s body” physique. I lost about 10-12 pounds of excess body fat. I gained muscle mass in my chest and arms. I have more strength and stamina. I have way less stress in my life. I have not been sick at all for this entire year. One word and one picture helped me achieve a healthier, better physical life in 2012.

As a result of this awesome success, I’m currently sorting out 3 big, hairy, audacious goals that I would like to accomplish in 2013. I’m fine-tuning the 3 words and 3 pictures I would like to link to these goals for the new year. I’m super jazzed about what I will be able to accomplish next year. I plan on “crushing it” in 2013.

One word associated with one picture for each life goal. Try three big goals for next year and see how it works for you!

Are You Setting Goals?

So, are you in the process of reviewing your goals from 2012 and preparing a new set of goals for 2013? How did you do this year? Are you getting excited about a new year and a whole new world of possibilities?

What goal-setting plan are you using? Have you ever used a similar approach to the one word, one picture per goal that I have mentioned in this post?

I’d love to get your thoughts on goal-setting for the coming year. Feel free to leave me a comment below.

7 Keys To Establish A Culture Of Excellence

Photo by Quasimondo

Photo by Quasimondo

The Priority Of Excellence

When I consider great people, organizations, and companies that exist today, I am impressed with their commitment to excellence. They have a passionate desire and drive to put excellent work out into the world.

Apple, Inc. creates beautiful products that challenge the status quo. Fox News is communicating fair and balanced news in a powerful way. Andy Stanley is “communicating for change” in the world of preaching, teaching, and writing. Michael Hyatt is creating a Platform empire!

The work that these people and companies create didn’t happen by accident, either. Their work has been the best of the best. They have been committed to a path of excellence in all that they do.

Because of that commitment to excellence, they are at the top of their field.

7 Keys To Excellence

As I look at excellent companies, organizations, and people, I observe seven keys to excellence that are practiced religiously:

  1. Excellence is a decision. Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. Excellent people and organizations have made conscious decisions that they will put excellence into everything they do.
  2. Excellence requires strong leadership. If you want to establish a culture of excellence, then you must recruit and train excellent leaders. The best organizations don’t just have one strong head leader. There is at least one additional layer (and usually more) of quality leaders that are heralding the vision of the CEO.
  3. Excellence is communicated regularly in a variety of ways. Try putting excellence quotes in your blogs and newsletters. Pepper everyday conversations with thoughts on excellence. Establish a culture where excellence is expected at every level – from the bathroom to the board room!
  4. Excellence requires enthusiastic energy! People are drawn to energy. If you and your team are energized by what you do, then people will follow you. They will buy into you. They will be peak performers for you. They will give you excellent work.
  5. Excellence is hard work. Achieving excellence in anything won’t be easy. You’re going to have to put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into all that you do. The more hard work you can put in on the front end, the bigger the payoff for you and your organization on the back-end.
  6. Excellence is detailed oriented. If you desire to achieve excellence, then you’re going to have to take out the magnifying glass and really dig into the details of your projects, products, and organizational structure.
  7. Excellence in anything must be practiced consistently over time. You can’t have a “one and done” seminar on excellence. You must constantly communicate and practice excellence in everything you do. You must become a quasi-religious zealot and inspire everyone in your sphere of influence toward this subjective destination of excellence every day.

Other Keys To Excellence?

How about you? Are you an excellent person? Are you a leader within an excellent organization? What do you think of my list of seven keys to excellence? Do you have additional keys that you would like to share?

If so, please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

How Do You Define Excellence For Yourself Or Organization?

Photo by Chandra Marsono

Photo by Chandra Marsono

Excellence Is Subjective

Excellence is a moving target. Depending on the time of day, our physical health, how rested we are, as well as a number of different factors, we will perform at varying levels of excellence.

Also, depending on how well we have prepared ourselves as well as the people around us, this will determine how excellent we can perform in a given task or project.

Typically, though, we end up measuring our excellence through the prism of a model or mentor. Let me give you two examples from my world.

Models And Mentors

For many years now, I have conducted volunteer church orchestras. Whenever my musicians need to learn a new piece of music, I normally play them a very clean, solid demo recording of this new music. This gives them a “standard” from which to learn the song. My orchestra now has a “benchmark” for which to strive for to play the song with excellence.

Now, will my volunteer orchestra ever hit the demo recording level of musical excellence? No, probably not, but at least they understand how a particular song should sound. They get the sound of it in their musical ear, and they will do what they need to do to try to reach that same level of excellence. Even though they probably won’t reach the same level of excellence as the model, they are at least inspired to a higher level as a result of having a model to compare their playing ability to.

Let me give you another example.

Photo by apgroner

Photo by apgroner

As an orchestra conductor, I have had a number of excellent teachers, mentors, and role models. I have learned a tremendous amount about conducting from all of them. I have practiced really hard to become at least as good of a conducting musician as they are. They have served as a benchmark of excellence for me. They have pushed me to at least their level and beyond.

A really cool thing happens though, when you start moving beyond demos, models, mentors, and benchmarks. You and your organization start blazing a new trail of excellence in whatever you do. You become the standard everyone else is trying to reach!

Best In The World (or pretty darn close)

The ultimate goal for you as an individual or as an organization should be to become the best in the world. Why settle for third or fourth place? If you believe that you have the capacity to become the best in your area of expertise, why not go for it?

As you strive to become best in the world, be on the lookout for those who have already established themselves as best in the world. Hold them up as your standard of excellence.

Then, see if you can meet and surpass their level of excellence. Look for unique ways you can differentiate your level of excellence from theirs. Take your personal or organizational excellence up to the next level so that you can stand out from the crowd. Move into the arena of best in the world and watch others follow your leadership.

It’s a cool place to be. Go for it and see what happens!

Two Life Secrets I Learned From The Quotes Of Zig Ziglar

Photo from Zig Ziglar’s official website

Zig Ziglar Goes Home

Last week, the world lost one of its most beloved motivational speakers – Zig Ziglar. Zig passed away on November 28, 2012, from pneumonia. In the last five years, he has struggled physically from a brain injury after a fall down a flight of stairs.

Zig Ziglar is best known as a motivational speaker. He has done numerous live seminars. He has written over 30 books. He has audio and video recordings of his seminars that have been readily available for many years now. If you’ve had any connection with the self-help, success, and motivational world, then you know Zig Ziglar.

What I’ve Learned From Zig Ziglar

Over the past several years, I have listened to many of these motivational recordings from Zig Ziglar. I have read some of his writing. I have seen some of his seminars on DVD.

If there are two primary life lessons I have taken away from Zig Ziglar, it would be these:

1. Better thinking leads to better living. We can see this in the following quotes from Zig such as:

Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.

We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin ‘thinkin’ which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes.

If you want to reach a goal, you must “see the reaching” in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.

Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.

If you don’t see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner.

I believe there are a lot of important truths contained in these quotes. The world would be a much better place, today, if all of us would work on better thinking, expectations, and attitudes.

2. Helping people get what they want is important to successful living. We can see this advice revealed in the following quotes:

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.

If you treat your wife like a thoroughbred, you’ll never end up with a nag.

People who have good relationships at home are more effective in the marketplace.

The greatest good we can do for others is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal theirs.

In our drive to be successful, it’s very easy to forget that the people around us are a large part of that journey. The more people we can help along the way, the greater and deeper our own success will be.

How About You?

How’s you’re thinking? Do you need a check up from the neck up?

And, how are your relationships with those around you? Are you taking them on the journey with you? Are you helping people get what they want out of life?

These two ‘big ideas” from Zig Ziglar can definitely help create a successful life for all of us.

Do you have some additional favorite quotes or other big ideas from Zig Ziglar? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.