5 Strategies to Create An Almost Abundant Supply of Personal Energy to Take You to the Next Level

Photo by macki2k

Photo by macki2k

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s new book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

I’m Getting Older, Yet Better!

Several years ago, I turned forty. This was an age that caused me to stop and reflect on my physical health. I felt tired all the time. I was stressed out. I was moody and would get frustrated with any kind of problem, large and small. I was going through some of the most difficult changes in my personal life that one can experience. I wasn’t happy with much of anything. I knew something had to change, and I took massive action as a result. Over the last six years, I have been on an amazing journey that has led to a healthier and happier level of living.

In the book The Power of Full Engagement (2003), authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz assert people need to learn two new rules when it comes to energy and performance. First: recognize that energy is the fundamental currency of high performance. Second: performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. Later on, Jim Loehr added a third important rule: the stories a person tells one’s self and others drives the way he or she gathers and spends energy.

Energy management goes beyond establishing morning routines. It encompasses whole life management. The better a person treats their body through food fuels energy. A stronger body through aerobic exercise and strength training adds a quality of life that many don’t understand. Better quality sleep allows the physical body to rest, recover, and repair itself which results in greater energy to do more.

In today’s culture, people have taken on the mindset that burning the candle at both ends is a badge of honor to “get ahead.” People go to bed late and wake up early; they eat junk food meals on the run. They sit in front of computer screens for twelve hours a day. Exercise is not prioritized, or non-existent. Is there any wonder there is an obesity epidemic in the modern age?

Conventional wisdom says sleep less to get ahead. Cut corners in health and wellness to climb to the top of the ladder faster than the guy in the cubical next door. Yeah, success might come faster, but so might a heart attack!

There is a better, healthier way to do things. Now, let’s take a closer look at living a richer life through proper eating, exercise, sleep, emotional habits, and sexual energy control.

Strategy #1: Eat Better

Eating the right foods at the right times has tremendous potential to create a good energy balance to live a high quality life. The average American, though, wakes up in a rush, runs through a Starbucks drive-thru to grab a high sugar and cream combo coffee and a high calorie pastry to go with it. At work, they grab other high carb and high sugar snacks to sustain them until lunch. At lunch, they eat fast food; they make more bad snack choices in the afternoon, and then they top it all off with a heavy dinner late at night.

But, with just a little bit of forethought on food intake, a healthier lifestyle can be achieved. It is possible to avoid putting so much bad stuff into one’s body. These bad foods actually make people hungrier, bigger, and less energetic all at the same time.

One book that had a tremendous impact on my own personal eating habits has been The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.

[Disclaimer: As a Christian, there are certain aspects about sex in this book that I am in no way endorsing. Read at your own risk. You have been warned. No hate comments, please!]

The biggest take away for me from this book is the slow carb diet (SCD). After reading the book, I began a focus on consuming more protein at specific intervals throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning. I also try to avoid bad carbohydrates whenever possible.

I don’t follow slow carb religiously, just a few of the basic tenets. But, with this diet plus exercising four days a week for twenty-five minutes each workout, I was able to sculpt my body. I dropped an extra twelve to fifteen pounds, moving from 175 pounds down to a consistent 160 pounds within a few months. I’ve never been a big guy, but even my family noticed a difference when I went on this food and exercise regimen.

Here are the basics of SCD as I understand them from Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Body book:

  1. Focus meals on lean proteins such as eggs, egg whites, meats, nuts, etc. Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already repeat meals, anyway; now you’re just picking new default meals.
  2. Eat 30 in 30. Translation: Eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Tim Ferriss and others on SCD claim this is the biggest change in diet that will affect weight loss.
  3. Eat plenty of veggies.
  4. Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more body fat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are the exception to the rule.
  5. Avoid “bad” carbs such as “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains.
  6. Eat every three hours.
  7. Enjoy one “cheat” day per week. This helps with plateauing weight issues when you are on the same diet every day.54

Strategy #2: Move Your Body!

A few years ago, I heard some wise advice that has stuck with me:

“How well we live our lives in our forties and fifties will set us up for how healthy we will be in our sixties, seventies, and beyond.”

When I heard this advice, I had just turned forty. I had exercised some in the past, but nothing consistent. I was not a healthy eater. I mentioned earlier that I was tired a lot, as well as stressed out at work and home. I came to the realization that if I wanted to age well, I knew I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.

I have zero excuses, too. My workplace has an excellent free workout facility for its employees. So, I began to develop an exercise routine that wasn’t difficult or strenuous but got me into the gym at least four times every week. I also try to work out at the same time each day. I attempt to schedule my workouts in the late morning or early afternoon, right around my lunch hour. For whatever reason, I landed at this time due to my personal schedule and energy levels. It seems to have worked the best for me, so I’ve stuck with it.

Many people have physical goals they are trying to accomplish with their own unique exercise plan to get them there. For me, I strive for a balanced exercise routine of four to five days a week. I’m not interested in running marathons, half marathons, or even 5k’s. I have no desire to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Paul Michael Levesque. With a large family and work responsibilities, I have time limitations. I have to keep my physical body “tight and right” in an optimal time frame.

I keep my exercise routine to a simple twenty-five minutes and I’m done. I do cardio on an elliptical machine two to three times a week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays. On alternate days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do a cardio warm-up on an elliptical for ten minutes. Then, I spend the remaining twenty minutes weight training with nautilus-style machines.

This exercise routine, combined with my protein-eating habits described in the previous section, has produced results. I have been able to trim off ten to twelve pounds of excess weight, sculpt my body, and stay at this level for over three years. With this twenty-five minute routine, four days a week, I spend a minimal time working out, and it has increased my energy to a high degree. I also need less sleep than I ever have before.

Want more energy? A methodical, consistent, and focused exercise routine really is a game changer when it comes to energy management.

Strategy #3: Get Some Quality Sleep

Sleep. Some don’t get enough. Others get too much. Either way, the right amount is important for energy management. When I was younger, I didn’t eat well. I didn’t exercise much. My sleep patterns were inconsistent. As a result, my energy levels were all over the place during the day as well as from day to day.

Over the last few years, though, I have established better sleep patterns. I attempt to go to bed the same time each night, around 10:00 p.m. I wake up the same time each morning, close to 4:15 a.m. These sleep habits combined with better eating and exercise have led to higher energy levels. I don’t need near the amount of sleep that I used to. I accomplish more at work. I’d also like to think that I’m a lot more pleasant person when I arrive home at the end of the day to greet my family in the evening. I have energy still left in the tank to pour out to the people I love the most.

I believe establishing good habits in the areas of food and exercise will result in six to eight hours of sleep. A person will wake up more rested. Of course, some people need more sleep than others. I get that part of it. I’ve always been on the low end of the sleep cycle. Others may need eight to ten hours of sleep. I’m sharing my own experience. This is what I have discovered in my own experiments in energy management.

Quality of sleep is an important factor for the greatest impact on minimal sleep. Here are a few sleep hacks I’ve picked up along the way to achieve better sleep quality:

  • Be careful of caffeine intake during the day, especially any time later than mid-afternoon.
  • Get 20–30 minutes of exercise each day, but don’t exercise in the evening hours. That could energize you too much before bedtime.
  • A short, 20-minute power nap in the early afternoon (if possible to get away with taking one!) can be a game changer for daily energy levels and mood.
  • If possible, establish a consistent bedtime as well as wake up time. This is a lot bigger deal than people realize. Do this one thing and a lot of problems will disappear.
  • Keep the room temperature on the cool side whenever possible.
  • Keep the room as dark as possible.
  • White noise generators or small fans help block out some of the background noises that may keep us awake or wake us up in the middle of the night.
  • Keep cell phones in a different room, or at least turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature so that email alerts, text messages, or phone calls won’t disrupt sleep in the middle of the night.
  • Avoid using bright screens before bed such as TVs, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Quick side note: In the latest version of Apple iOS, there is now a special “Night Shift” screen setting to help with this problem.
  • Consider melatonin supplements if needed.
  • Establish a regular “getting ready for bed” routine that cues the body that it is time to sleep.

In my experience over the last three years, quality sleep (not always quantity) is one of the keys to having more energy.

Strategy #4: Control Your Emotions

To most people, I’m sure I appear to be pretty stable and even-keeled when it comes to my emotions, at least in public anyway. I don’t get crazy enthusiastic about anything (which could possibly be an issue). But, I don’t grow upset about most anything, either. In public, I may not appear to struggle with emotional ups and downs, but in private, I do.

I don’t like surprises. I don’t like major, last-minute changes. I don’t like unexpected problems. When I encounter these issues in my life, I tend to have a strong emotional response to them. I lose self-control. I become angry, upset, and judgmental. I want things my way or not at all. “How dare you turn my life upside down by bringing your problem into my world and handing me a headache to deal with?” This is the attitude and self-talk that tends to come out of me.

What happens, though, when people lose control of their emotions? Valuable energy is wasted on problems that are oftentimes out of the person’s control anyway. Nothing can be done about them, but people tend to stew, fret, and be upset anyway. This type of emotional response results in exhaustion and energy-depletion. Joyce Meyer says, “It’s so important to realize that every time you get upset, it drains your emotional energy. Losing your cool makes you tired. Getting angry a lot messes with your health.”

On almost any given day, there will be problems that trigger emotions that pull people away from where they need to be. Many have a tendency to overreact to these problems, losing valuable emotional energy on them. Instead of getting upset and angry, seek out solutions to those problems and take action. Make a shift in mindset and energy to seeking solutions and taking action—a much better way to control emotions. Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler Motors said, “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

For the Christian, prayer is always an excellent, positive first step in attempting to deal with problems in which you have zero control. In fact, prayer should always be our “go to” response when we encounter difficulties. I know I can always run to the Father when I feel like life is out of control. When nothing I am doing or could do will make a positive impact to turn the situation around,

I know God can take care of it. We serve an awesome, all-powerful, all-knowing God. Nothing is too big for Him. Nothing catches Him by surprise. He promises those who seek Him will find Him. “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7 NIV).

Another helpful suggestion I have about emotional control is the practice of meditation. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation has done wonders for me. Now, anytime I become stressed, I find myself doing these breathing exercises and not holding onto the stress within my body. I attempt to release it as fast as possible through these breathing exercises. A calm confidence replaces my stress and I am able to deal with problems in a positive way.

Successful people have learned how to handle their emotions. They have learned how to channel negative, energy-depleting emotions into positive action. This flips the whole equation around and gives them more energy. Gaining emotional control will result in more high-energy, high-impact days. Paulo Coelho said, “When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It’s very simple.”

Strategy #5: Control Your Sexual Urges

Sexual energy is a lot bigger deal than people realize. Or, they realize it’s a big deal but don’t want to discuss it. Sex is one of those weird issues people often don’t want to meet head on within the Christian community.

I debated for quite some time if I should include this section in this post. The more I thought about it, though, the more I believe in the importance of sexual energy. How sexual energy is used impacts energy management. This section will not be for the faint of heart, but I will attempt to not be too graphic either. I do believe the topic needs to be discussed, though, in light of an overly sexualized culture. I have extended a warning!

God designed human beings as sexual creatures. He gave them a sex drive for specific reasons. He wants His people to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28, NLT). He created human beings with sexual desires for pleasing spouses, as well as for personal enjoyment.

However, western culture is over-sexed. Sex whenever and with whomever one wants has become the norm. Sex education begins at an early age in the public school system. Students can get free condoms at school. Because of the relative anonymity of online pornography, porn addiction has become a huge problem as well. Twenty-first century technology combined with mankind’s lust-driven sin nature has not been a good combination for anyone.

Unfortunately, Christians are not immune from this over-sexed culture, either. In many ways, I believe Christians may have more challenges in this area. The majority of believers do (possibly) believe God’s Word teaches sexual activity outside of marriage is sin. Whether they practice this belief, though, is a whole other issue. This is why so many believers carry around a lot of struggles, hang-ups, hurts, and guilt when it comes to sex, singleness, marriage, divorce, and re-marriage.

As a Christian man who has had his own unique challenges in this area, I have noticed a big difference in quality and quantity of sexual energy as I have moved into mid-life over the last several years. As this shift has occurred, I’ve also realized how high testosterone levels and enraging pent-up frustrations have drained me of much life energy I had when I was a teenager and young adult.

The challenge for younger Christian men and women who may be over-sexed is how to deal with their sexual energy in a positive way. From my own personal experience, I know it’s a huge challenge. I may have more questions than answers in this area.

Now that I’m entrenched in mid-life (at the time of this writing I’m 46), the sexual energy/hormone issue is not as much of a challenge as it was when I was a younger man. My life energy is more calm, stable, and focused. This has been a freeing experience in and of itself.

Let me add here that sexual drive is important and vital to a productive, successful life, especially for men. A man’s libido is the driving force that propels them to do anything and everything. A focused love/sex life in a monogamous relationship between a husband and wife is what has created thriving civilizations and cultures around the world. Comparing cultures that have thrived over a period of time versus those that have struggled, one key factor for those cultures that have flourished is: monogamous marriages between men and women.

In his classic book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill talked about the “transmutation of sexual energy.” He mentioned that men of genius used their sexual energy to fuel their creativity. Equally important, though, is the fact that the sexual relationship must include love.

Napoleon Hill says, “Sex, alone, is a mighty urge to action, but its forces are like a cyclone—they are often uncontrollable. When the emotion of love begins to mix itself with the emotion of sex, the result is calmness of purpose, poise, accuracy of judgment, and balance.”

To be successful, happy, and fulfilled, figure out a way to channel all sexual energy into a focused path. The best and most focused path is to love a spouse and engage with them in a physical relationship on a regular basis. Be completely devoted to them in meeting their physical needs and not obsessed with meeting personal needs outside of this relationship.

For those who are unmarried, the challenge becomes greater but not impossible. I’ve known several people who have remained unmarried, yet (at least on the surface) appear successful because they have a singular, focused pursuit in which to release their sexual energy. This focused pursuit could be a hobby (such as music), their occupation, or a life goal accomplishment.

Control sexual urges. Marry the right person. Love that person wholeheartedly, and meet their needs. Transmute sexual energy to fuel creativity. Then, go out in the world and do amazing things with focused energy!

The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.

Who Else Wants To Raise Children, Successfully?

Photo by Jose Roco

Photo by Jose Roco

My Daughter’s Essay Was An Important Reminder

“Well, Daddy, I wrote about you.”

My oldest daughter and I were having a quick phone conversation right after school about how her day went. I asked her my usual questions, “How was your day? Anything special happen at school?”

She probably told me that not much exciting happened. Then, I probably asked her a few more questions about some specific subjects. These questions led us into a conversation about an essay she had to write in one of her classes. The assignment was to write about a person you know who has set goals and accomplished them.

She chose to write about me!

Actually, I was somewhat taken back when she said this. A tear showed up in the corner of one eye. We’ve never had any kind of “official” conversation about goals or goal-setting that I can recall. I’ve never shared with her any of my life goals.

I have been a goal-setter pretty much my entire life, though. Somehow, my daughter picked this up from me without words. Over the last 13 years, she’s been observing my actions.

She then went on to tell me my list of goals that I had accomplished from her viewpoint as my daughter. I was totally blown away.

At the same time, I was also reminded that what we do in front of our children has a bigger impact than we truly realize.

Actions Speak Louder

We’ve probably heard this statement a million times, “actions speak louder than words” or “more is caught than taught.” I am still amazed, though, at the number of parents who don’t seem to understand that what they do in front of their kids each day makes a HUGE impression on them, way more than words do.

Your words either support your actions, or they contradict them. Unfortunately, I suspect that many parents have words and actions that are complete polar opposites.

Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit. They listen to what we say, but more importantly, they watch everything we do.

Get Into Alignment

If you struggle in this area of right words but wrong actions in front of your children, then there is no better time to change this aspect of your parenting than today.

The best time to make any kind of parenting change is now; not tomorrow, or when the sun, moon, and stars line up.

Start with a change in just one area. Begin by making just one single positive action in front of your children. Then when that takes hold as a habit over a few weeks, then add another positive action and follow the pattern.

Small changes over time have a greater success rate than trying to change everything about your parenting all at once.

Be sure your actions support the words you speak to your kids. Actions really do speak louder than words.

Questions: Do you struggle in this area of alignment between your words and actions with your children? If so, what small change could you begin with today that would make a huge impact on their development over time?






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14 Practical Leadership Lessons I Have Learned From Being An Orchestra Director

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Photo by nasa hq photo

The Life And Leadership Of An Orchestra Director

I think everybody has a certain perception of symphony orchestra directors, especially the top-end professionals. People probably view them as suave, sophisticated, jet-setters who have a pretty cushy job (yeah, sure, that’s me!).

While that may be true for a small minority of the top professionals, in my experience, being an orchestra director has awesome rewards as well as very unique challenges. This is particularly true of those of us conductors who lead volunteer orchestras. The musicians in our orchestras can walk whenever they feel like it. As music directors, we either lead them well or they will bail on us, guaranteed.

Over the last 16 years of leading volunteer orchestras (as well as from being a trumpet player under a bunch of great and horrible conductors), I’ve learned several valuable leadership lessons that apply not only to directing orchestras but also really to leading any organization.

14 Leadership Lessons From Orchestra Conducting

  1. Clarify the mission and vision. Every group is energized by its own unique vision and mission. If your group is not clear on what their mission is, then the organization will break down over time. As the leader, be sure the mission is clear in your own mind, first. Then, find creative ways to communicate the team’s mission on a regular basis.
  2. Model the organization’s values. Let me give you an example here. One of the values that I regularly discuss with my orchestra is excellence. If I preach excellence each week with my orchestra, but then come into rehearsals and worship services unprepared to direct them, I am essentially a hypocrite. I need to practice what I preach. Whatever values your organization upholds, be sure that you model those values for your followers.
  3. Communicate clearly and consistently. As a conductor, I have to be extremely clear with my baton, hands, and verbal instructions in order to communicate exactly how I need my orchestra to perform. My personal leadership pet peeve is communication. There are a lot of bad communicators out there, that’s for sure. I believe all leaders need to be obsessed with the flow of clear communication between them and their followers. Without good, secure, clear lines of communication, the team will break down over time. Communicate a clear, consistent message through phone, email, social networks, text messaging, newsletters, and personal talks with your team.
  4. Set high expectations. “High expectations are the key to everything.” – Sam Walton. The groups you lead will rise (or fall) to the level of your expectations. Make sure you are crystal clear in the expectations you have for yourself as well as for those you lead. If your people believe in your leadership, then they will do whatever they can to rise to your desired level of expectation.
  5. Be prepared to lead. Anytime you’re out front leading your team in a meeting, a project, or any event, be sure you have your act together. Prepare heavily on the front end before meetings or events, so that things flow well on the back-end. Come prepared to lead your team in order for your team to be inspired to follow you.
  6. Focus your best energy on leading your leaders. The most effective leaders understand this key principle. Spend the majority of your time leading and developing your leaders. Your team will achieve more long-term when all the leaders are leading at their highest potential.
  7. Be respectful of your team. Gone are the days of the tyrant director on the podium. Stomping around and yelling at your followers just doesn’t fly anymore. They will stop following you. You must lead your team as a group of (mostly) equals. You just happen to be the one who has been placed in the position of leading the team.
  8. Prioritize the work flow. As you analyze the work projects that need to be accomplished, be sure that your team understands the priority assigned to each task. Have them focus the majority of their best time and energy into those tasks that are the highest priority.
  9. Prepare the work environment. Your team will have physical, tangible equipment needs at some level. Make sure your team has everything they need to do the work you are asking them to do. Have everything set-up in the right manner, ready to be put to its best use.
  10. Quality practice leads to excellent performance. Musicians understand this concept better than anyone. The better my practice time flows, the better my performance will go. Work hard for excellence in the private practice room, in order for your public performance to match that same level of excellence.
  11. Be an encourager. “A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.” – Kevin Bacon. Your group is going to climb higher, faster based on the amount of encouragement that you give them individually and corporately. I’m not talking fake encouragement, either. When you catch them doing awesome stuff (and you will), then give them a bunch of high-fives and pats on the back. Your followers will appreciate the sincere encouragement you give them.
  12. Praise publicly. Criticize privately. I’ve learned this leadership lesson the hard way, mostly in reverse, though! Here’s what I mean. Several years back, one of the leaders in my orchestra went on a critical rant during a rehearsal in front of the entire orchestra about something I did that he didn’t like. It really threw me off-balance the rest of the evening. The next day, I set-up a time to have lunch with this individual. When we met for lunch a few days later, I shared with him this principle. I simply and politely asked him that when he had a specific problem with my leadership, if we could meet privately to discuss the issue. I didn’t think our rehearsal time was the best time to “air our grievances.” Thankfully, we have never had another issue, since!
  13. Celebrate the victories. Honestly, I always struggle with this one. I’m the type of leader that has the tendency to move on to the next project as soon as possible. Take time to publicly “bask in the glory” of a job well done with your team.
  14. Quietly analyze the defeats. While victories should be celebrated publicly, your team’s defeats should be analyzed privately. Meet with the various leaders of your team to determine why you failed and how the failure can be corrected. Turn your team’s immediate failures into learning and growth opportunities for future wins.

Questions: Of these 14 leadership lessons, which ones do you personally embrace? Which ones are new concepts for you? What leadership lessons have you learned and developed in your specific career field? Feel free to leave a comment and share with this community.

The Importance of Daily Rituals In The Pursuit Of Excellence

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Photo by theimpulsivebuy

Our Instant World

We live in an instant world. Quick mp3 downloads from iTunes. Instant oatmeal. Movies on demand. Kindle book downloads from Amazon. Instant cup of soup.

In our instant everything world, it’s hard to have patience for much of anything, anymore. The challenge for us is that the things which have true meaning and lasting value in our lives, take time to develop.

If we want to have a growing spiritual life with our Lord, then we have to spend time in His Word and in prayer. If we want to have meaningful relationships, then we need to carve out quality and quantity time to make those happen. If we want financial peace in our lives, we need to spend time doing a budget and working on a solid financial plan.

Excellence Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Photo by r0sss

Photo by r0sss

The same is true with the principle of excellence. If you want to excel at anything, then you have to set aside regular, consistent time to work on whatever you’re trying to be excellent at.

Excellence is not a “one and done” proposition. Excellence takes time. There are no shortcuts.

The best analogy I can come up with is playing a musical instrument (I’m a trumpet player). If you’ve ever played an instrument, then you know what I’m talking about. You can’t just practice your instrument one time and be done with it. If you truly want to excel at that musical instrument, then you have to develop a regular practice routine (such as an hour a day) and stick with it.

Here’s another life example of growing in excellence and appropriate rituals.

If you want to be in excellent health, then you will need to put an exercise regimen in your daily schedule. You will need to schedule regular doctor check-ups to monitor your overall health. You will need to determine a healthy meal menu and shop at the grocery store, accordingly.

Daily rituals are the best way to grow in excellence in any area.

Got Rituals?

How about you? Do you have regular routines or rituals that you practice on a regular basis in order to be excellent in specific areas of your life?

If not, here’s my recommendation. Pick just one area of your life that you want to be excellent at. Focus on that one area for several months. Establish 2-3 rituals in that area. Make these rituals a regular habit in your life. Get this one “plate” spinning really well.

Once you feel like you have the rituals firmly established in that area, then consider another area of your life in which you would like to excel. Follow the exact same pattern.

Before you know it, you will have several “plates” spinning, a number of rituals established in your life, and you will be growing in your personal excellence.

Question: If you had to pick a specific area that you need to focus on excellence in your life, what would it be? What rituals do you need to establish in order to get growing in excellence in this particular area?

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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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!