The Reward of Mastery is Going to Cost You

The Reward of Mastery is Going to Cost You

The Reward of Mastery is Going to Cost You

Some of the best carpenters I’ve ever met are missing a finger or two. Some of the best mechanics have seriously calloused and scared knuckles from all the times that the wrench has slipped. Some of the best singers in the business have at one time or another entirely lost their voice. Any seriously dedicated and committed gymnast is impressively bruised.

To be a master at anything you must rub up against the edges of your profession or passion. And often daringly so. Edges are rough, they hurt, they’re abrasive. Edges define things, often with a sharpness that cuts to the bone.


I don’t know anyone who has dedicated themselves 100% to their craft who doesn’t bear the scars of their commitment.

“The more outrageous the dreams and hopes and actions of those who dare to let their deepest spark ignite into flame, the more outrage they will encounter from those who are threatened by the consuming fires of change.”

When you’re willing to push yourself right up to and beyond the edge of your comfort and skill and knowing, you’re going to get roughed up.

You don’t hire a carpenter with smooth hands. You don’t bet on a boxer whose nose isn’t a bit smashed and crooked.

The wastebaskets of all writers worth their salt are overflowing with defeat.

The bank accounts of every Rock Star who has ever lived were once a frightening pittance. And they were told all along the way to cut their hair, get a job and “Really, you’re going to wear THAT on stage?”

Swimmers and bikers and runners cramp in exhaustion and cry out in pain. Olympic divers land on their backs or bellies with a sickening smack during practice as they push the boundaries of their aerial mastery.

Musicians pushing the edge wince at missed notes that nobody else notices. And if they do, they don’t care. The rest of the bold artistry has already captivated the heart and soul.

When I was first learning to play blues harmonica one of my teachers shared the sage advice that when you’re on stage playing, more than wanting people to say, “Damn that guy’s good.” It’s more compelling when they say, “Damn that guy looks like he’s having a really good time.”

People are much more strongly attracted to your authenticity than to your perfection. What compels and inspires others most is your authentic love, joy, enthusiasm and passionate commitment to your work, cause or purpose. This is the law of attraction at work. Your authentic expression of life compels and draws out the same authentic expression and courage in others, which is yearning to be met and matched.  Since pure “perfection” doesn’t really exist, then our strident attempts to be perfect at the cost of our authenticity doesn’t have an equivalent reflection within others with which to resonate.  This is where there is a dissonance and true connection is lost.

Mastery is not a matter of perfected skills. Mastery is a result of persistent, focused and dedicated passion and a reflection of purely authentic expression.

It is our love and passion driven dedication that compels us to stretch beyond the limiting constraints of pure skills based perfection and into the realm of fearless presence where we meet ourselves anew at the rough and awakening edges of life.

Serious mountaineers often have less than 10 toes. And even if they do have all their wiggling digits, I guarantee that they have less living friends than they had when they first fell in love with mountains. This is true for all who have committed to becoming a master in any art from that defies gravity.  Sky diving, race car driving, surfing, space exploration and all other edge defying endeavors. The object of their commitment is known for taking lives.  But that to which they have dedicated their love is also known for giving life in ways that a rare few can truly know or imagine.

I used to be a raft guide and we had a saying. “There are those guides that have flipped a raft and those that will flip a raft.” You stay in the game long enough at anything that you’re willing to push to the edge and beyond, and you’re going to get bruised, battered, beat up and smacked about.  You’re going to lose some skin.

That’s the price you pay for mastery and excellence. You pay with your pride and your hide. But that’s nowhere near the price you’ll pay for not taking the risk and sitting this one out.

For that you pay with your soul.

GRACE – An Essential Component of Success

GRACE – An Essential Component of Success

GRACE – An Essential Component of Success

Are we all not looking to live this precious life with a bit more grace?

In my work, a significant aspect of the invitation is to live with more grace.

Yet for many men, the idea of being more grace-full, implies a sense of being weak or effeminate. It can feel like grace would slow down or inhibit getting s#*t done.

Grace is often not recognized as an essential component of success.

And yet…..

Is an accomplished chef not graceful in their sensitive blending of flavors, colors and textures?

Is an accomplished architect not graceful in their ability to feel deeply into a space?

Is a great leader not graceful in the compassionate and nuanced dance of relationships and emotional dynamics?

The most successful downhill ski racer is the one who can most effectively harness their raw power into a seamless flow of grace.

Grace comprises sensitivity, compassion, surrender, presence, a delicate touch and the ability to feel deeply.

Fear tends to dissipate grace. Those who live in fear tend to strike out and bluntly dominate adversaries and projects rather than call forth the grace to move beyond just winning and embrace the more nuanced dance of unified evolution.

There is grace in true power. There is true power in grace.

Lasting success requires grace. Growth and evolution requires grace. To be truly effective and efficient requires grace. To live with courage and a true spirit of adventure requires grace.

To love deeply requires grace. To grieve thoroughly requires grace. To live wholeheartedly requires grace.

Where might the power of grace, presence, softening, listening, surrender, compassion, love and a gentle touch bring more success into your life?

Inviting Vulnerability

Inviting Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a hot topic these days. And well it should be. I’ve been speaking to the power of vulnerability with my clients for a long time. It is an absolute foundational core to building any trusting relationship, whether that be in business or in our personal lives.

I’m a strong advocate of creating environments where people feel safe to tell their stories. It is through the sharing of the nuances of our lives that we connect, bond and relate to others. Telling your story, and telling it true, requires a great degree of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the other half of truth.
All too often the unspoken half that waits in the wings yearning for it’s moment in the light.
Without the opportunity to honestly express where and how we feel vulnerable, we’re only having half the conversation, which never really gets to the heart of the matter.

Recently Brené Brown showed up on Ted Talks with a brilliant talk about how vulnerability is a keystone to developing deeper connections with others. I was so glad to see the topic get such resounding support as people clearly resonated with the truth of her message.

Yes!  We’re coming to understand the power of being more vulnerable.  Fantastic.

Now, I want to speak about something that can often be even more difficult to pull off…..

Beyond being vulnerable ourselves
and accepting others when they’re vulnerable.
What’s really important is….

Inviting Vulnerability From Others.

Here’s what got me thinking about that and why it’s important.


Inviting Vulnerability

Living your life or GIVING your life?

Last night in our Men’s Group
a powerful question was asked.
“What would you give your life for?”

The question took us all by surprise and we had to get a hold of just what was being asked. “What would you die for?” No, we recognized that that is a different question entirely. What would you GIVE your life for? It was tied more closely to the question, “What do you live for?” There was a nuance to “give your life for” that we couldn’t quite articulate. But each of us felt the question pierce directly to the heart and linger there with a poignant patience, knowing that if we dared to answer, it would be a powerful discovery.

The question brought us all to a very powerful edge of personal inquiry. That’s what I love about our monthly men’s group gathering, we create sacred space where there is time, space and a longing for just such types of exploration and discovery.  We like exploring life’s edges.  That’s where life really happens.

What would I give my life for? To allow the question to plant itself a bit deeper I swapped the word “for” to “to.” What would I give my life to? Ahhhhhhhh there it was, what indeed would I, with no restrictions, limitations, concerns of practicality or “reality” checks  dedicate my life to? And why?

As the ah-ha moments came we each shared the deeply held belief or value that spoke most robustly from within us when prompted in such an intriguing way. What core and intimate connection did we each feel with life that would inspire us to dive in, full commitment, no hesitation, all consequences be damned, if we had to make the decision right here, right now and live with it the rest of our lives?


Setting a North Star Vision for Navigating Stormy Organizational Seas

As a leader,
one of your key roles is to help
transform confusing complexity
into elegant and powerful simplicity.

Arguably the most complex component of a leader’s world is the diverse mix of people they lead.

Organizational cultures can be a minefield of complex and intricate relationships. You already know how even a small handful of intimate relationships at home can be challenging to manage. At work, the complexity of relationship dynamics multiplies exponentially. Add to that the pressures of stress, speed, ego, career advancement, the ever shifting landscape of office politics, perceived status, financial security and working with people who you didn’t necessarily choose to have in your life – and you’ve got a pretty complex situation to manage.

 As a leader, you need to do everything you can to add clarity, inspiration, encouragement and well defined purpose to this wildly flavored soup of relationships and often conflicting goals.

Rewards – Seeking the simple solution first

So, yes, people are complicated. But we are also quite simple in that we typically do more of what we are rewarded for and do less of those things that yield no rewards or have negative consequences.

It is through this particular simplicity of human nature that a purposeful leader can realize their best leverage for shaping a stellar team.