Agents of CHANGE… Superhero Civil War

I would love to say that I was strategic in setting the launch date for my superhero-themed book, Agents of Change, right in the midst of some prime Superhero movie madness.  First, “Batman vs Superman” and now the release of “Captain America Civil War”… clearly I must have known what I was doing in picking this theme and in setting this date, right?  If only that were true… but I guess sometimes it truly is better to be lucky than good.  What I like about these new movies is that not only are they superhero themed, but that they particularly tell the tales of the tensions that superheroes face… both those heroes from the pages of comic books as well as those from real life.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”  As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben so wisely proclaimed, power does not come for free… it comes with a price.  I believe that for most of us, our greatest weaknesses come from an extension of our greatest strengths─ either exaggerated or abused.  And this isn’t just true for individuals, but for teams and organizations as well.  An individual may be able to “leap tall buildings with a single bound”, but also cause some collateral damage as she hits the ground.  A team might be loaded with super passionate individuals, but then become over run by fruitless and unrelenting debates.  An organization might promote a risk-taking culture, but punish individuals when a risk leads to consequences.  Or worse… in any of these situations, the super powers might be kept under wraps to avoid any negative side effects that might occur.

Much of what Agents of Change is about is recognizing these tensions and overcoming the obstacles to realize our full innovative potentials.  The following tensions represent some of the key challenges that exist in trying to unleash our superpowers and some of the equally super-charged conflicts that arise.

  • Perfect is the Enemy of Amazing.  To do something truly amazing requires pushing boundaries, taking risks, and a willingness to fail.  The demand for perfection, while potentially with super intentions, will limit the boldness needed for breakthrough. “The maxim ‘Nothing but perfection’ may be spelled ‘Paralysis’.” -Winston Churchill
  • A Culture of Empowerment in a World of Regulation.  Superheroes want to be free to change the world how they best see fit.  On one hand, the world wants to sit back and see that power unleashed; on the other hand, the world wants to control and stifle it.  “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
  • Lead through Serving.  We often think of Superheroes as “leaders”, standing heroically in front of the room primed to save the day.  While this may sometimes be true, often the most heroic individuals are quietly doing what needs to be done behind the scenes… fighting for good and not for glory.  “Servant-leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you, you work for them.” ― Ken Blanchard
  • Discipline comes before Freedom.  We want instant freedom… to live as we want, to express our powers as we best see fit, and to control our own destinies.  But the foundation of freedom is discipline, as even superheroes need to eat their vegetables before having dessert. “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves? self-discipline with all of them came first.” Harry S. Truman
  • Operate out of a Purpose versus an Obligation.  While operating under a strong sense of duty is an admirable principle and can change the world, a person’s full potential cannot be unleashed without a strong sense of purpose.  It can sometimes feel selfish to focus first on your strengths and second on the world’s needs, but I believe that God gifted us our strengths for a reason and that our utilization of them will thus inherently enable a maximum impact.  “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.” ~Howard Thurman

5 Super Challenges

When striving to do something super, we will be assaulted with a series of challenges and tensions.  And these can cause an internal battle and civil war within ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.  We must know what powers that we have been given, have the discipline to develop them, serve others, and change the world.  If we can tap into that potential, our true superpowers can be unleashed.

Agents of Change is available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

Agents of CHANGE: The Book Awakens

May the Fourth Be with You.

On this Star Wars Day 2016, I have officially published my first book, Agents of Change, on Amazon.com.  While I am not sure that this event lives up to the epic Star Wars screen crawl, the John Williams soundtrack, and the “Jedi Master” title in my opening video, it is still a pretty exciting day for me.  When I started writing these blog posts, their intention was to serve as my Jedi training to build the discipline, the ideas, and the courage to transform this book-writing dream into a reality.  And now, three years later, complete it, I have.  Do or do not, there is not try.

And as I reflect on this journey, it is not unlike any other creative or innovative endeavor…

I) Dream big.  Before taking on any meaningful mission or adventure, it is important to have a dream and a vision for what you want to complete.  I knew that I loved to write and that I wanted to share some insights to make even a small impact on the lives of others.  I also knew that I wanted to personally hold my book in my hands, to show my aspiring author of a daughter that publishing a book is possible, and to delight my aspiring shopper of a son that my words could be bought on Amazon.  Being able to tangibly taste this dream before I ever started would help to drive me through all the ups and downs.

II) Find a mentor.  In all of my innovative projects in life, including this book, it has been important to have someone(s) who listens to me, who inspires me, and who holds me accountable along the way.  For those times when you doubt your dream, fear a failure, or are slow to start, this mentor can impart wisdom, encouragement, and a push to keep you going.  It is not only more difficult, but largely unnecessary to carry the “burden” of your dream alone… find someone who wants to help you succeed and bring them along for your adventure.

III) Take the First Step.  The first step is typically the hardest.  When your dream is just a dream, it is perfect.  It is exactly what you want it to be, there is no risk or disappointment, and it belongs solely to you.  As soon as this dream enters the real world, there are countless fears that can attack.  The fear of failure.  The fear of not finishing.  The fear of ridicule.  The fear of falling short.  The fear of letting others down.  These fears can make the activation energy to get started incredibly high.  At some point, you just need to get in the ship and start flying, share your first blog post, and put yourself out there. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

IV) Experience success.  There is no better driver to keep marching forward than that first taste of success.  When one of my blog posts finally brought in thousands of readers from dozens of countries around the world, it was a huge boost of confidence to keep going.  Suddenly many of the doubts start to fade, some swagger enters your step, and completion of the mission actually seems attainable.  You can start to believe that anything is possible, and go forward with more energy, more courage, and more faith than ever before.  When you blow up that Death Star, you start to feel like a hero and can start moving forward quickly believing that you can not only realize your dream… that you might even exceed it.

V) Experience Failure.  “Don’t get cocky, kid”.  Rushing fearlessly ahead, a lot of progress can be made and a lot of amazing accomplishments can be realized.  But ultimately, as your willingness to take the risks and to push the envelope increases, the possibility of failure awakens as well.  It may be merely because you push too far or it may be because you get reckless, but experiencing some failure is inevitable if you ultimately work to take your dream as far as it can go.  And while you don’t want to lose an arm, this failure is ultimately a good and necessary step in maximizing the creative process.  After I experienced my first blogging success, and my then potential future as a best selling author started to paint itself in my mind, I had a series of mediocre and unheralded posts to knock me down a notch or two.  While discouraging, these helped me to refocus and to get clearer and crisper on what the finished product should be.

VI) Face your demons and finish.  Armed with some successes and some failures, it can become very difficult to know how to best complete the work.  You now know not only the original dream, but also the extreme highs and the extreme lows that surround it.  The excitement for the thrill of completing the race can be real and exhilarating, but the fear of failure and falling short can be terrifying.  The final product is ultimately a sum of your original dream, all of your trials and tribulations, and your successes and failures.  Finishing means accepting all of the good and all of the bad, making the compromises and enhancements to the original idea, and appreciating that the final product will be different than the original dream.  For me, while this book holds many of the ideas and the concepts that I had from the start, the content, the flow, and even the title has changed significantly.  At some point, you need to accept that it will never be perfect… but that it can be amazing if you step forward, take a risk, and finish.

VII) Stop and reflect.  When all is said and done, it is important to take some time to reflect on the entire process.  What went well, what didn’t, and what do you want to do next?  As I finish this book, I am proud of completing the journey and cognizant that the ride wasn’t as smooth as it could have been.  I am happy to share this with my family and friends, yet still nervous that it won’t be well received.  I am at peace that the sheer act of publishing completes my dream, but still irrationally concerned that no one will buy it.  While I want to enjoy the moment and to be fully present in launching this book, I also am anxious to face the future and to start the next adventure.  And as I stand alone and look at the oceans of possibility around me, I try to appreciate the past that led me here, to enjoy and appreciate the moment, and to still allow myself the time to dream of the future.

For any hero’s journey, these steps of dreaming, learning, stepping forward, succeeding, failing, finishing, and reflecting are critical steps in the process.  As I complete Agents of Change, I do so confident that it met my own intent of providing a divergent collection of insights, parables, and fables to help unleash the innovation of real life superheroes.  And while it is far from perfect, and will not make me rich and famous, I am proud that I took these steps and translated my mind’s dream into the world’s reality.  And I encourage each of you to identify a dream, however impossible or improbable it might seem, and take steps to make it real.  Awaken your dreams and May the Force be with You.