The Renewing of Your Mind

Time spent learning and renewing your mind is never wasted.

Now think of how much you would love to learn, yet how little time you spend learning. Imagine the benefits of refreshing your mind daily with new, helpful information you have never before considered.

I’m blown away by how incredible the mind really is. At least once a month. It’s amazing the things I picked up when I wasn’t even paying attention, both good and bad.

Why are those Weird Al lyrics so perfectly preserved in my brain? Yet this is the same brain that recalls who read what Mark Twain book for our book reports in 5th grade. This brain used my fear of the 2nd grade teacher — for no specific reason — to fuel excellent grades that year.

I’m slowly realizing the mind will absorb, chew on, calculate, ruminate, extrapolate, and stew about anything available.

Mine will grasp a faint few notes playing almost imperceptibly the very moment I cross the threshold of a store or restaurant, and tell me what song it is before I am three steps in. It will solve computer programming problems on the back burner while I am taking a walk, and tap me on the shoulder when the algorithm is complete.

Yours will prevent you from making a terrible decision, without you fully realizing why. It will make up for your inability to pay attention and pull answers out of thin air. It will change your mood when it decides that is what you need.

And all of these things help me to deeply appreciate my mind and take care of it.

So if the human mind is a sponge, soaking in whatever we dwell on, then we might as well give it something good to absorb… right?

If we give it the same type of material to absorb day after day after day, we teach the mind to create a mental rut, a path for our thoughts that does not change much.

This can be good and bad — just like ANY tool or habit. If we stimulate our minds with negative sources all day every day, how could it not have a negatively effect our thoughts? It’s easy to do, since it seems to be all that is in the news, talk radio, popular music, and even the weather! (I dare you to avoid these influences on your life for just one week. See if you do not feel better.)

Likewise, if we stimulate and renew our minds with positive information and educational materials, we give ourselves no choice but to experience personal growth.

By engaging in personal growth, you will benefit everyone around you. Those nearby will sense your enthusiasm and increased development and will latch on non-consciously.

My personal growth was planted when I was a child playing with Legos, as I was learning I have the ability to enhance. Not create, necessarily — but edit, modify, improve, and enhance.

It was then watered by family and music and instruments and math and intellectual friends and computers… and much later, books. Until one day it clicked deep inside my soul how much I would benefit from daily personal growth.

It was time to actively begin renewing my mind.

You know what was the final straw for me? What nudged me forever out of my comfort zone? There were two things. The first was the statistic that the average millionaire reads at least one non-fiction book a month, mentioned often by Dave Ramsey. The second was some thoughts from Dan Miller:

People often ask me how I find time to read as much as I do. (I read at least one new book a week.) The answer is that I’m afraid not to. When I crashed in business, in 1988, I made a commitment to spend two hours a day reading, listening, praying, and meditating on positive, encouraging material. The results were so obvious that now I find that when I want to jump forward in a new venture or area of success, I increase that time commitment.
— Dan Miller, No More Dreaded Mondays
(Click here to read it in context)

And it all finally shifted my perspective on learning. For good.

It’s been more than three years of active, intentional personal growth for two hours a day, and I can’t imagine going back. If you make this a habit and adopt the mindset of constant growth and renewing of your mind, you will wonder how you ever existed without it.

What is it costing you not to engage in daily personal growth?

Point to the Goal!

It’s frustrating not to have an overarching goal. It’s like watching back-to-back commercials the length of a movie.

There’s nothing tying everything together. No plot. No purpose.

And worst of all, it’s unintentional!

There’s nothing terribly difficult about this concept, but it can still be intimidating. Doubt floods your mind. What if you make the wrong goal? What if it turns out to be unreasonable or stupid? What if no one cares about hitting the target?

These are valid questions, but let’s just ignore them for now and trust in the value of being intentional with our actions. You can’t be intentional unless you know what you want to do first.

If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.
— Zig Ziglar

So come up with a plan. You have enough information right now to devise a very specific goal for the next two years or so. Maybe it’s sales figures or growth trajectory or product launches.

But you also need a long term, visionary goal, even though it will not be realized for ten years or more! The bigger and more intentional the achievement, the better! Jim Collins calls this a Big Hairy Audacious Goal — or BHAG for short.

Evaluate your team’s core values. Evaluate your team’s mission. Evaluate your passion and belief in the goal. And of course, evaluate your team.

And then decide on a goal vastly higher than if your team just stayed on the current trend of progress.

Once you have one, your team members will need to be reminded about it. They will need to understand not just that it exists, but why it exists. And that is your job as the leader.

Now point to the goal! Point again and again. Remind your team of their capability and the need to achieve this goal for the good of the company! And their own good, because everyone enjoys putting their back into a worthy endeavor — whether they admit it or not!

Point some more, until your team’s trajectory is starting to line up with the target.

And even if your team falls short of the mark, they will have done much better than if there was no goal.

What is your main goal right now? If you don’t have one, how does it feel?

Motivations and Expectations

If you can work with others’ motivations and shape your expectations, everyone will achieve synergistic success.

People need to be empowered to act on their own motivation. To know their motivations requires you to know each person individually. If you don’t listen to, understand, and empathize with your people, you will limit their dedication to your cause — not to mention your effectiveness as a leader!

Despite popular belief, people cannot be motivated externally. Motivation cannot be bred where none existed previously. Some people are naturally motivated, and others are not.

So what can you do about it?

Though you can’t actually motivate people yourself, people can definitely be spun up and empowered to act on their natural motivations.

Um… How?

It’s not easy! People are complicated, and understanding one’s motivations is like reading one’s mind. But it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. Maybe we can break down the process.

Listen Well

Team members are not machines. They are people!

People have souls and families and emotions and pride. People have painful sensitivities — everyone does, you just don’t know another’s sensitivities are.

How much do you know about the woman you hired six months ago? Sure, you know her address and the size of her family, but what do you know about her joys and hobbies? Has she shared her intentions for working at your company? Have you asked?

It’s rare that people won’t talk about their personal life. Much more rare, however, is an audience that desires to truly listen and empathize. If you listen, they will talk.

People love talking about things they enjoy. Probe around sincerely until you discover a topic that causes your team member to light up. Listen actively and ask questions to learn more about it. You just might be surprised to realize how interested you are, merely because they are so passionate about the topic.

Clearly Communicate Expectations

This is difficult to do consistently for each team member. As leaders, we hope that others can learn to read our minds and pick up on what we expect of them. This is never the case.

Be clear about what you need from your team members. Explain their role in a way which pulls them along in their professional development — pushing is ineffective past the short term!

Challenges pull people along and enable growth. Stagger challenges based on the confidence and experience of the team member.

Give people the definition of their professional success. It is in everyone’s best interest to spell out what is expected. And it is obviously Win-Win if they fulfill those expectations.

Combine Expectations with Motivations

If you enable people to realize how their motivations align with your expectations, you are in the business of creating success by developing others and helping them achieve their goals.

And thus, everyone wins.

What really drives your team members? Can what drives them also drive the entire team’s success?

Exude Excitement!

Showing excitement can be very tough. It’s intimidating enough to stand in front of a class full of people! It’s daunting to realize they are relying on you to lead the group discussion.

So how do you keep people interested? What do you say? What is the secret to a great discussion?

Though I’m brand new to leading a group, I caught a glimpse of something absolutely astounding yesterday.

Everyone in the group was engaged in the discussion. They were making eye contact. They were listening intently. Some were even taking notes!

It was, like I said, astounding.

My co-leader John and I talked afterward and agreed it was a good group experience. I mean I thought it was, but he’s done this for five years and I’ve done it… well, just this one time!

I asked my wife why she thought the group went well. Her response?


John and I were smiling. We spoke with emotion and dynamics. We use hand gestures without thinking about it. We were passionate about the topic.

Simply put — we were excited!

And now I can’t stop thinking about how excitement feeds on excitement. One person’s excitement can quickly multiply into the twenty people listening.

Man, what a fun life lesson. And a hard one for me to learn, too… My tendency is to stand like a statue, explaining things in a monotone voice. Expressionless. (What do you expect from an engineer?!)

I won’t ever forget what yesterday taught me. Want to increase participation? Need to engage others?

Exude sincere excitement and see what happens.

Do you need be excited to get through to people?

The Wrong Seat on the Bus

Just because a team member is performing poorly does not make him incompetent. Maybe he shouldn’t be fired after all. Instead, it’s very possible he is merely in the wrong seat on the bus, and it would be best to move him.

It’s not a literal seat on a bus — it’s an analogy representing a team member’s role in the company.

So how does an employee get to be in his seat on the bus? Why is he doing that for them?!

Well, here are a just few possible explanations:

  • Someone he knew got him the job.
  • It was a “temporary” gig that turned permanent.
  • He’s afraid to quit or look elsewhere.
  • He needed the money.
  • It was the first place to hire him when he needed a job.
  • This is just what he’s always done.
  • It’s close to where he lives.
  • This job pays him well.
  • This is a good company with good benefits.
  • He’s good at it.
  • Career change, or trying out something new.
  • This is what he’s always wanted to do.
  • He enjoys his job.
  • He was made for this job!

Be careful not to assume why someone is in their current position, or even line of work. You will never fully understand a man’s motivations, so your time is better spent analyzing and redefining roles. Sometimes it feels like you’re playing a professional version of musical chairs.

But musical chairs is much better than firing people who would be incredible at the position you never let them try.

When a a team member doesn’t seem worth keeping, consider his current role as a stepping stone on the path to where they need to be in their career.

You might just be one new seat away from realizing your underwhelming employee is really a rockstar team member!

Do you have any team members who need their roles analyzed? Is there a better seat for them on your bus?