Don’t Believe in Constraints

The second you stop believing in the possibilities and start believing in the rules, you lose. You limit yourself to the things you’ve learned and make it that much more difficult to invent or imagine. Building an understanding of the world through education or otherwise is important to understanding the tools and canvases at your disposal. But growth and the human spirit should not end there. You must actually paint with the tools you’ve learned: break rules, make a mess and see what happens. Push the limits of the canvas. Or, better yet, ignore the boundaries of the canvas altogether. Invention has no boundaries and knows no rules. Sure, embrace the constraints of the tools themselves (budget, materials, people, etc.), for those limitations will focus your mission. Do not, however, embrace the rules of the game if they stand in your way to greatness and innovation.

Advertisement

Guide Your Life With Rules

Want to tackle a goal or change behavior? Start incorporating rules into your daily life. Set expectations for yourself and stick to those expectations. Create barriers that prevent you from breaking your own rules. And if it will help, enlist friends or family members to hold you accountable. In response to my concerns about information overload, I am not allowing myself to read news after I get home from work. I set up alerts to bug me if I do.

A year ago, I wanted to start writing again. I launched this blog and have had you, dear reader, holding me accountable to it ever since. I accomplished my original goal and more.

You can set rules for your diet, exercise, creativity or work. Treat rules like a game instead of a burden. Reward yourself with play, luxuries or a simple pat on the back. Make it fun and never forget that you’re doing it to make a positive difference in your own life.

Agree On the Mission

Before doing anything else, you should check to make sure your entire team agrees with and can own the mission at hand. It’s very important to make sure that you are on the same page with everyone before embarking on a collaboration. If people diverge in completely different directions, you stretch the project thin and go nowhere. You cannot easily push the cart in one direction if your partner is pulling it in the other. Discuss the mission and agree on the meaning behind the problem you are trying to solve first before setting out to find a solution. If everyone is pushing in the same direction, you may have enough momentum to get the cart out of the mud.

What or Who Are You Competing Against?

Do you even know? No one can genuinely create a sense of urgency without cause or reason. Everyone is competing against the clock (we’re mortals, after all), but why? For what reason? Is it a race? Against whom?

If you have a clear opponent to beat, that’s easy. Wave the enemy’s flag in spite and embrace competition as a positive energy in your organization or life. Move forward and fast, as if it were a fun game.

If you are a startup or non-profit without grasp of a market, what are you competing against? Most small organizations compete against sinking bank accounts. Young companies not yet cash-flow positive must sweat their burn rates and execute on their vision before running out of money. If the money drain is your greatest enemy, make a big deal about that, too. Don’t hide it from your people; share the bank statement with managers if you want them to understand that particular sense of urgency. They will understand.

You cannot motivate people from scratch. You can only give them the tools, information and environment to hopefully inspire them to motivate themselves. As a leader, you must know what you are competing against. And do not forget to share that information with your people who suffer the whip every day.

Surround Yourself With Dreamers

Surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams.” I love the quote, but it predisposes that you already have dreams outlined. When your dreams are not yet refined, surround yourself with other dreamers. Live and breathe conversation and collaboration with people who embrace lofty ideas, live outside of themselves and strive to change the world. Through these relationships, you can shape an actionable vision and live out your purpose. That’s a huge deal.

Many Gen Y folks (myself included) challenge the value of higher education. One irrefutable benefit to attending a university, however, is the opportunity to meet and foster relationships with other dreamers. College, above all else, is a forum to explore and learn. In few other places can you share in the joy of discovery or higher thinking with others.

Even with your dreams defined, always keep good company with people equipped to make a difference. Dreamers roll with other dreamers.

You Can’t Buy a Dreamer

Every person may have a price, but the dreamer can never give you 100% unless you enable the dream. He or she may give you all the effort and energy available, but it’s not everything. You cannot squeeze every last drop from a man or woman whose heart lies elsewhere. Dreamers are not satisfied by a paycheck alone; they crave higher purpose. Stifling or shattering the dream only makes things worse.

As a leader, you should investigate your team’s dreams. Interview for and understand them. Dreamers and goal-oriented individuals share eagerly. If you want a culture full of yes-people, hire people without dreams. If you want a culture full of dynamic human beings that can take you to the next level, hire dreamers and foster dreams.

Risk

My dear friend, Shirl, shared a poem with me and I want to share it with you:“To Risk”
by William Arthur Ward

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool, To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement, To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return, To live is to risk dying, To hope is to risk despair, To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
The pessimist complains about the wind;
The optimist expects it to change;
And the realist adjusts the sails.

Profit Is Not the Point

The goal is sustainability. We make money to cover our basic needs – food, water and shelter. The great businesses of our time have figured this out, too. Great product comes before profit – because only great product will keep customers coming back for more. We like steady paychecks and loyal patrons because we can sleep at night and know that life will go on.

The goal isn’t to make money; the goal is to exist. Once you’ve figured that part out, the next goal is to exist longer. Once you realize no one lives forever, the ultimate goal is to leave a legacy.

The only way you can leave a legacy is if you concern yourself less with profit and more with giving life all you’ve got. Sure, you should have a plan to make money. But if greatness comes first on your priority list, then have faith that the rest will follow.

You can do anything…

…with genuine passion as your alley. Your passion must be sincere; you will not overcome the steepest obstacles if you merely lust over the hype train. With a true fire burning at heart, nothing can stop you. The destination may look or feel different than you projected, but the passion helping you get there will not let you down.

The Single Greatest Step to Success

If you do not believe in what you are doing, you are unlikely to succeed. No level of responsibility, compensation, or flattery can change your mind. Only you can tap into the higher context of your personal values and goals. Only you can know what makes your heart tick. Figure out what you believe and you can find your place in the world. If you truly believe, nothing can stop you.