22. Not Taking it Personal

Here is one story that explains yesterday’s post on not taking the frustrations of others personally.

One day while working at Lockheed Martin Space, our project manager asked me to attend a customer update meeting. I never shy away from speaking with the “big wigs” so I accepted.

On this occasion, I knew that I would be required to represent a project that we were working on which had not made much progress and anticipated it being a fiery discussion.

When the conference call began, I was asked to provide status on where we were with migrating and executing software code written by another vendor.

“We have made changes to the code, necessary for running in our environment, and we should be executing today…”

After about 60 seconds of speaking, the colonel cut me off and sounded quite bothered.

“What you are saying really has me concerned. Let me explain why.” – She said.

“Sure” I said with no concerns for what was coming next.

When someone is frustrated, it is a great idea to be receptive to hearing them out.

“It seems like we missed our opportunity to run the code” she started.

“I have already told my superiors that we were going to make progress.”

It turns out that she had been eager to tell them that not only were we going to make progress, but that during this tiny window of opportunity of 2 days, that we’d be able to show something for it.

“I see” I said, thinking about what I had heard, but not taking what she said personally.

And then the fears and assumptions started coming out…

“What I’m really concerned about, is somehow the vendor making it impossible for us to run.” (A ludicrous idea)

“I have this feeling that they are talking behind closed doors right now, about how we can’t get this to run.”

On she went, with one concern after another. Even though I was the primary person involved with migrating over and doing this work. Because I had kept my cool, and focused on really listening to this person’s frustrations, the frustrations were never aimed at me, even though I was the primary person involved in the work in question.

People want to vent frustrations, not start a fight.

Just because a person is venting frustrations, even to the person that they might be frustrated with, they are not attempting to pick a fight. They want to be heard.

The more I listened to the colonel’s concerns, the more I realized her concerns came from things that had nothing to do with the work we were doing.

“I understand what you are saying Mike, but what am I supposed to show them? How can I show them that we’ve made progress?” – She said.

It was clear, that we had not helped our customer be able to articulate that not only the expected progress was happening, but great things were around the corner.

Had I become defensive, I never would have made it passed “the work hasn’t been completed.” Instead, I received considerable amount of insight into how our customer thinks and how to empower them. In turn this would give us breathing room, to do the actual work needed to accomplish the mission.


21. Influencing from the frustration of others

Let’s put aside hypothetical heated conversations you might fall into for the moment. When others come to you in frustration you should understand something important. They are not frustrated at you, even if it makes logical sense to be.

These people are stuck with the feeling of frustration.

Frustration is a feeling. It ought not be reasoned with, nor explained away. It is a real physiological feeling that, in fact, feels terrible. So terrible, that it will cause people to vent their frustrations in an unbelievable number of ways.

Frustration is the feeling that things are no longer moving forward as they “ought to” and the person in front of you feels that.

In most cases when people come to you with frustration, they are seeking to remove this affliction, and they’ve chosen you. If you are not aware of what is going on, you may get sucked in to their feelings, and become defensive. If you do that, you will lose the opportunity to earn influence, by being present.

You have a choice. Earn influence, grow and gain in your life or “defend yourself”, lose influence with others and go nowhere.

These opportunities present themselves to those who have internalized they are invulnerable.


20. Putting Down Roots

In this fast paced world, it appears that many within society no longer see the value of putting down roots. Instead of investing in their local communities, people decide to stay mobile and “move where the money is” or where it is “exciting.”

But this comes at a cost.

Communities become a monoculture in age (usually only old folks) and they lose the precious talent needed to help keep things vibrant and growing. Worse even, is the indoctrinated culture of “its someone else’s problem.”

People who put down roots, make it their business to pick up the trash on the side of the road, while those just passing by wait for the government to do it.

When people settle down in an area, and make somewhere their home, they take pride-in-ownership. When people settle “just for the money” they give as little as possible and take as much as they can, why else are they there?

Those who do not put down roots, instead of planting trees in their backyards that could feed themselves and future residents, they wish that others had planted them for them.

Imagine what it would look like if everyone waited on someone else to be responsible for where they live.

Every year, the youth coming-of-age leave their homes to far away places to learn, often for the first time, how to do things productive. At universities they often learn from people who are far and away from the real world work and are stuck in the imaginary land frozen in time 50 to 100 years ago. Once they’ve completed that foundational knowledge, they travel somewhere else, usually an urban setting, in hopes for finding a job related to the abstract and dated information they now possess. Once they’ve started going in life and learn how to be productive, they remain where they are, or bounce somewhere else, usually never to return from whence they came to invest and build up the capital there.

Instead its always somewhere else that gets that renewed investment.

Is it really a surprise that so many systems are on life support?

Maybe it’s time again that people developed a sense of responsibility for one piece of ground and make sure that its truly valuable, for now and in the future.


18. Strengths and Weaknesses

Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement

– Marine Corps Leadership Principles

Leaders know their strengths and leaders know their weaknesses. They spend the time maximizing their strengths and learn how to mitigate the negative affects of their weaknesses.

People become a leader when they delegate their weaknesses to others whom are stronger to them. These people do not become weaker by acknowledging their weak areas, they become stronger personally, and as a group.

Weaknesses should never outshine your strengths, and if they do its because you haven’t discovered and focused on your strengths.


17. Permission is Optional

Permission is optional in life.

You don’t need permission to be you just as much as others don’t need your permission to be themselves.

In a world where you treat people with respect, you don’t need to ask their permission. In fact, those who feel comfortable not taking permission usually know

Asking permission puts you at the mercy of the person being asked. This social relationship, should be your choice, be intentionally on your terms, and should never be out of fear.

Scenarios where you might need to ask permission, shows your lack of strong connection to the person you are asking. Consider building a relationship so you do not need to ask permission to be you.

The strongest teams don’t ask permission to exist, instead they cultivate and value the contributions of those on the team.

Instead of asking permission, state what you are in the process of doing and be open to shifting course based on the feedback of others.

This is the path to influence.


16. Elongating Your Horizon

Most of us live in a very busy world with very busy demands. We all have 24 hours in a day, but some of us use every second of that time to take care of the past, the present, and a little bit of the future.

We wake up, we may exercise, eat breakfast, commute to work, spend or 8 to 10 hours at a job, commute home, spend time with family or friends then go to bed, only to do it all again the next day. Some are even squeezing in entrepreneurial endeavors in their office hours.

Living this kind of life, rarely does it put one into the position to seriously think about the future, whether that is 20 years, 30 years, 50 years, or 100 years in the future and yet, that’s exactly how one can gain perspective on one’s life.

Have you tried planning for 300 years from now?

This may seem really far out there, but do you not think that your actions today could direct action that far in the future? What about setting a family trajectory, a narrative of growth and value building that lasts at least that long?

Even if what you do, doesn’t make it that far, it raises your trajectory. To consider how far that is in the future in reality, (it’s really not that far), you gain a deeper appreciation of what it took to get you here over 300 years. Thinking about these things, begins building Legacy, one of “The 21 Laws of Leadership”, a book written by John Maxwell.

Just the effort alone is worth it, even if its for an occasional solo night out with a notebook thinking about the future.


14. Marine Corps Leadership Traits

When I joined the Marine Corps in 2004 I got my first experience really cramming “knowledge” into my mind. Shortly after you arrive at boot camp you are given a small three ring binder that is full of Marine Corps information.

Everything in this binder you have to memorize by heart.

They give you the rank structure. The history of the Marine Corps to include famous figures and famous battles. There were basic medical steps. Your general orders as a military man. And they provided you with the Marine Corps Leadership Traits.

To this day I still know the Mnemonic phrase that goes along with them.


  • Judgement
  • Justice
  • Dependability
  • Initiative
  • Decisiveness
  • Tact
  • Integrity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Bearing
  • Unselfishness
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Loyalty
  • Endurance

Throughout boot camp knowing “J J DID TIE BUCKLE” was life and death

In boot camp you have inspections. During these inspections you have a drill instructor screaming in your face while you are supposed to recite some bit of Marine Corps knowledge, or you demonstrate mastery of manipulating your weapon.

“TELL ME JJ DID TIE BUCKLE” – The drill instructor would yell.

And immediately you’d have to launch into saying all of the words that make up the Marine Corps leadership traits. And you better not mess up because the drill instructors are definitely listening.

Memorizing is the first step to knowing them by heart

By being able to recite all of the leadership traits from memory it starts to bake in the ability to choose to value these traits when the time comes for them to be relevant. It is very difficult to have initiative if you don’t even know what the word means. It is also difficult to be decisive, or have good judgement.

The leadership traits point in the direction of how one becomes a leader. These traits happen to be the traits relevant for leading. Those whom demonstrate them earn influence with all those around them, consistently.

And for those that become Marines, soon to be young leaders, this fact is beaten into them at an early age.


11. Emotions for Others

You have the power to modulate other people’s emotions. But are you using this power?

Most people do not choose their response’s to incidents, instead they yield over what they will feel to that which in front of them. People just “react.”

This “reacting” spills over into other people causing them to react as well. A chain-reaction if you will.

Is there someone with a bad personality at work? This person’s attitude will cascade throughout the organization, touching one person after another.

There is even an entire “genre” of videos online, dedicated to people “reacting” to something. In this situation, you gain your entertainment pleasures by reacting to them reacting.

We inherently know that we react to the environment around us. If you want to feel sad, you play sad music. If you want to feel happy you eat a “victory” ice cream.

However, the dark side to just reacting, is we are always victims to other people’s emotions. As a result, we cannot become influential leaders.

But you don’t have to react, you can choose your response.

Through training yourself to be calm and collected the world no longer can choose who you are. Instead, you choose who you are.

Once you have gained a separation from the emotions that others are emitting you have the ability to influence them. In fact, you may have already realized that by being calm and collected, it significantly improves other people’s ability to be calm and collected.

With this separation you now have the ability to truly listen.

You have the ability to understand that a person is frustrated, not at you, but just frustrated. And by providing a listening ear to a frustrated person, you have the chance of pulling them up and out of this frustration by your mere existence.

By buoying yourself from the reactions of others, you provide a life raft for others to grab onto.

Leaders can push forward when the emotions of others are shepherded

It’s a leaders job to bring the people to where they need to be. Throughout this process people will encounter all sorts of issues. Unless the leader has the ability to maintain their fortitude, the leader will not be able to provide the needed guidance and support for those being led.

You have this skill just as much as anyone else. Notice the people around you have predictable emotions based on what they see in front of them. When one person acts a certain way, the other person is “supposed” to have their reaction to it.

The same applies to you. Based on your disposition of calm and collected yet warm. People must “react” to you.

Take ownership of others’ emotions.


10. In 2020 the Belief of Collapse is Everywhere

There is no bigger example of leadership voids than taking a look at the current zeitgeist of collapse.

These voids are why in the year 2020 the feeling of uncertainty is everywhere. There is a constant belief, everywhere, that people are going to lose their jobs, that the economy is going to collapse, that World War 3 is going to happen any minute, an apocalypse is around the corner, a super virus-bacteria will kill everyone, that “big government” is spying on them in that moment, the planet is collapsing, and in the end everyone is doomed.

There is clearly a leadership crisis. Where are we going? Nowhere? I guess that means we’re all dead!

This environment of uncertainty is allowing an unprecedented levels of predation to occur.

Just look at security sales.

Perhaps never in human history has safety and security been a bigger drain of resources than today. There is no shortage of examples of resource depletion from uncertainty from the expenditures at the highest levels such as a global bureaucratic military industrial complex and the growing gargantuan cyber security industry to the personal level of the sale of fire arms and home intrusion systems. Expenses on “security” are breath taking.

Even though statistics prove that human life has never been better, uncertainty is building and growing.

If you grow in leadership, you can dispel uncertainty

Before going into how to dispel uncertainty, remember that its a leadership void. It’s real simple.

Uncertainty dissipates when there is movement towards an honorable purposeful mission where the person who leads it keeps their concerns on the well being and forward progress of the people.

The four step approach to dispel uncertainty, now.

  1. Take a breath
  2. Imagine a future to build, starting now.
  3. Communicate this vision to others with intention.
  4. Create forward momentum, even if its tiny.

The reason that people have such uncertainty, is their lack of forward moment in a direction of their choosing. If this is you, or others you know, you ought to take a step back and get your breath.

You need to be able to see in your mind a better future clearly. Figure that out, even if its something small like “my house should be cleaner.”

Communicate what you see to other people. Avoid trying to convince them that this is the right course, instead speak with intentional and in a focused manner. You are going in a particular direction, because of something that you have noticed. Then consider inviting others to join that vision.

Once you’ve communicated it, get to work implementing it. Within minutes, the uncertainty that permeates in the environment around you will begin to dissipate. This is the power of forward momentum. Each step forward creates a clearer and clearer picture that where you are going, is real.

You have the power to dispel “collapse” in your life

While there are an unbelievable number of things that are outside of your control, there is still considerable amount that you know you already know you can begin stepping forward with to build forward momentum in your life, and others.

Be careful following “leaders” who radiate uncertainty.

Regardless of the problems that exist, there is always a way to survive. There is always something that can and should be done about it. There is always the need to face it, rather than run away from it. This is why you must begin dispelling uncertainty by being a force for the future.


9. Ode To Resilience

Resilience is under-rated.

It’s not taught in most schools. Many parents don’t have it. And it can be difficult to find in person mentors who have it.

Resilience never goes out of style yet it’s not stylish.

It is earned steadily, daily, overtime, through intentional preparedness and withstanding trials by fire.

Resilience looks like making due without power for days in your cushy home. Taking a shower in the rain and pooping in a slit trench outside when your house has no water. All with a smile and joyful glee.

Resilience is moving on from the past, accepting the present, and choosing where your future direction is going to be.

While resilience can be explained, it cannot be given away. It isn’t a physical thing. It just isn’t your stuff.

Resilience gives everyone the ability to work together, to overcome real obstacles and create a life that is fun and enjoyable.

Every day that marches on, the world shows how much it needs individuals to be more resilient. Will you choose to be resilient today?