We are all leaders

For the world to progress in a positive direction, we must all work on leadership development – our own as well as those we lead.

While leadership development is crucial for professional growth and success, it is equally important for personal growth and self-improvement. Whether you're an aspiring leader, an experienced executive, or someone looking to enhance their quality of life beyond work, learning and practicing new leadership skills can help you navigate the ever-changing business landscape and achieve your goals. At The Rise Above Network, we believe that everyone possesses leadership potential, albeit with varying levels of responsibilities and accountabilities.



Effective leadership entails more than merely instructing others; it's about inspiring, guiding, and motivating them to collaborate toward a common goal. To develop your leadership skills, you must first comprehend different leadership styles and identify which one aligns best with your personality and strengths.



One of the most popular leadership styles is transformational leadership, which revolves around inspiring and motivating followers to reach their full potential. Transformational leaders are recognized for their ability to create a vision, communicate it effectively, and foster a sense of shared purpose among team members. They also offer personalized support and encouragement to their followers, aiding in the development of their own leadership skills.



An integral aspect of leadership development, regardless of the chosen style, is emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent leaders can understand and manage their own emotions, as well as those of others. This enables them to communicate, collaborate, and make decisions that benefit the team as a whole.



Improving your emotional intelligence as a leader involves practicing active listening, genuinely hearing and comprehending what others are saying, instead of merely waiting for your turn to speak. Additionally, enhancing your emotional intelligence requires greater self-awareness and reflection, paying attention to your own thoughts and emotions, their origins, and their impact on your behavior.



Leadership development necessitates a commitment to continuous learning, ongoing improvement, and growth. This may involve enrolling in formal training programs, seeking coaching or mentoring, or even reading books or articles on leadership. Furthermore, it's vital to apply what you've learned by actively seeking opportunities to lead projects or teams and soliciting feedback from respected individuals on how to enhance your leadership skills.



While developing effective leadership skills is critical for success in today's fast-paced business environment, it is equally vital for understanding and successfully navigating our continually evolving world. Whether you're an aspiring leader, a seasoned executive, or someone striving to maximize their potential, numerous strategies and techniques can aid in improving your leadership skills, including understanding different leadership styles, developing emotional intelligence, and committing to continuous learning and growth. By investing in your leadership development, you'll be better prepared to inspire, guide, and motivate others toward achieving common goals.



This is why The Rise Above Network was established—to assist individuals who aspire to improve and rise above the status quo.


Putting Your Oxygen Mask On First: The Importance of Prioritizing Self-Care

Picture this: You're on a flight, cruising at 30,000 feet. The captain's voice crackles through the intercom, announcing, "In case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead compartments. Secure your mask before assisting others."

It's a familiar pre-flight safety message, and while it's intended for a different context, the message resonates with the essence of self-care. In this post, we'll explore why it's crucial to put your own oxygen mask on first, both in the air and in life.



The Modern Lifestyle Challenge

Our lives today often feel like a non-stop flight, with little room for a pause. The demands of work, family, and social commitments can leave us feeling overwhelmed and depleted. We may neglect self-care, thinking we're doing the right thing by prioritizing others. But just like the airplane analogy suggests, ignoring our own needs can have dire consequences.



Why Self-Care Matters

1. Physical Health Benefits:  Just like the oxygen mask provides essential air for survival, self-care ensures your physical health remains robust. Regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep are the oxygen your body needs to function optimally.

2. Mental Health Benefits: Your mental well-being is as critical as your physical health. Self-care practices like mindfulness and relaxation help alleviate stress and maintain your mental clarity. When you take care of your mind, you're better equipped to handle life's challenges and support others.

3. Enhanced Relationships and Productivity:  Much like the oxygen mask allows you to assist others effectively, self-care empowers you to be a better partner, parent, friend, or colleague. When you're balanced and healthy, you can offer genuine support and empathy to those around you.



It's time to dispel the biggest myth surrounding self-care:

Self-Care Isn't Selfish

Just as securing your oxygen mask isn't selfish, taking time for self-care is not self-indulgence. It's a necessity that ensures you're in the best position to help others. As Audre Lorde said:

"Self-care is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation."

In fact, what is selfish is if you do not take care of yourself, as then you will be letting down those around you – your colleagues, your team, your family. Whoever is reliant on you needs you at your best in any given circumstance. To be at your best, it is critical that you are taking care of yourself.

Physically.

Mentally.

Emotionally/Spiritually.

Socially.



It is similar to buying life insurance. You do not buy life insurance because you are going to benefit from it, it is to take care of those you leave behind.

The simplest forms of self-care are akin to the oxygen masks of life:

Physical Self-Care: Prioritize regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and ensure you get enough sleep.

Emotional Self-Care: Practice mindfulness, meditation, or seek therapy to manage stress and emotions effectively.

Social Self-Care: Set boundaries, ask for help when needed, and nurture meaningful relationships.



We can always find excuses and barriers to taking care of ourselves, and as with all things in life, we can rationalize neglecting our own well-being. For each of those reasons there is also a counter argument. It is up to us to choose which side of the argument we listen to.

If your excuse is a lack of time, one strategy is to allocate small pockets of time throughout your day for self-care activities.

If you experience guilt when prioritizing yourself over others, remember that taking care of yourself doesn't mean neglecting others; it means being more present for them.

It is important to keep in mind the saying “you can't pour from an empty cup.” You cannot give any energy if you have fully depleted your own. You must train yourself to build up the energy you require and more so that you can share with those depending on you.

Much like airplane flights, life has its ups and downs. Self-care isn't a one-time event; it's a lifelong commitment. Adapt your self-care routines as your needs change and evolve.

Just as the flight attendant instructs you to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others, remember that self-care is not selfish; it's essential for your well-being and your ability to support those you care about. Start your self-care journey today, rise above your own status quo and commit to putting your oxygen mask on first.

Your life, and the lives of those around you, will be better for it.





Coping with a Bad Boss: Strategies for Success and Well-Being



A focus on leaders and leadership often involves finding exemplars of effective leadership, analyzing what makes them so effective, then drawing comparisons between their context and our own and finding ways to incorporate their most desirable traits. It's an inspiring, spirit-lifting, and challenging undertaking.

What is often overlooked, however, is the ineffective, uninspiring, and toxic leader. There are a shocking number of poor leaders occupying critically important leadership roles in all segments of every culture. Given that this is true, it is worthwhile to spend some time uncovering ways for ourselves and others to cope with a "bad boss" because it is inevitable that someday we will all suffer the effects of poor leadership.



"A strong secure leader accepts blame and gives credit.

A weak insecure leader gives blame and takes credit."

- John Wooden



**Before we dive in, there is one critical point to highlight: it cannot be overstated enough, the importance of documenting incidents of poor leadership you are subjected to, whether it is poor decision-making, toxic behaviors, hurtful comments, or whatever else you witness, are exposed to, or are the target of. Your documentation should include dates, times, others present, the context, and then the details. You never know when you may need this information, and the more accurate and detailed it is, the more power it will hold.

Let’s begin.



We've all heard the saying "people don't leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses." Having a bad boss can be a daunting experience, and it's more common than you might think. Whether your boss is micromanaging, exhibiting favoritism, or creating a toxic work environment, dealing with the challenges can be incredibly tough.



Why are some bosses “bad”? There can be a number of contributing factors. We can start with simplest: they are human, and as humans they can fall victim to any number of influences. A bad home life, personal loss, struggles with addiction and/or low self-esteem, poor role models (think “old boys club”), lack of EQ, are just some of the many struggles an ineffective boss may be dealing with in their personal lives. They may not recognize that their off-colour, inappropriate jokes and comments are having a toxic effect on those they are supposed to be leading. Lack of proper leadership training programs and relying on leaders to “self-identify” for roles of increasing responsibility regardless of objective suitability also can move the wrong people to the wrong chairs. When this is the case we tend to see more people identify themselves as leadership candidates who actually may have traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and sociopathy.



Let’s explore strategies to help you navigate the complexities of working with a difficult supervisor while safeguarding your well-being and career.

1. Self-Care: Protecting Your Well-Being

It's essential to prioritize your well-being. It is important to remember that you have to look out for yourself in these circumstances, and you also need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself so that you can also assist others. You are no good to yourself or anyone else if you are not well enough to cope. Here are three strategies to get you started:



- Set Boundaries: Clearly define your work-life boundaries to prevent your job from consuming your personal life.

- Self-Care Rituals: Engage in self-care practices like exercise, meditation, and maintaining a healthy diet to reduce stress.

- Seek Support: Lean on friends, family, or a therapist to provide emotional support during challenging times.



2. Managing Stress: Coping with the Strain



A bad boss can be a significant source of stress, and often they are dumping their own stress on you. It is important that you recognize the source of that stress and objectively analyze which problems are yours and which are theirs.



"Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people.

Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers."

- Simon Sinek

Here are two actions to assist you in managing the stress:

- Stress-Reduction Techniques: Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, or yoga to manage workplace stress.

- Document Issues: This has already been mentioned above as a key strategy, and its importance cannot be understated. If HR needs to be involved or if things progress to the point where you seek legal counsel, the timing, facts, and context are critically important. Keep a record of problematic interactions with your boss. You are being negligent to your own well-being if you do not document the issues, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time.



3. Professional Development: Leveraging the Experience

Every challenge presents an opportunity for growth, for developing new skills, and for finding creative solutions. Consider the following:

- Focus on Skills: Use this time to build and enhance your professional skills, which will prove valuable in the long run.

- Networking: Expand your professional network, potentially leading to opportunities within or outside your organization.



4. Seeking Support: Building a Safety Net

Dealing with a bad boss can be isolating. Here are two places you can look to in order to build a support network:

- Mentorship: Find a mentor who can provide guidance and support in navigating the challenges.

- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Many companies offer EAPs, which provide counseling and support services.



5. HR Involvement: Knowing When to Escalate

If your situation worsens, HR can be your ally:

- HR Department: Reach out to HR to discuss your concerns. They may provide guidance or mediate the situation.

- Legal and Ethical Considerations: Consult an attorney or regulatory body if your boss's behavior crosses legal or ethical lines.



6. Planning for the Future: Exit Strategy

It's essential to keep an eye on your future. The situation you are enduring may, in fact, lead you to search for an even better opportunity. Here are two possibilities to consider:

- Job Search: Continue looking for new job opportunities, inside or outside the organization, to maintain your motivation.

- Transfer Options: Explore opportunities for transferring to a different department or team within your current organization.



7. Maintaining a Positive Attitude: Navigating the Present

While challenging, maintaining a positive attitude can make your current situation more bearable:

- Focus on What You Control: Concentrate on your own performance, attitude, and behaviour.

- Professionalism: Continue to be professional in your interactions, even in the face of adversity.

Dealing with a bad boss is an unfortunate reality for many employees, but it doesn't have to be a dead-end. In fact, it can be the catalyst for profound personal and professional growth. It's during these challenging times that we discover our inner resilience and determination. Remember, your career is a journey filled with twists and turns, and sometimes, the most arduous paths lead to the most remarkable destinations. With each challenge you overcome, you become stronger, more resourceful, and better equipped for the future. This is your opportunity to rise above adversity, redefine your path, and pursue your dreams with unwavering determination.

Never forget that you possess the power to shape your own destiny, and by implementing these strategies and focusing on your well-being, you are not merely surviving but thriving. Your journey is a testament to your strength and your ability to turn obstacles into stepping stones towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.

“What stands in the way becomes the way.”

-Marcus Aurelius

Embrace this moment, for it is your chance to transform adversity into the fuel that propels you toward success, well-being, and a life filled with infinite possibilities.

You can do this!




Life Begins Today



"Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn."

― Mahatma Gandhi



Every day that we wake up on the right side of the dirt, life begins for us. We have the opportunity to put into practice, each day, everything we've learned from every situation we've been involved in up to this point. This powerful reminder encapsulates the essence of our existence. Life is a precious and fleeting gift, and each dawn heralds a new opportunity for growth, improvement, and transformation. We are not bound by our past; rather, we are defined by our choices today.



We can continue to do the things that have worked for us, leading to our happiest, most successful moments. We have the opportunity to avoid repeating past mistakes and failures if we remain vigilant. Wisdom is born from reflection and conscious choices. Our past errors need not haunt us – we cannot change the past; instead, they can serve as stepping stones toward a brighter future.



We know what makes us happy and what makes us sad. We have a lifetime of experience, a personal history, that we can use to create a happy, fulfilling life for ourselves and those closest to us. We must learn from that history. Aristotle once extolled the concept of "eudaimonia," the state of human flourishing and ultimate well-being. We have the power to create our own eudaimonia, our personal version of a fulfilling life. But how can we achieve this state of bliss and contentment?



Start by acknowledging what truly makes you happy and what brings sadness. Delve into your past experiences and discern the patterns that lead to happiness. Embrace those patterns and cultivate them in your daily life. Let your past be a guiding light, illuminating the path to your happiness.



Consider your life journey. Reflect on moments of joy and sorrow, success and defeat. What have you learned? How have these experiences shaped your beliefs, values, and aspirations? Acknowledge the patterns that have led to happiness and those that have caused despair. The canvas of your past is a rich source of knowledge waiting to be tapped.



Why, then, do we so often repeat our mistakes? Why do we choose to forget our successes? Every day we are reborn – why would we not take advantage of that?



Becoming a parent means that we can parent in a way that includes all the positive parenting we have witnessed or experienced. Parenthood, leadership, teaching, coaching – these roles offer us a unique chance to apply the wisdom we've gathered. 



We can embody the attributes of the mentors and role models who have positively influenced us while avoiding the pitfalls we've witnessed.



As parents, we have the opportunity to nurture the next generation, embodying the wisdom we've accumulated. When we become grandparents, we have yet another chance. Now we can choose not to repeat any mistakes we made as parents. We can strive to be even better, ensuring that our legacy is one of love, guidance, and growth. People are depending on us, and we owe it to them to continuously evolve, and to be at our very best.



Likewise, in leadership, teaching, and coaching, we must lead by example. We can emulate the qualities of our favorite leaders and mentors while avoiding behaviors that harm and hinder. Our actions can inspire and uplift, leaving a lasting impact on those we guide.



Life truly begins today, and every day thereafter. Our past is a treasure trove of knowledge, and our future is shaped by our choices in the present. We need to challenge ourselves and others to rise above the status quo. Let us embrace the wisdom of the ages, learning from our past to create a brighter, more fulfilling future.



Why would we not take advantage of this rebirth each day? Why not seize the opportunity to live a life defined by purpose, growth, and the pursuit of happiness? The power lies within us, waiting to be unleashed.



Your life begins today – make it extraordinary.


You Cannot Be a Prophet in Your Own Land


You may be exceptional at what you do, perhaps even the best in your country. The organization you are part of could be ground-breaking, leading the way in your industry. The individuals working with you may possess the potential to become industry leaders, and their advice might be sought after by people far from your location. While all of this may be true, it's still possible to lack respect and recognition from the people closest to you—those you work for and live nearby. This curious phenomenon has endured for generations, and its origins can be traced back to a biblical reference:

"As the saying goes, 'A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and his own family.'"


You've likely encountered numerous situations where this saying holds true, and it may resonate with you personally.


If you're seeking external validation for the path you've chosen, it might not be the best motivation. While it's satisfying to have your efforts acknowledged, it can't always be your primary driving force. Doing what's right for the right reasons should be sufficient intrinsic motivation if your pursuits go beyond merely being a job. However, if you're aiming for appropriate recognition and compensation for the value you or your organization provides, that's a different matter, and it's only right to seek the recognition you deserve. The situation also differs when you're seeking recognition for your team rather than yourself. It's always a worthwhile investment of your efforts to celebrate the accomplishments of your team.


When it comes to the people you lead, recognizing their talents and potential is crucial for your effectiveness as their leader. Nurturing their development benefits them, your organization, and your leadership. There are significant advantages to fostering the growth of your own people and leveraging their potential. It's concerning when an organization seeks to fill a critical position by immediately looking outside their existing talent pool. An outsider won't fully grasp your organization's culture and nuances. They won't understand your clients and their unique needs. They'll take time to become integrated into your culture. If you have potential internal candidates, developing them for more significant roles demonstrates your commitment to your people and your ability to make good initial hiring decisions. It instills confidence and hope in your entire community.


Remember, the grass isn't always greener on the other side, and you don't necessarily need someone from afar to excel. You've likely witnessed numerous instances where a high-profile candidate was brought in at great expense, only to prove inadequate or disloyal to the organization. This can result in upset clients, disgruntled staff, decreased productivity, and blame directed at the person in charge. All of this can be avoided if a leader comprehensively understands their organization, its culture, and the potential of their people. Time spent authentically understanding your core purpose and where you're leading is always time well invested.


As you develop your leadership skills, it becomes increasingly clear why you need a solid understanding of your "inventory." This inventory encompasses not only financial and material assets but also the skills and abilities of your people. If you have a budding expert, a potential "prophet," right under your nose and fail to recognize it, you're falling short of your responsibility. Your role is to understand the stories, talents, and potential of your people and guide their development. Seek opportunities that foster their growth. Understand the "why" behind their work—what motivates them to give their best each day. It's also vital to comprehend where your organization excels and where it lags behind in your industry. Knowing where you are the experts positions your organization for greater potential success.


Determining if you have the right people to lead your growth and facilitate the growth of others is a crucial question. This forces you to decide whether you have the talent to develop or if you need to change your mix of people. If you have the right people, continue developing them. If a particular role remains vacant, consider internal candidates first to see if they can grow into the role. If not, look outside your organization, but be sure to articulate your reasons clearly.


Your efforts to develop both your people and your network are not only the right thing to do but also among your most valuable, albeit intangible, assets. There's a ripple effect from your good work in these areas. Those you've served well will spread positive feedback about your organization, which is more effective than any advertising campaign. By cultivating experts within your organization, you become a center of excellence, attracting both customers and potential employees. This, in turn, expands your network, creating further opportunities for your people.


The way you interact with people determines the loyalty you receive in return. If you continually look outside your organization for experts, believing you can't be a "prophet" among your own, you risk diminishing the people closest to you, and they may seek other opportunities. Conversely, if you intentionally refer to your own people as experts, you can nurture their growth, attracting more talent your way. Always approach this with a genuine understanding of your mission, goals, and vision. Align people with your culture for mutual benefit. As the organization's leader, you'll reap the rewards of developing talented individuals, uncovering hidden experts who can contribute to your organization's success. When this happens, all the expertise we require is just down the hall, as opposed to the more cynical observation of Will Rogers:


“An expert is a man 50 miles from home with a briefcase.”


Good or Bad, Learn From Them All


Have you ever had the experience of reflecting how you managed a situation as a leader, and thinking that you did not like yourself in that moment? Maybe you showed emotion in a negative way or were too quick to react.


Have you ever caught yourself saying something to someone you are leading or guiding in a way that does not truly represent the way you think or feel, and saying to yourself “where did that come from?”


Then you suddenly realize someone in your past had said the exact same thing to you in a similar situation. It may have made you feel insignificant, or small, or unheard, but you are aware it is not how you want to be known in the current context. This often happens to people when they are tired or stressed, and they have not taken the time to truly think through their response. Tired parents – you hear me!  You end up saying to yourself “oh no! I sound just like my mother/father!”


This is because we tend to teach the way were taught, we coach the way we were coached, we parent the way we were parented, we lead the way we were led. Unless we have seen a better way of doing things. It is what we know. It’s what we grew up with, and it’s very familiar.


Even more so when we are tired. Or under stress. Or upset. Or angry.


We can consider ourselves very fortunate if we’ve had nothing but positive exemplars for teachers/coaches/parents/leaders throughout our lives, but most of us have not been so lucky. Chances are you’ve experienced some great ones, some average ones, and some horrible ones. This could actually serve you well though.


If you are able to remain objective enough (especially when you are stressed and/or tired) and take the time to consider how you respond to others, hopefully you are thoughtful enough to respond in ways that are helpful, motivating, and encouraging, even though this is not what we have always experienced ourselves.


So... what can we learn from those leaders we have experienced in our pasts that we not great, or even horrible?


We hopefully learned how we never wanted to be treated again, and how we would never treat other people. Experiencing negative leaders provide many valuable lessons as we seek to rise above:

-       How not to manage stress.

-       Why proper rest and a positive attitude is important, and how awful it comes across when a leader has not taken proper care of themselves.

-       Why we need to consider the feelings and perceptions of others

-       How de-motivating constant negativity is


Contrast this to how you have observed positive, competent, effective leaders handle situations.


How do they differ?

How do you want to be seen as a leader?


The leaders that stand out as exemplars to me were somehow able to model calm in even the most stressful situations. They had the ability to look at obstacles as challenges to be overcome.


Steppingstones, not stumbling blocks.


They leveraged crises as opportunities to change course, to innovate, to challenge others to be their best selves.


“Never let a good crisis go to waste”

-Winston Churchill


They understand that failure is part of the learning process, but that repeating the same failure is an unacceptable outcome. They understand that if their people are continuing to make the same mistakes over and over, they as leaders have not taught them well enough. They have not been as effective a leader as they need to be.


They model ownership, responsibility, and accountability.


They understand and can convey that things are never as good or as bad as they seem in the moment.


So how do we get there – how do we become the leader we aspire to be?


It starts with an inventory of yourself. Where are you strong? Where do you need to improve? The best leaders are self-aware, but self-awareness does not come naturally to everyone. You may need to check with those in your inner circle to check your perceptions of your strengths with their perspectives and perceptions. Then, you must plan to continuously improve: the concept of Kaizen. Aiming for 1% improvement each and every day. No days off. No falling back to what you identified as your shortcomings.


Leadership is sometimes granted to those who were not aspiring to it, but this does not excuse the leader from pursuing exemplar status. It is not good enough for a leader to be “good enough”. Those that they are leading deserve more – they deserve your best.


Join us at The Rise Above Network to pursue your exemplar status.


Rise Above Comfort and Complacency


“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

John Shedd


This article aims to shed light on the importance of pushing beyond our comfort zones in every facet of life, encouraging introspection and personal growth. It's a concept that may not come naturally to everyone, as many are content once they achieve their predefined goals. But is there more to life than settling into the safety of our personal harbors? Have we truly reached our peak potential?

Often, the goals we strive for aren't entirely our own; they're influenced by external factors such as parental expectations, societal pressures, or media portrayals of success. We let these external forces define our path and measure our success, neglecting other areas of our lives that could flourish with growth and improvement.

Once these goals are attained, it's common to fall into a routine, to embrace the familiar, and to bask in the comfort of predictability. Same workout routines, same work schedule, same family dynamics, and the same social circle - these habits create a sense of comfort, or some might argue, complacency.


In essence, we find solace in our personal "harbor."

But is this all there is? Have we truly peaked or, perhaps, long surpassed our potential? Is this what we are truly built for?

Success is often measured in terms of financial wealth, but as Bob Dylan aptly puts it, "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do."


Success should not be solely determined by wealth; it should encompass fulfillment in various aspects of life.


Einstein's perspective adds another layer to this: "Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value." Being valuable to your family, community, and society is a meaningful measure of success.


Some brilliant minds suggest that when we stop learning and improving, we effectively accelerate the process of dying. Instead of surrendering to stagnation, we should strive for continuous improvement and success in all areas of life. To do this, we must embrace learning and step out of our comfort zones.

To truly understand what we are built for, we must continuously challenge our limits and objectively assess if a better future awaits us. "Better" could mean more lucrative, more interesting, more fulfilling, more worthwhile, or more valuable. To achieve this daily 1% positive change (known as Kaizen), we must push the boundaries of our existence and test our capabilities.

We must be willing to "get out of our lane," even if it means encountering discomfort. Embracing discomfort allows us to evolve and grow, steering clear of the same mistakes while remaining open to new ones. Through this growth, we may surpass our wildest dreams, however we personally define success.

The only way to discover what's beyond our comfort zone is to step out of it.


What does this look like in different aspects of life?


Physically: Our bodies adapt and improve when subjected to physical stress beyond our previous limits. Exercise takes our bodies outside their "safe harbors" and returns them stronger, ready to be tested again.


Socially: Our safe harbor often comprises our close family and friends. Stepping into new social situations may seem daunting, but it's crucial for personal growth. Meeting new people, engaging in different conversations, and broadening our horizons can lead to valuable experiences.

Professionally: Staying in a stagnant job or role within a company might feel secure, but it can hinder professional growth. Taking on new challenges, seeking opportunities for advancement, and acquiring new skills can lead to a more fulfilling and successful career.


Intellectually: Mental comfort zones can limit our intellectual growth. Exploring new subjects, reading diverse literature, and engaging in lifelong learning keeps our minds sharp and adaptable.


Leadership: True leaders inspire by example. Stepping out of your leadership comfort zone means taking calculated risks, being open to feedback, and continuously improving your leadership skills.


We are not built to remain stagnant in the safety of our harbor. Instead, we are meant to explore, grow, and evolve. To discover our full potential and redefine success on our own terms, we must embrace discomfort, challenge our limits, and sail into uncharted waters.

So, are you ready to rise above comfort and complacency and sail toward the horizon of your true potential?


The journey begins when you leave the harbor.



Be Open To Learning 


Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

-Henry Ford


At 60 years of age I was about to embark on a challenge that was causing me some anxiety. I had ridden a bike my entire life, was trained, fit and able, but the next day I was going to challenge an intimidating trail of a type I had not ridden before. My riding buddy was my son, half my age and eager. We were in a different country, on different terrain, on a trail that polarized even the best of riders – they either loved it and could not wait to return to it, or they hated it and could not wait for the ride to be over.

I had no idea which of those camps I will align with, and that was causing me some discomfort.


I was open to tips of every kind from anybody willing to offer them. I watched YouTube videos of other, more skilled riders showing how they mastered difficult sections of the trail. I read reviews of the trails for tips. Finally, I was in a bike shop chatting with a young man who was familiar with the area and he offered the simplest advice that in retrospect was profound, and it made all the difference in my approach:


“Be open to learning. If you think you now how to do everything already, or approach it from what you already know, you’ll have a miserable day. If you allow the trail and terrain to teach you, you will get better as the day goes on.”


Profound because I knew this but had closed my mind to it. It is a concept that I have done my best to convey to others throughout my professional career, but apparently did not always adhere to myself.


Profound because it was so simple yet so deep.

Profound because it changed my whole experience the next day for the better.

If we want to rise above the status quo it is critical that we always be open to learning, and to being taught. This is the whole principle behind Kaizen or continuous improvement. We cannot improve if we do not consciously make the effort to learn from our mistakes.


To consider better ways of doing things.


To embrace challenges, obstacles, conflict, and constraints.


We know many phrases and scenarios that reinforce the concepts of continuous learning for the sake of personal improvement. You cannot learn when you are not listening. You cannot learn when you are talking. You cannot learn when you think you are always the smartest person in the room. When you argue just so you can win the argument you never learn anything. When you stop learning you begin dying.


Conversely when we are open to learning we are always growing, we stay fresh, our minds are active, and opportunities to learn and improve are everywhere we look.


People who work in educational institutions talk a lot about developing life-long learners. About having students explore and maintain their curiosity, their excitement for learning and even maybe mastering new concepts and skills. If we endeavour to be life-long learners maybe we can “stay young” as Henry Ford suggests in his quote at the top of this blog.

How do we do this?


There are some simple concepts we can employ if we have the discipline to position ourselves to learn. First, try focusing on fully listening without thinking about what you can say to try to add to the conversation. By thinking about how you can sound smart you will miss half of what is being said, and therefore half of your opportunity to learn.

Second, understand that every person you ever meet, no matter their age or experience, has something to teach you – you mission is to discover what that is and allow yourself to learn (and be taught).


Third, remember that as long as you are talking you are not learning anything new. Let others speak so that you have the opportunity to learn.

Fourth, check your ego at the door. If you feel the need to be the smartest person in the room, you have already closed the door on learning opportunities.


Although we could go on and on with ways to position yourself as a learner, let’s leave it with one final thought: you have to get out of your comfort zone. If you only do what you already know how to do, you are firmly entrenching yourself in your own status quo. You must try new things in new situations in order to learn and experience growth. That is precisely the reason The Rise Above Network was created – to provide people to rise above the status quo. To do that, you have to be willing to learn and grow.


Seek out opportunities to learn and be open to learning. This is how your mind will stay young, and this is how you will experience continuous improvement and growth. Be ready.

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

Lao Tzu

Maybe that teacher works in a bike shop. Maybe the teacher is the trail itself.


Perspective 


There is a story many of us are familiar with, and it has to do with life circumstances and how we are shaped by them, or how we use them to shape ourselves.


There is significant power in this story that we can use in our daily lives if we pay attention to the lessons taught.


The story goes like this:


A young single mother was struggling terribly to make ends meet. She had two young sons, David and Daniel, she had just lost her job and was about to lose her apartment. This mother decided that instead of trying to keep her boys, aged two and three, without knowing if she could provide for them, she gave them up to social services.

Once the mother got her life in order years later, she spent many years in a desperate effort to locate them. Finally, she found the boys, now aged thirty-two and thirty-three, both living in the same city she was.

David had struggled terribly with life. He could not hold a job, had addiction troubles, and had been in and out of prison. He was living on social assistance and was miserable.

Daniel, on the other hand, was a successful surgeon, married with children, and lived happily in an exclusive area of the city.

She asked David “how did you turn out this way?”
David replied “I was left without any family. I had to take responsibility for everything myself at a young age, make my own decisions and be accountable for my actions. I did not have anyone to show me a path in life. How could I have turned out any different?”.

Saddened, she asked Daniel “how did you turn out this way?”
Daniel replied “I was left without any family. I had to take responsibility for everything myself at a young age, make my own decisions and be accountable for my actions. I did not have anyone to show me a path in life. How could I have turned out any different?”.


The two boys had faced the same circumstances, the same challenges, but emerged with different outcomes.


How could this happen?


The answer lies in our perspectives as we approach the challenges in our lives.


Is the glass half-full or half-empty?


Are those bumps in front of us stepping stones or stumbling blocks?


Are the shrinking resources we face an insurmountable obstacle or an opportunity to do things differently?


Our perspectives and attitudes shape our approach and help determine our outcomes. David viewed every challenge as something that could defeat him, so it typically did. With nobody to provide him guidance or direction he drifted aimlessly. Daniel approached each challenge as a learning opportunity where he could improve himself reach new levels.


What you do with the hand you are dealt is in your control – what will you do with it?


We are bombarded with challenges every single day. Those challenges could be financial, health related, toxic coworkers, our kids, our parents….the list is endless. The one thing that you control in each of these situations is how you react, and how you react sets the tone for you and everyone around you. 

We all have different reactions to stress. Some people thrive on stress and it energizes them, others get exhausted and it affects their health. Some people find it to be situational – when there is stress in an area we feel confident in we are energized and we approach the challenge as an opportunity to prove ourselves.


If it comes in an area that we are less confident in we may not sleep well, we are easily irritated, and we are not as confident in a positive outcome. 

Perspective and attitude are critical components of happiness and success.


The story at the start of this blog is an illustration of how two different approaches produce opposite results. Daniel and David remind me of a popular meme regarding perspectives and choices. Two individuals sitting on a bus, looking out the windows. One chooses to look at the side with the sun shining, the birds flying, grass and flowers growing. The other chooses to look out the other side of the bus at a sheer, dark cliff.


Which choices will you make?

Which window do you choose to look out? How you choose to react and carry yourself in all situations is critical. Are you a role model of calm, confidence and positivity, or a model of gloom, doom, and resignation to disaster?


Recently I was in the gym feeling sorry for myself. I was tired, sore, old, and much weaker than I was when I was younger. As I moped to the next exercise, bemoaning the challenges that come with aging I heard a quote in the podcast that I was listening to that changed my day:


“Aging is a privilege”.


That was it. Four words, a totally different perspective than the one I was living. I began to think about all the people who would love to be in my position but could not participate due to physical challenges. Or financial ones. Or...they had already passed away.


I felt totally different about the fact that I was privileged to be doing what I was doing.


Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”. This was the point made at the beginning of the chapter with David and Daniel.

Daniel was sure he could succeed, and made no excuses. He was right.


David was sure he could not, and he too was right.


Attitude and perspective are key. Even if you fail, as Henry Ford did many times, failure is an opportunity to start fresh and not repeat mistakes. Failure provides perspective that can be leveraged to position you for future success, depending on your response. It is now how many times you get knocked down, it is how many times you get up that counts.


In the grand scheme of everything that is happening in the world today, how big is the issue you are dealing with?


Is it going to affect the future course of society in a negative way, or is it just going to make you uncomfortable?


This view needs to become part of our perspective in order to function effectively.

Any time we are immersed in an issue it is as if it is the only thing happening in the world, and it becomes all-consuming. We lose the ability to take a step back and put the issue in the context it belongs, especially when the buck stops with us. We may articulate that we have objectivity, but we lose that genuine, authentic objectivity that would be so valuable to us in the moment. What we need to do is to acquire the ability to pause, reflect, and properly frame the issue.


Do you view significant issues in your day-to-day interactions as problems and irritants, or do you view them as tests of your abilities and opportunities to grow? 


Typically, in difficult situations we begin to seek a solution immediately. It is important to take the time to fully analyze the situation and determine if the issue is a total calamity, or can it be positioned as an opportunity for improvement.


We need to make the time we have available to us an ally, while at the same time not waste time on unproductive emotions and conversations. While this is easy to say, it is more difficult to put in practice.


The ability to pause, reflect, and calmly determine the best course of action is a strength that needs to be practiced. If you implement the technique of pausing and reflecting on smaller, daily issues, this skill will be easier to implement for bigger challenges as well.


We will always be dealt challenging situations.


Just like David and Daniel in the story at the beginning of the blog, we can only control one thing:


how we choose to react to the problem.


Do we choose calm over panic, be determined instead of helpless, seek opportunity or be a victim? 


Those are choices we can consciously make. Make the time you have available to you your ally. Use the time to seek advice of those you respect and trust. Look for situations where this has happened before, and determine which actions were successful.


Try to attain proper perspective on the scope of the challenge.


Once all is said and done, it would be a great feeling to reflect on a successful strategy and ask:


“how could it have turned out any different?”


Let’s Rise Above Imposter Syndrome


I think we have all experienced this to some degree:

You are plagued by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and the sense that you're not good enough, despite evidence to the contrary. You may be experiencing imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a common psychological phenomenon that affects people from all walks of life. It's characterized by the persistent belief that you are a fraud or an imposter, and that you don't deserve your success or accomplishments. This can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and a lack of confidence, and can prevent you from reaching your full potential.

It's important to recognize that imposter syndrome is a common experience and that you are not alone. Many successful people have felt like imposters at some point in their lives. Knowing this can help you realize that your feelings are normal and that they do not reflect your actual abilities.

The good news is that imposter syndrome is not a permanent condition. With the right strategies, you can overcome imposter syndrome and develop a more positive and realistic view of yourself and your abilities. In this blog post, we'll explore the causes of imposter syndrome and offer some effective strategies for overcoming it.


What Causes Imposter Syndrome?


Imposter syndrome is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

·      Perfectionism. People with imposter syndrome often have high standards for themselves and others and may struggle to accept imperfections or mistakes. They may fear being judged or criticized for their shortcomings and may feel like a failure if they don't meet their own high standards.

·      Social comparison. People with imposter syndrome may engage in excessive social comparison, where they constantly compare themselves to others and feel inadequate as a result. They may believe that other people are more talented, accomplished, or intelligent than they are, and may feel like they are not good enough by comparison.

·      External validation. People with imposter syndrome may rely heavily on external validation, such as praise or recognition from others, to feel good about themselves. They may believe that they need to be perfect or exceptional in order to be accepted and valued, and may feel like a fraud if they don't receive the validation they crave.

·      Unhelpful thought patterns. People with imposter syndrome may have unhelpful thought patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, or mind reading. These thought patterns can lead to negative, self-doubting thoughts, such as "I'm not good enough" or "I don't deserve to be here."



What Are the Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can manifest in many different ways, but some common symptoms include:

·      Persistent feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt, despite evidence to the contrary

·      The belief that you are a fraud or an imposter, and that you don't deserve your success or accomplishments

·      The fear of being discovered as a fraud or imposter

·      Difficulty accepting compliments or praise, and a tendency to dismiss or downplay your achievements

·      The tendency to attribute your success to external factors, such as luck or help from others, rather than your own abilities or efforts

·      A tendency to compare yourself to others and feel inferior as a result

·      Perfectionism, procrastination, and a fear of failure

·      Anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome. But the good news is that there are effective strategies you can use to overcome imposter syndrome and develop a more positive and realistic view of yourself and your abilities.


How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Here are some strategies you can use to Rise Above imposter syndrome:

·      Acknowledge and validate your feelings. It's important to recognize and validate your feelings of imposter syndrome. Remember that these feelings are common and that many people experience them at some point in their lives. Instead of denying or suppressing your feelings, try to accept them and acknowledge that they are a normal response to the challenges and pressures you face. By doing so, you can start to let go of your self-doubt and develop a more positive and realistic view of yourself.

·      Focus on your accomplishments and achievements. Instead of focusing on your perceived shortcomings or insecurities, try to focus on your accomplishments and achievements. Make a list of your successes and accomplishments, and remind yourself of the skills, talents, and abilities that you have developed over time. Remember that your successes are not a fluke or a result of luck, but rather the result of your hard work, dedication, and effort.

·      Talk to others about your feelings. It can be helpful to talk to someone about your feelings of imposter syndrome. This could be a friend, family member, or therapist. Sharing your feelings with someone else can help you to see that you are not alone and can provide you with support and encouragement. By talking to others about your experiences, you can gain a new perspective and learn from their insights and experiences.

·      Challenge your negative thoughts. Imposter syndrome is often fueled by negative and self-doubting thoughts. Try to challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on facts or evidence. Are there other ways to interpret the situation? Can you think of counterexamples or evidence to the contrary? By challenging your negative thoughts, you can start to replace them with more balanced and realistic thoughts.

·      Seek feedback from others. Imposter syndrome can be reinforced by a lack of feedback or recognition. Try to seek feedback from others, such as your colleagues, mentors, or supervisors. Ask them for specific examples of your strengths and accomplishments and try to incorporate this feedback into your self-perception. By seeking feedback from others, you can gain a more objective and accurate view of your abilities and accomplishments.

·      Practice self-compassion. Finally, it's important to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness, care, and understanding that you would offer to a friend. Remember that you are human and that you are doing the best you can. By practicing self-compassion, you can develop a more positive and supportive inner dialogue and can build your resilience and confidence.


Imposter syndrome is a common and challenging experience, but it is not a permanent condition. By using the strategies outlined above, you can rise above imposter syndrome and develop a more positive and realistic view of yourself and your abilities. By acknowledging your feelings, focusing on your accomplishments, and seeking support and feedback from others, you can build your confidence and resilience, and can pursue your goals with greater clarity and purpose.


What if someone you are leading is struggling with imposter syndrome? How can you best lead them?

Leaders can help their team members deal with imposter syndrome by taking a few different steps:


·      Creating a culture of openness and vulnerability: Encourage team members to share their fears and doubts and create an environment where it's safe for them to do so.

·      Promoting realistic self-evaluation: Encourage your team to assess their own performance objectively and to recognize the distinction between their self-perception and their reality.

·      Challenging limiting beliefs: Help team members to identify and challenge any limiting beliefs that are holding them back and help them see the bigger picture.

·      Encourage learning and personal development: Encourage them to seek out new challenges, skills and learning opportunities that will help them feel more capable.

·      Acknowledge their accomplishments: Make sure they get credit for their successes and encourage them to celebrate their achievements.

·      Lead by example: Share your own experience of imposter syndrome and how you deal with it, it's important for them to see that even a leader can experience those thoughts and doubts.


It's important to remember that imposter syndrome is a normal part of human experience and acknowledging it, instead of ignoring it, is the first step to overcome it.


“Imposter syndrome isn't a disease.
It's a normal response to internalizing impossibly high standards.
Doubting yourself doesn't mean you're going to fail.
It usually means you're facing a new challenge and you're going to learn.
Feeling uncertainty is a precursor to growth.”

-       Adam Grant


Start the work today to Rise Above your perception of imposter syndrome.




Rising Above the Shores of our Ignorance



There are times when we come across a piece of writing - be it a quote, a passage, an essay, a chapter - that affects us profoundly and we wish we had access to some of the great thinkers of history to get their take on it.


That is exactly what happened to me recently when I came across the quote:

"As the Island of Knowledge grows, so do the shores of our ignorance."


This quote very succinctly describes the perpetual challenge of fully understanding a topic.


It was a reminder of the many times in my life I had wrongly assumed I was close to mastering something, whether it was a physical skill, a subject, or an area of study. Every time, I discovered that the more I learned, the more I realized that I was barely scratching the surface of what there was left to learn. 


It is the realization you come to when you surround yourself with others who are more experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable than yourself, or when you first endeavor to put your knowledge or “expertise” to practical use.

There are many times this happens to us:

            When we graduate high school and begin to study in university

            When we graduate university and begin graduate school

            When we move up to a higher level of sporting competition

            When we start a new job in our chosen field

            When we have to teach someone else what we know

            When we become parents



Having the opportunity to gain the perspective and understanding of someone who is more experienced, perhaps more thoughtful, and definitely wiser than we are can help expedite a deeper understanding for us. Not quite mastery, but a level of understanding deeper than our current level.

When I thought more about this quote, I thought about who it would be really interesting to ask for their opinion, or to read a passage on their understanding of the quote.


Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, concentration camp survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning (one of the most influential books I have read) immediately popped into my head.

Since it is not possible for me to ask Dr. Frankl for his take on this quote, I took the opportunity to use artificial intelligence and see what it could produce in his style of writing based on his previous works. 

The prompt was:

Write a blog post as Viktor Frankl about the quote “As the Island of Knowledge grows, so do the shores of our ignorance”


Here is what was created. Even though it is not actually Viktor Frankl, it is quite good:


“As human beings, we possess an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Throughout history, we have strived to unlock the mysteries of the world and unravel the secrets of the universe. Each breakthrough in science, philosophy, and technology expands the island of knowledge, pushing the boundaries of our understanding further than ever before. Yet, paradoxically, the shores of our ignorance seem to widen in parallel.


In contemplating the profound quote, "As the Island of Knowledge grows, so do the shores of our ignorance," we are confronted with the inherent limitations of our understanding. These words, attributed to John Archibald Wheeler, capture the essence of a timeless truth about the pursuit of knowledge.

Consider the vastness of the universe itself—a cosmic expanse teeming with galaxies, stars, and countless wonders yet to be discovered. As we explore the cosmos, our awareness of its incomprehensible scale deepens. We discover celestial phenomena that defy our current theories and ponder the mysteries of dark matter, black holes, and the nature of time itself. With each revelation, we realize how much more there is to learn, and our awareness of our own ignorance grows.


But the quote's significance extends beyond the realms of astrophysics. In every field of study, as we delve deeper into the intricacies of our respective disciplines, we encounter the boundaries of our knowledge. As we learn more, we become increasingly aware of what we don't know. Every answer breeds new questions, opening up new avenues of exploration and humbling us with the realization that our understanding is limited.


Furthermore, the ever-expanding island of knowledge brings to light the interconnectedness of various domains. Progress in one area often reveals gaps in another. For instance, advancements in genetics have led to breakthroughs in understanding human health, but also raised ethical dilemmas and philosophical questions. The more we know, the more we recognize the complexity and interplay of different branches of knowledge, which further highlights the shores of our ignorance.


Paradoxically, it is precisely this awareness of our ignorance that fuels the flames of curiosity and propels us forward. The quote serves as a reminder that our pursuit of knowledge is an ongoing journey, with no definitive destination. It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and our unyielding desire to uncover the truth.


In reflecting upon this profound quote, we should embrace our ignorance as a catalyst for growth. Rather than viewing it as a hindrance or a source of despair, we can see it as an opportunity for exploration and discovery. It invites us to remain humble, curious, and open-minded in the face of uncertainty.


As we venture forth into the vast expanse of the unknown, let us acknowledge that our knowledge is always expanding, while our ignorance remains an ever-present companion. And in this recognition lies the beauty of the human condition—a continuous pursuit of understanding, a dance between knowledge and ignorance that propels us towards new horizons and pushes the boundaries of what is known.


So, let us embrace the expanding island of knowledge and its accompanying shores of ignorance, for it is within these paradoxes that the deepest truths are often found.”

I like it. I wonder what Albert Einstein would say.... maybe I will ask AI.

Reflection

The Power, Purpose, and Importance of Reflection in Today's World: Why You Need to Make Time for Introspection

"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful." - Nelson Mandela


In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, it can be easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget to take a step back and reflect on our lives. Some people feel that taking time to reflect is a luxury that they simply cannot afford. Who has time to waste looking backwards? Reflection, however, is a powerful and essential tool for personal growth, development, and well-being, and is definitely worthy of the time and energy you invest in it.


In this blog post, we'll explore the power, purpose, and importance of reflection in today's world, and why you need to make time for introspection – beginning today.


The Power of Reflection


Reflection is a powerful tool for personal growth and development. It allows us to step back from our day-to-day activities and examine our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors from a new perspective. Reflection is always from a new perspective because you are no longer in the event or situation you are reflecting on – you have had the benefit of time since the event. Even if it has been a small amount of time, you are provided with a fresh perspective. Reflecting allows us the opportunity to gain insights into our strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs, and – if we choose – to make positive changes in our lives.


Reflection can also help us learn from our mistakes and make better decisions in the future. By examining what went wrong and how we can do better next time, we can rise above making the same mistakes again.


The Purpose of Reflection


The purpose of reflection is to gain greater self-awareness and understanding of ourselves, our experiences, and our place in the world. By reflecting on our thoughts and behaviors, we can identify our goals, values, and beliefs, and align our actions with our true selves.


Reflection can also help us build empathy and compassion for others. By reflecting on our own experiences, we can better understand the experiences of others and connect with them on a deeper level. Reflection is notfor beating yourself up for past decisions and actions. You do not control what has happened in the past, and you have probably already punished yourself enough for past indiscretions. You only control how you react and respond now and in the future. Learn from the past and put it into practice as you move forward. Rise abovepast failures and create new opportunities for yourself.


The Importance of Reflection


In today's world, where we are constantly bombarded with information and distractions, reflection is more important than ever. It enables us to slow down, disconnect from technology, and focus on our inner selves. This can help us reduce stress, improve our mental health, and increase our overall well-being.


"Reflection is the lamp that lights the way for my soul." -Mahatma Gandhi


Reflection is also important for personal and professional growth and development. By taking the time to reflect on our experiences and actions, we can make positive changes in our lives, build resilience, and develop new skills and abilities.


How to Make Time for Reflection


Making time for reflection doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. It can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes each day to meditate, journal, or reflect on your day. For many of us, this is most easily achieved by making it a part of your daily routine, or by creating a recurring event in your calendar blocked off specifically for reflection. 


Turn off your phone, find a quiet space, and allow yourself to be present with your thoughts and emotions.


Practice mindfulness, seek feedback from others, and engage in self-reflection exercises.


Here is your call to action:


"An unexamined life is not worth living." – Socrates


If you're ready to harness the power and purpose of reflection, act today.


Why wait?


Make time for introspection, even if it's just a few minutes each day, and commit to incorporating reflection into your daily routine – whatever that may look like for you. Set yourself up for success by choosing reflective practices that you will actually engage in.


By practicing reflection, you can gain greater self-awareness, make positive changes in your life, and improve your overall well-being. Start your reflection journey today and discover the transformative impact it can have on your life.


It is time to Rise Above the status quo.




Rise Above

Rise Above. They’re only two words, but they’re incredibly powerful.


Great leaders throughout history have demonstrated their ability to rise above others to accomplish amazing outcomes. Ordinary people rise above the hand they have been dealt every day to persevere in making their lives as fulfilling as possible, or to enrich the lives of those around them.


Some of us make these two words our personal quest. While we are not always successful at it, we are never without opportunity to put it into practice. It can be our daily mission. It can become so ingrained in our thoughts that it can be our metric for success when we reflect on each day.


Where were we successful in rising above the situations we found ourselves in? Where did we fall short and what needs to improve tomorrow?


What It Looks Like to Rise Above


People who exemplify the Rise Above philosophy carry themselves with class and dignity in every circumstance. They resist being pulled to the lowest common denominators that many people operate in: gossip, complaining, cynicism, and blaming.


Those who rise above do not become immobilized in self-pity. When something happens to them that is unfortunate and seems unfair, they use it as an opportunity to learn or grow. They take each day as it comes, and look for opportunities where others see failure. They think in terms of possibilities.


Essentially, to truly rise above is not a task or an occasional practice - it is a way of being.


There are endless opportunities to practice rising above. It might start with the morning news, where you could allow yourself to become depressed by the awful things happening in the world. Then, on your morning commute, it seems as if all the other drivers were sent to test your resolve. When you arrive at work, especially if you hold a leadership position, there are endless issues that you could allow to make you crazy.


And the day has only begun.


Each challenge is an opportunity to either give in to negativity or to rise above. Your choice.


The Differentiator


As we seek to lead a more purposeful life, we have to differentiate our behaviours from the most common behaviors. It takes a consistent discipline to not be influenced by the crowd, to resist being enticed into doing things just because they are popular.


We need stoic determination to be undeterred by setbacks.


With the right approach to leading a more purposeful life we can create better circumstances not just for ourselves, but also for our families, our organizations, and our society. The manner in which we conduct ourselves has a huge impact on those we interact with.


The behaviour we model is what will influence others – what we do is more important than anything we write or say.


Many ordinary people also rise above significant challenges every single day. Many who come from extremely dysfunctional home lives refuse to allow their personal circumstances to diminish their performance at work.


Others include the young mother receiving her chemotherapy in a cancer treatment centre who brings her young children with her, patiently and kindly cares for them, and refuses to complain about her circumstances or wallow in self-pity. 


How to Begin 


So how does one start on the path of rising above? It begins with a decision. When we remember that continuous improvement requires continuous learning, we must choose to look for opportunities for improvement.


We must choose to see challenges as those opportunities.


These opportunities exist right in front of us, every single day. They exist in the way you treat the server in a restaurant.


Do you treat them with respect, or are they just there to serve you?


When that driver cuts you off in traffic, are you still mad twenty minutes later?


When someone is rude to you, do you choose to reciprocate that rudeness? 


At the end of the day, reflect on where you rose above and where you sunk to a lower level of behavior. Try to understand why you did not rise above - why you chose to act the way you did. 


This is not meant to be an exercise in beating yourself up, it is a process in looking for ways that you can continuously improve.


Consider what influenced you to make the decisions you did during the day. Know what outside influences and pressures you may have succumbed to, and decide how you would choose to respond the next time, given a similar situation.


Think about the people you admire, and how they would have reacted in a similar situation.


We will never be perfect, but that does not preclude us from seeking perfection of our character.



If that is what we strive for every day, that will at least lead to new levels of personal excellence. 


Our goal should be to become a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday. 


When we seek opportunities to rise above, it allows us to rehearse being the type of person we aspire to be. Not a perfect person, but a continuously improving person leading a life of purpose.


The Rise Above Network


This network was created with the intent of bringing together people who wish to make improvements in their lives in a variety of areas. What that looks like will be different for each and every person.


Some are looking to create a more purposeful life for themselves early in their careers. Others will be nearing retirement or have already been retired for twenty years, and are looking to find their purpose once they are no longer defined by their professions.


Still others may be looking to be the most effective parent they can be, guiding their children to fulfilling, happy lives.


Others will be current and aspiring leaders who seek different perspectives on what it is to be an effective leader.


This network brings together instructors that can facilitate your quest through lessons designed to present you with objective perspectives based on extensive experience and study in the courses they present.



Join us, and begin your journey today.

It's Just Like We Like It

According to the writer John Ruskin:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

I could not agree more.

Living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as I do, makes any attempt to forecast the weather for outdoor activities an interesting endeavor. The people who I choose to join in pursuing outdoor adventures in the mountains are well aware of this, and our we have learned to follow the phrase:

“There is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices”


It does not really matter what time of year we plan an activity, we can count on Mother Nature throwing us a curveball.


In our younger years, we went mountain biking on an extremely hot summers day in August only to be caught out on an exposed mountain ridge in a whiteout, with snow coming at us horizontally and our vision restricted to a few feet. Shorts and a t-shirt were not an ideal choice that day.

Score: Mother Nature 1 – Inexperienced Adventurers 0


Another time, we had been hiking on a cloudless day with a forecast indicating zero precipitation, only to be besieged by a torrential downpour part way into our route, making our rocky descent slippery and treacherous at best. Not anticipating these conditions correctly led to us taking shelter until the deluge had passed.


Updated Score: Mother Nature 2 – Inexperienced Adventurers 0


Time and experience have taught us that if we want to exist in the outdoors, we need to pack appropriate clothing for all conditions, bring lots of water, and (more recently, especially at our advanced age) bring a satellite phone.


Simply put, our choices are to stay in our houses where the conditions are safe and predictable, or plan and prepare for a range of conditions in the outdoors.


We do not control the weather, but we certainly control how we prepare for the weather.


The enjoyment we get from challenging ourselves in the mountains, especially given how close we live to them, makes our choice pretty easy.


We as humans were designed to exist in the out of doors, and we experience immerse pleasure spending time there challenging ourselves. In order to maximize our enjoyment and time safely and comfortably in the outdoors, we had to take control of that which was within our control – we had to plan better. Similar to the quote attributed to John A. Shedd:

            “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”


We are comfortable hiding in the safe harbor of our houses, but that is not how we were wired. That is not what we were built for.


There are many lessons to be learned from our lack of control over the weather and how to live our best lives. Attitude plays a huge role on our perspectives and perceptions.


Roger Millers observed:

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet”

 

Life is too short to wait for the perfect conditions. The time to get out and enjoy the world is the present, as we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. We need to do it now while we are still mobile and able bodied, as at some point that will no longer be the case. We are all at best “TAB’s”: Temporarily Able Bodied. We need to take advantage of our mobility when we have it.


What we can control is how we prepare for the elements, and what our attitude is when we are out there.


I can’t imagine how few days of activity outside we would be limited to if we only ventured out in “ideal” conditions.


What is the best thing to do when it is raining? According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is let it rain”


There are, of course, extreme conditions when tempting the fates is plain irresponsible and foolish. Lightning storms. Tornados. Hurricanes. But those are by definition extreme conditions. For weather conditions that are just normal weather, our choice is not to be deterred. In fact, the non-perfect conditions are an ideal time to challenge yourselves and to test your abilities.


There’s a story by Jon Wertheim that was in Sports Illustrated on September 8, 2021, about Tom Brady and a golfing buddy of his, Jimmy Dunne. Among other things, it talks about their approach to golfing no matter what the conditions. Whatever is happening when they are supposed to play – whether it is wind, rain, or scorching sun, they say “It’s just like we like it”.

This is taken from that article:

Says Brady: “It’s just like we like it is a really great model for life. … However a situation unfolds—it doesn’t matter whether you’re winning or losing; whether you’re hot or you’re cold; whether you’re the underdog or the favorite— you’re going to deal with whatever comes at you the best way you can.” Or as Dunne, 65, puts it: “There is going to be a randomness in everything we do. The idea is you accept what you can’t control; you accept and you try to embrace it.”



I have tried to embrace “it’s just like we like it” and make sure I am putting that attitude out there to those I am adventuring with.



Recently I was preparing to mountain bike on a new, challenging trail with my son. While the weather conditions and the terrain were not what most people would consider ideal, I commented on the difficulty of the ride and our adverse conditions to which he replied:

“It’s just like we like it!”



Mission accomplished.






Invictus


The ability to discern what we can control versus what is beyond our control is the mortal version of a superpower.



There are so many things that happen to us and around us every minute of every day that are totally beyond our control, that it’s actually overwhelming to think about. The best we can ever hope to do is manage how we react to those events – our reactions are what we can control.



There have been a number of extremely wise people in history that do their best to advise us in this area.



The stoics tell us:

 

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”

—Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5



Epictetus is also credited with saying:



“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle.

Some things are within your control.

And some things are not.”



Part of choosing to rise above our common daily existence is the continual differentiation of what you control and what you do not. For some of us, this is an arduous task that we never completely master. Hands up if this is the group you belong to (my hand is waaaay up).



If it were easy, would it be worth the pursuit?



If you were to track the time you spend on worrying about things that you do not control and have no influence in, it would be quite a surprise what percentage of your day is consumed with this. Worrying is a time suck which serves no real purpose, and for some people is a habit that is difficult to break. But it is not unbreakable.



The Dalai Lama speaks about how worrying serves no purpose in a very simplistic and straightforward manner:



“If there is a solution to a problem, there is no need to worry.

And if there is no solution, there is no need to worry.”



When you read this it makes total sense, and would be a great way to live our lives in theory. In practice, of course, it is not so easy and it takes persistence and diligence to try to incorporate this into our daily existence. This is part of trying to rise above our current position, and pursuing continuous improvement.



So how do we begin?



We begin by paying attention to how we react to situations.



What angers us?



What scares us?



Are we worrying about something we can control instead of implementing a solution? Then we need to act.



Are we worrying about something that we cannot influence? Then we need to accept and move forward.



Pretty easy to say and much more difficult to implement, but worth the pursuit.



There are so many examples from very wise people that you can find if you do a quick search on the topics of: worry, understanding what we can control, what to do when things are beyond our control, etc. that make things seem so binary - we can control it or we cannot.



There is also a lot of “grey” areas and we need practice to be able to differentiate.



I often think about The Serenity Prayer – also known as the Alcoholics Anonymous Prayer – in this context. It opens with:



“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.”

 

The concept of “serenity” conveys such power, it makes the relentless pursuit of this concept feel worthwhile.



An aspirational poem in this context was penned by William Ernest Henley in 1875, titled Invictus. It does not mention the ideas of worry or concern about things beyond one’s control, instead speaks to the power of controlling what you can:

 

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.



So powerful. Equally motivating.



In my continual pursuit to Rise Above, the perspectives of the Stoics, the wisdom of the Dalai Lama, the pursuit of serenity, and the concept of Invictus (meaning unconquered or invincible), serve to guide me on my path. It’s a long, twisting, difficult path.



And we shall Rise Above.



I want that superpower.


Leadership


When I was younger I held this notion that our leaders held the positions they did to ensure the well-being and best interests of those they served. I trusted that their behaviours would exemplify what the rest of us ought to aspire to, and their decisions would be made thoughtfully and therefore would benefit the greatest number of people possible.



Well... I’m older now and I am reminded continuously how naïve I have been. Thankfully I have been able to retain some of that naivety - and because of that naivety, I remain hopeful. 



I remain hopeful that the pendulum will swing back to decency. Perhaps the behaviours of our leaders, in whatever capacity they serve, will in the future model tolerance, acceptance and compassion. Maybe there is hope that individuals will seek positions of leadership not just to gain and retain power. Maybe, just maybe, leaders will make it their mission to unite and not divide.



And maybe a system will be in place that will support our leaders and make leadership positions attractive to those that have the intelligence and skills to achieve great things for the common good. And maybe we can find a way to buffer extreme views and behaviours and facilitate the creation of common goals that serve the interests of the majority of people. 



As things stand right now, our best and brightest avoid leadership as they do not want to subject their loved ones to the harassment, threats and abuses that inherently come with the position.



So what role do all of us play in getting to a “better place” for our leaders?



How do we help them Rise Above our current conditions and expectations?



It starts with the realization that we are all leaders, and it is incumbent on us to develop our own leadership skills so we can demonstrate what is required to those that will succeed us. You read that correctly: WE ARE ALL LEADERS.



If you have ever had to decide for yourself: when to get up, what to wear, what to eat – you are making leadership decisions for yourself.



If you are a parent: you are a leader in your household and with every action you take, every decision you make, how you respond to any situation – you are being watched closely, and your actions will be followed far more that any of your words will be.



If you work in customer service: every time you interact with a customer you are in a leadership position.



It goes on and on. You... are a leader. And – you can be a better leader than you are now if you choose to.



If you were to carefully dissect your own leadership objectively you would have a better understanding of how you perform in critical areas where effective leaders possess key attributes. Things like self-awareness, understanding others and empathy, perseverance,  succession planning, building peoples resilience, being steadfastly objective, continuously improving, and finally – knowing when to leave your position and support those that follow you.





If we all learn to be better leaders and can then model the behaviours and attributes that we wish all of our leaders possessed, over time our world could rise above our current state of affairs. Can you picture a world where political leaders speak positively about what they can do, as opposed to trying to negatively destroy their opponents? Where opposing parties are viewed as worthy adversaries instead of evil liars? Bringing people together instead of driving them apart seems like a better place to live.



With that all being said, who is it incumbent upon to thoughtfully and progressively develop the future leaders we desire?



You.



And me. And everyone else we know.



This concept of the “average” citizen being important to our society is nothing new. In his address to the Sobornne in Paris, France on April 23rd, 1910 former US President Theodore Roosevelt stated:



“With you here, and with us in my own home, in the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average woman, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.”



The above excerpt is from the same address that Roosevelt’s famous “The Man In The Arena” speech was taken from.  



With the right knowledge and some serious self-reflection, we can thoughtfully demonstrate the leadership attributes we value for those who are watching us. We can guide those who follow us in how to lead responsibly and to choose to lead for the right reasons, not simply in order to gain and maintain power.



In the world of politics, in time we will have enough quality candidates who lead and conduct themselves with the grace and class that we believe they should, and we can choose the leaders we want to represent our beliefs as opposed to be forced into choosing from a field of people we feel do not represent our beliefs at all.



Leadership matters.

We are all leaders.



How will you choose to lead? 


Perseverance, Resilience, and Perspective


On a dark, rainy, miserable night, I found myself on my bike. Cold, caked with mud and feeling sorry for myself I was attempting to climb a rooty, rocky, mountain trail at 3:00 a.m. Just an hour ago a rider had reported seeing a bear on this trail, so my nerves were on high alert. The rain was relentless and as a result, so was the mud. It made the exposed tree roots that much more slippery, and it was clogging my chain and gears. Why was I here?


For “fun”!


I was part of a five-person relay team competing in a 24-hour race, and I was feeling quite over my head. When I left the exchange point less that half an hour ago, there were no other riders leaving at the same time so I was aware that I was quite alone. I hoped my headlights were charged enough to keep the trail lit for me. I also hoped I would not have to use my bear spray.


I was in my mid-thirties, relatively fit, and had paid the entry fee to take part in this experience, but at the moment I wondered why I had chosen to do this to myself. Once I completed my loop I would have to immediately clean my bike of all the mud, clean myself of the same, find some dry clothes and hopefully some warm food. Sleep was likely not in my future as the tent trailer we were using as home base would have lots of coming and going, and my teammates who did manage to sleep were prolific snorers.


I was miserable, I was having trouble keeping on my bike and I was frequently getting off my bike to walk it up the most difficult sections.


At the point where I was most seriously questioning my resolve and my sanity, I hear a faint “whump...whump...whump” sound behind me. It was so dark that when I looked over my shoulder I could not see anything behind me, and the sound was getting closer... “whump...whump...whump...”


The only thing I could think is that the bear had noticed me, and I looked tasty.


I strained to keep my bike upright. I knew where my bear spray was and did a mental check of what I would do once the bear got close enough. It was so dark that I wouldn’t have been able to make out if it were a black bear or a grizzly, and by that point it wouldn’t have mattered anyways.


“whump...whump...WHUMP...”


It was definitely closing in.


I glanced over my shoulder again, and through the downpour I could faintly make out a single light. It was the headlight of another bike getting closer to me! I thought that the presence of another rider would frighten the bear. I glanced again and the light was closer (obviously a more skilled cyclist than I was – not unusual at all), but the sound “WHUMP...WHUMP” was closer as well – obviously the bear was not deterred.


I could not stay upright any longer. The steep section of the trail I was on was too technical for me, so I half-fell half-dismounted from my bike and began to reach for my bear spray.


I turned to face it, but instead of the bear I was able to see the other rider getting close enough to pass me. No bear, just a lone rider. Skillfully climbing this treacherous trail in miserable conditions, seemingly effortlessly. The “whump...whump” sound made sense as he passed me and said “great work – keep it going” to encourage me.


The sound? It was because he only had one pedal on his bike. That pedal held his clipped in cycling shoe, and his bike made that distinctive sound as he pushed down with his leg and then pulled the pedal back up again.


He was an amputee. He only had one leg, and he was easily passing me by pushing down and then pulling up on his one pedal. I had heard about him before the race. He was not part of a 5-person team, he was riding the full 24-hour race solo. Just him, in these treacherous conditions, and he just blew by me going uphill on a technical trail.


At that moment I felt many things:

-       Relief, that there was no bear

-       Humbleness, at the skill, determination, resilience and perseverance of this incredibly skilled athlete

-       Embarrassment, at how easily I was passed

-       Shame, that I was feeling so sorry for myself


Later, upon reflection, I was grateful for the perspective that rider provided me....


First of all, things are never as good or as bad as they seem. This is a favourite saying of a favourite former coach of mine.


“No matter what your circumstance, things are never as good or as bad as they seem.”


So true in the context of that race. I was fortunate that I had the ability, means, and support to be part of that team on that weekend.


Secondly, people that I have always admired made the decision to persevere in difficult situations. Compared to most, the situation I was in was not that difficult. Nobody was going to die. I would have a warm shower and warm food when I was done this leg of the race, and after the weekend would be going home to my family.


Slightly different that the resilience and perseverance that a Nelson Mandela would have to have when he was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years behind bars.


How many times in our lives do we need to be smacked upside our heads with a good dose of perspective to fully appreciate and be grateful for what we have?


How often, in order to rise above any given situation presented to us, do we need that step back to gain that perspective, then consciously decide that we do have the resilience and perseverance it takes to choose to do what is necessary?


For me, it is a daily challenge. If I want to continue to improve as a person, I have to consciously choose to persevere, even when in the moment things seem “difficult”.


Imagine reflecting back on that bike race and the perspective I gained that day. Along with everything else, that solo rider who passed me – in the mud, in the rain, in the dark, go up a technically challenging trail – me, who was young, physically fit and able, and as he passed with his awesome skill and amazing determination... he was the one providing me with encouragement.


Amazing.


I remain extremely grateful to that rider, even though we never met for more than that brief connection in the mud.


I am extremely grateful to all the people who have shown me how I can choose to rise above, most who have no idea that that is what they were doing, or are even aware I exist.


How will you choose to rise above? And why?