Leadership 101: Our Perspective Colors Everything

As Our Perspective Brightens, Our Effectiveness Broadens

Our perspective fuels our emotions and emotions fuel our actions. Success in work, life and leadership is first an inside job. Our internal perspectives and the way we see things affect everything about us. Like a row of dominos that fall when one is pushed over, our perspectives create a ripple effect that sets off a chain of emotions and actions in our lives. In this post I want us to look briefly at the power of our perspectives and how they can help to bring about exceptional life outcomes for each of us.

WhiteBoard Scribbles Chris MeadePerception Colors Everything

Our perceptions (real or perceived) affect everything about us. Everything will be affected either positively or nega­tively by the way we see things. Our perspectives color our world. If our perspective is clear and is trained to be able to see what’s good, then our lives have a propensity to lean in that direction. On the other hand, if we always see what is wrong, negative, and bad with every­thing, then our lives tip in that direction. Make no mistake, the domino effect will be seen, felt, and experienced by all; but it’s always our choice. How we view things has everything to do with the future direction that our lives will take.

Common Denominator of Success

Over the years I’ve noticed that one of the common ingredients that many successful people share, is a positive attitude and a healthy perspec­tive toward life. Their eyes are full of light. Men and women who have an excellent spirit about them possess an orientation that tilts toward optimism instead of criticism. domino effect chris meade They believe in possibility rather then unattainability. They choose the high road and strive to see the best in others, rather than de­scend onto the low road of criticism and complaining. They pitch their tents in the land of hope. This way of looking at life is a core ingredi­ent of most successful people. As our perspective brightens, our effectiveness broadens.

You Find In Life What You’re Looking For

One of the amazing truths of life is that we find what we are looking for. If we’re looking for what’s good, we’ll find it. If we are looking for what’s wrong about something or someone, we’ll find that, too. For example, there could be 100 things working right in a rela­tionship, with a job, or in yourself, but if we are always looking for what’s not good about some situation, we’ll always find it and miss the 99 other wonderful things that surround us. One proverb said it this way, “If we search for good, we will find good; but if we search for the bad, it will find us.” What we pay attention to draws us toward it because it focuses our minds in that direction. Our brains are actually created to operate this way.

What We Focus On Pull Us Toward It

I remember a while back, riding my bike down a steep and winding mountain hill. As I was rocketing down the highway, I had to concentrate so I didn’t crash into the side rail as I banked hard on a sharp turn near the bottom. I remember how I started to become mesmerized at one point by watching the side of the road so intensely. The more I focused on not coming too close to the guardrail, the more I felt myself actually drifting toward it. My brain wanted to go where I was focusing. It felt almost like a magnet was pulling me toward it. This is why when we’re first learning to play baseball, the coach always says, “Keep your eye on the ball.” Why? It’s because our body wants to follow our eyesight and align our body with our perception. What we focus on pulls us toward it.

Reticular Activating System

The reticular activating system (RAS) is an area of our brain that serves as a type of filter. The RAS determines what we notice and what we don’t notice. Most of the time our brain works overtime to help us tune out unimportant information so we don’t go crazy with data overload. At the same time, our RAS works like a laser-guided missile system in pursuit of a target. When we do decide to focus on what’s most important, our brains are hard-wired to go after it. We see what we are looking for.

Look For the Good Chris MeadeTarget: Ford Escort Wagons

Many years ago, my wife asked me if we could buy a new economical car. She told me this popular model was called a Ford Escort Wagon. I told her, “I’ve never heard of it.” Long story short, we ended up going down to the local Ford dealer and bought a brand new white one. As we drove it home, with three kids in the back seat, I was shocked. Everywhere I looked somebody was driving a Ford Escort Wagon. There were Ford Escorts ev­erywhere: white, blue, red, green, and silver! I couldn’t believe it. I told Mary, “We just bought the most popular car on the road!” Let me ask you a question. Do you really think all these Ford Escorts just appeared out of nowhere? Of course they didn’t. They were always there. I just didn’t notice them because my brain filtered them out because I was not looking for them. They were unimportant to me at that time. But once I was looking out for them, they jumped out from everywhere. Why? Because my RAS was awakened and locked onto its target: Ford Escort Wagons.

Focusing Your Brain’s Reticular Activating System

Many people who are successful in life and business understand this principle of being able to see and find what they are looking for. They do their best to channel their RAS to their advantage. These men and women know that “seeing” is the precursor to “doing.” So, they put a “seeing plan” together that identifies their target goal. This not only clarifies what they want and what they are looking for, but it awakens and focuses this unique part of their brain. When we set our focus on the achieving our goals, while understanding how our RAS works, we gain an advantage because we have now activated our minds to help resource us with added energy, high-definition clarity, and fully alive brainpower. What we choose to focus on will naturally pull us toward it. So choose wisely!

Iron Sharpeners: Team-Building in the New Economy

Team Building

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Developing your potential is important. It’s a foundational building block of success. Developing the best in someone else is even more impressive. But developing the potential and capacity of a team of people really raises the bar. It sets leaders apart in this new economy. Developing a team is a prized skill and makes a huge difference in the lives of others.

Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Team-builders or “Iron-Sharpeners,” as I like to call them, strive to win championships, not just games. They are convinced that they can be more, do more, and give more with the help of others. If they don’t have a formal team, then they forge outside alliances with others that can help them. They are convinced that the days of the go-it-alone, Marlboro-Man-solo-leader is over.

Iron-Sharpeners align and utilize the talents and strengths of others. They harness the power of unity out of diversity. They create team synergy through architecting a sense of genuine community and trust. At the same time, they’re focused and aligned in accomplishing a shared goal.

Better Together

Having the right perspective on the inside affects how you lead on the outside. Iron-Sharpeners are convinced that we are better together than we are alone or off in silos working and minding our own business.

There’s an old proverb that says, “Two people are better than one because they get more done by working together. If one person falls, another can reach out and help, but people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble…A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer, and three are even better for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

The Three-Fold Cord

Working together as a team is likened to the collective strength of cords being braided together. Collectively, they are stronger when they are twisted and intertwined with each other. Not only are we better together, but we’re also made by our Creator to be in healthy community with other people. This includes our work life.

The Marlboro Man Mentality

Rugged Individualism Chris Meade LeadershipAlive.comThis idea of community and team is actually counter to what many people in our society think. Our culture applauds rugged individualism. And of course, there is something admirable about it. Our nation was founded with a pioneering and courageous spirit. We love old Western’s that glamorize the go-it-alone, tough cowboy. But we’ve all seen or heard of how something good in an extreme form can end up going south. Radical individualism that creates isolation in love, life, and work is unhealthy. We forget that even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Choosing to go it alone, and taking the position that we don’t need anybody else is not necessarily a sign of confidence but of hubris, insecurity, and fear. Sometimes the Marlboro Man mentality works against us and can take us right over the cliffs.

Sharpening Your Blade

In my next post, I’ll explore some  practical ways we can sharpen one another, “like iron sharpens  iron,” by first looking at how the ancients actually sharpened knife blades. But for now, let me end with two questions to consider:

(1) Who are you sharpening? Remember, this is a prized skill-set to possess and it will set you a part in your organization as you help others grow.

(2) Who is sharpening you? All world class athletes have coaches. Who is your coach for this season and what is your training regimen and rhythm you have committed to? Why? Because what we pay attention to gets better.

Catalyzing Your Talents and Potential

Apply What You Are Learning

When I was a freshman in high school, I started to play the electric guitar. Soon after, I was invited to join a rock band. The only problem was that I knew only three chords! But since I had my own guitar and amp, I was in, chords or no chords! A band member gave me a bunch of new chords to learn that were in some of the songs we would be playing. I had just a few weeks to learn the material, so I practiced my chops every day after school for about four hours. Within a month, I could play all kinds of new songs. I amazed myself. Looking back, I can see that my learning accelerated because:

1. I had a goal that I was passionate about.

2. I practiced all the time.

3. I was accountable to someone (my band members).

Learning How to Accelerate Your Potential

One of the overarching principles behind my rapid growth was consistent application. We grow best and learn more deeply when we immediately apply what we are learning. All good teachers know this. That’s why they design learning activities that drive home the point of the topic they are talking about. Otherwise, we confuse knowledge with learning. They are not the same. It’s kind of like the difference between listening to and really hearing someone. They are similar, but different. We accelerate our growth when we get involved with the material, join the team, start helping, or begin to practice what we are reading about, etc.

Wring Out Your Sponge

Learning is like wringing out a sponge. A sponge can hold only so much water. You can blast it with a large hose hooked up to a fire hydrant, but it will only retain so much water. You can take a sponge and submerge it into the Pacific Ocean, but it will only absorb so much water. How does a sponge absorb more fluid? Only by wringing it out. Each time the sponge is twisted, and the water is squeezed out, the sponge snaps back to its origi­nal state. It’s now ready to pick up more water. Slurping up new water is contingent on wringing out the old. The same is true with us.

Wring Out Your Sponge - LeadershipAlive.comGrowth Is Connected To Participation

When we wring out our sponges and apply what we are learning, we set ourselves up to keep learning. Our absorbency level is constantly able to re­set and thereby retain new knowledge. There is truth to the old adage “use it or loose it.” No wonder I plateaued in my guitar playing. Why? I played the same old licks and songs. Today, I don’t practice any new material, and I’m not in a band! The same is true in life, too. What do you know in your head that you have yet to apply? What new skill can you begin to use more consistently? What positive attitude can you practice at work? What strength do you possess that you can bring to your work team? What character quality can you begin anew?

Begin Today

Spectators grow at a snail’s pace. Participants skyrocket. Jumping in and getting involved catalyzes growth. Start serving other people and you’ll see your character deepen. Give and you’ll become more generous. Deploy your talents and they’ll transform into strengths. Use what you have. Take the time to teach others what you know and you’ll get smarter. Wring out your sponge and watch what happens.

 

The Reflective Practitioner

The Reflective Practitioner

Thinking deeply is quickly becoming a lost art in our fast-moving Western so­ciety. For example, if you visit a country in the East and come across an elderly man working quietly in a beautiful and serene garden, you would not interrupt him because he’s doing something that’s culturally perceived as important. On the other hand, if you were in the West and saw someone running around in the office like a chicken with his head cut off, texting with one hand, stacks of papers in the other, and a Bluetooth fastened to his ear, you wouldn’t interrupt him because in American culture he’s per­ceived as doing something important. But in the East, we can interrupt a person moving fast, and in the West we can interrupt a person going slow and reflecting.

All that is to say that I think we’ve lost something valuable in our cul­ture––the art of thinking deeply, critically, and reflectively. Too often, con­cepts like personal reflection are only thought of as a stress-relieving therapy or a  spiritual discipline, rather than one of the most powerful assets business leaders have at their disposal. There’s a huge payoff in taking time to think.

Secret Of The Swing

Author Len Sweet first introduced me to an insightful principle that I’ve come to call the “Reflective Practitioner.” Most of us have spent some time on a swing-set in the park. If you remember, the secret of how high you could get came when you learned how to lean back in the swing and pump your legs. The more efficient you were in your pumping backward, the higher you went forward and upward. As Len puts it, “The secret of the swing: Backward propulsion creates forward momentum.” The same is true in life.

Thinking Deeply

Reflective_PractionerWhen we take time to reflect, to slow down and think deeply, it em­powers us with creativity, insights, breakthroughs, and new learning. This process fuels us to soar to new heights. There is no way we’ll ever reach our full potential without learning how to lean back into our swing. I encour­age leaders (i.e., lifelong learners) to carve out time to think, reflect, debrief, journal, pray, etc. Often, because many of our work cultures don’t understand this principle, they won’t pay you to do it while you’re on the clock. We have to do it on our own time. Some people would even get in trouble if they closed the blinds in their office, turned off the phone, shut down the com­puter, and just spent time thinking and reflecting. Many a boss would say, “Do that on your own time. You’ve got work to do! Chicken, get running!” So, let me encourage you to find a swing! Go to a park and lean back and pump! Do this in your personal, professional, relational, emotional and spiritual life, too.

Think Kaizen

Yes, as life practitioners, we must be out in the arena working for a liv­ing, but it’s important to take time to reflect on what you do right and what you could improve. Be a reflective practitioner. Think Kaizen. Journal what you learn today while you’re out in the marketplace. Jim Collin’s used to keep a win/loss journal in his pursuit of becoming a “Level 5 Leader.” Muse over the challenging conversa­tions that you had with a coworker during a meeting. What went right? What went south? What will you do differently? Learning is tethered not only to application, but to reflection regarding the application. Let me encourage you to renew the art of thinking critically. Sched­ule time to reflect. Remember: Forward movement is tied to leaning back in the swing and thinking deeply.

Overcoming Learning Stagnation: Randomization

Overcoming Learning Stagnation: The Practice Of Randomization

The act of intentionally randomizing life helps us from getting stuck in our routines. Changing the environment, breaking up old patterns, and being exposed to new contexts fuels new learning. New learning increases capacity. We can all get in boxes very quickly and live our whole lives out of them. Most people gravitate to a life that’s comfortable, familiar, and routine-based. So, to prevent learning stagnation we must choose to inten­tionally create random rituals that randomize and break up the patterns of life. This helps us stay open to new ideas, people, perspectives, and ex­periences. Different kinds of experiences and environments, coupled with intentional reflection surrounding the learning process, accelerate learning. This is because these experiences and environments cause different kinds of reactions and responses within us. Randomization helps stretch our in­tellects, hearts, and spirits.

Pattern Breaking

Pattern breaking helps us stay open to things we would probably not naturally gravitate toward. For example, whenever my wife Mary and I go to a restaurant, I almost always try and order something new from the menu. Yes, this sometimes gets me in trouble and begging for some of her food, but it’s a randomizing ritual that I value in my life. Choose to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Lifelong learners choose to stretch their thinking in order for new synapses or connections to form. Neurosci­ence has actually proven this to be true. New brain synapses form when we learn, unlearn, and innovate.

When we put ourselves in unfamiliar places, we expand our minds. When we break the patterns in our lives, we enlarge our perspectives. Ex­perience a new culture. Learn outside your field. Read things you disagree with. Make friends with people who are very different than you. Try and get your head around diverse things and watch your learning skyrocket.

Benefits of Formal Learning

That’s also one of the reasons why I like formal learning (class­rooms, workshops, seminars, coaching, etc.). One of the beauties of formal learning is that it pushes us into areas we wouldn’t necessarily go on our own. It is a kind of randomizing ritual. In formal learning, we are usually not in con­trol of the curriculum, agenda, assignments, and readings. We often learn more in these settings because we’re being exposed to things, that in most cases, we weren’t even aware of or would have been attracted to in the first place. Formal learning forces us to interact in new ways with new people, new information, and with an opportunity for new application. That’s a rich and powerful learning environment.

The Discipline of Unlearning

The Discipline of Unlearning

Unlearning is one of the most under-utilized approaches to learning. We often picture learning as adding to what we already have. For example, we have a certain level of knowledge or proficiency about something. So, to learn is to increase. Many people think of learning as something like the image of opening up the top of a person’s head and pouring more knowl­edge into it. But that’s not always true. Sometimes we get more traction in our learning by knowing what to unlearn.

Fruitfulness Is In Pruning, Not Adding

Picture a logjam in a river. When it’s removed, the river begins to run again. The river is now able to move downstream with a roar. The same is true with us. Sometimes we experience some of our greatest epiphanies and bursts of growth, not by always adding to the existing body of knowledge and experience, but by removing something that is untrue that is holding back other truths from creating life and new growth in us.

New Growth

We flourish anew by discarding the mental and attitudinal blockages that hinder new truths from entering our lives. Myths that we hold as true keep other valuable life principles at bay in our lives, almost like an invisible force field. As friend and author Wayne Cordeiro says, “The secret to a fruitful life is not always in adding, but in pruning.” Fruitfulness is contingent upon knowing what to discard. Please note that I’m not talking about pruning for pruning’s sake and leaving gaping holes. Rather, I mean a cutting away in order for something new to blossom. Here’s how one ancient proverb puts it: “When the grass goes away, new growth appears, and the plants of the hills are gathered.” So prune with a vision in mind.

Copyright 2013, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, Master Gardener
Copyright 2013, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, Master Gardener

Pruning Toward Design

All of us have heard stories of master gardeners who can magically look at a budding plant, shrub, or tree and know what its natural design is sup­posed to be. They see what its intended original structure is, what it can be, and then they prune toward that design in their mind’s eye. They know what the shrub should and can look like in its end state. They can sniff out and recognize latent potential. That’s one reason why master gardeners know that who we are on the inside (e.g., talents, strengths, passion, skills) are often clues to what we want to do and can become on the outside (e.g., career, life purpose, vocation). They are connected.

Unlearning Is Part of Learning

For that to take place, the master gardener must carefully envision, snip, discard, shape, and remove everything that hinders the plant from reaching its full potential. Dead and sick branches must go. Branches that appear good but in reality are superfluous must be trimmed. In order for the resident potential within the plant to come to full fruition, pruning must be intentional and continuous. The same is true with us in regards to learn­ing. Pruning is a normal part of life. Unlearning is a normal part of learning and progress.

A Life That Is Thriving

When we discard twisted, design-hindering, even ancillary truth-assumptions we flourish. This is one of the truths Jim Collins in his book, Good To Great, was getting at in the Hedgehog Principle: the power of focused, aligned, design-simplicity (i.e., What are you passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine?).

Who Is Your Master Gardener?

We live in a culture that values only adding, even to the point of overload. Yes, we need healthy soil, lots of water, and warm sunlight to expand and increase, but we also need the work of a caring gardener who prunes toward the vision of what we are designed to be and do. That’s why mentors, trusted friends and advisers, a wisdom community, sacred texts, life coaches, pastors, teachers, etc., can be the other eye that we need. Wise leaders know that the eye cannot see itself. Therefore, we need other “sets of eyes” to help us maximize potential. Prayer, meditation and personal reflection can help us, too. More than likely, a life that is alive and thriving, is a life that is learn­ing…and unlearning.

Maximizing Potential

We need all the resident energy that is within us fully available to us if we are going to maximize potential. So let me ask you: What do you need to unlearn? What do you need to prune, discard, and cut loose in your life so you can get the water flowing again in full force? What in your relationships, your thinking, your attitudes, your goals, your schedule, your finances, your behavior needs a log or two removed so the water flow can pick up speed like it was designed to do? Remember: unlearning and letting go is a key element of learning and growing forward.

The Power of a Wisdom Community

Live Out the Kaizen Way

We’re influenced by the books we read, by the media we view, and by the people we hang out with. I’ve also learned that there are other ways to keep evolving, expanding, and increasing in our personal growth, career devel­opment, and spiritual depth. In this next series of blogs, I suggest four practical ways to feed your hunger for learning and to help you maximize your potential. These principles have worked for me, as well as for many people I know. They will work for you, too.

The Power of a Wisdom Community

Many well-meaning people in both their personal lives and professional careers can drift into a delusional mindset that they have “arrived.” It’s a myth to think that we have ac­quired all that we need to “get tomorrow’s job done.” The truth is that wise people never rest on their laurels; they know that past successes can hinder future achievement more than failure, if they let it. Much of what we “need” for tomor­row must be developed along the way. That’s where a wisdom community comes in to play. Smart people learn how to collect wisdom from others. They learn with and through others. Life moves too fast to collect all of what we need just by our own process of trial and error. There are two teachers in life: wisdom and consequences.

Pay Now or Pay Later

Wisdom understands that everyone has to “pay” in life. No one gets around this truth long-term. Pay now or pay later, but make no mistake, everyone will pay. Wisdom believes this truth, and therefore is willing to initiate the necessary discipline upfront to pay now, and to do the hard things on the front end so it can enjoy the easy things later. Wisdom’s rewards often have a kind of time-delay to them, but when they come, they’re sweet.

Truth or Consequences

Consequences are just the opposite. People believe they can beat the system. They despise discipline. They choose the easy way now with hopes that the hard way will never come. In the end, they are always proved wrong. If we don’t sign up to learn from the teacher of wisdom, then by de­fault, we end up enrolled in the classroom of consequences. My friend and author, Wayne Corderio, talks about how both wisdom and consequences are good teachers. Both impart value lessons to us. Both make us wiser. It’s just that consequences bring more pain, tears, lost money, broken relationships, and wasted time. The good news is that it’s never too late to transfer out of one classroom into another! It’s always just one decision away.

Life-Long Learning

All that is to say that we can learn life lessons, gain experiences, glean knowledge, and garner understanding from both. The problem with the teacher of consequences is that she builds a leader’s capacity much slower, and in the global world of today, that just doesn’t cut it. Lifelong learn­ers know how to gather wisdom beyond their own experience. They learn from others. They leverage off of others’ mistakes and successes, and there­by deposit gems of wisdom into their own personal “bank account” as it were. We learn best in the context of community. Place yourself into a wisdom community where you can learn from and with others. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Becoming a Kaizen Leader

What A Kaizen Leader Really Looks Like

One of my favorite stories about lifelong learning is attributed to Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo and a tenth-degree black belt. Mr. Kano is known as a role model who was committed to applying the Kaizen way of continuous growth in his personal, professional, and spiritual life. It has been told that on his deathbed, Mr. Kano, the highest-ranked black belt of his time, insisted that he be buried in his white belt instead of his normal black belt.

The Secret of the White Belt

Copyright 2013, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, White Belt

A white belt was the sign of a beginning student, one who was still learning, just starting out. Jigoro Kano communicated a powerful message in front of all his students that day, one that they never forgot. Live life as a white belt. Stay humble, curious, and open to new opportunities to stretch and grow. Keep pursuing wisdom. Seek out instruction and correction so you can keep getting better. Even if you have accomplished much and have had a meteoric rise in your career, stay a white belt in your heart. Wise people keep learning and practice humility. They are teachable and open to the input of others. They’re not defensive. They don’t blame others. They define failure differently; white belts see failure as an opportunity to grow and improve.

Put On The White Belt

Let me encourage you: Don’t be afraid to try something new. Take a risk. Tackle a new challenge. Learn a new skill. Go deeper in your relationship with God. Love your family stronger. Expand your financial generosity to the poor and to the causes that God loves. Stand up for justice. Don’t approach life, love, or leadership as business as usual. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be willing to improve. Your current skill level may be good enough for today, but it won’t be adequate for next year. Become a Voracious Learner. Position yourself as an avid student of life. Keep sharpening your axe. Never stop growing. Put on a white belt!

Becoming A Voracious Learner

Increasing Capacity

I love the saying, “God’s gift to us in our potential, and what we do with our potential is our gift back to Him.” Fruitful lives are built as we discover, develop, and deploy our gifts, talents, and vocations (which in Latin means “calling”). One of the hallmark qualities of They desire to grow personally, expand professionally, and deepen spiritually. Wise men and women know that to do this they must be constantly growing and open to receiving instruction from a plethora of inputs. The wiser they become, the more they want to learn. Voracious learning is one of the ingredients found within the hearts of people who are Financially Alive.

Growth is Normal

When we were kids growing up in Arizona, my dad would periodically measure our heights on the inside frame of the kitchen doorway. Every year, with our backs up against the wall, he would take a pencil and make hash marks above our heads measuring our current height. Each of us hoped we had grown an inch or two. Over time, this collection of family hash marks served as a kind of family growth chart. It displayed names, dates, and various height increases throughout our elementary age years. I carried this same tradition over with my kids. Pencil-lined hash marks, names, dates, and incremental height increases filled our kitchen pantry doorjamb as well. Just for fun, I would always measure myself, too. One day, my youngest daughter, Allison, told me that she was confused why I wasn’t getting any taller. My hash marks just kept getting darker and darker and not growing anymore when compared to her explosive, upward rate. She asked me, “Daddy, why do big people stop growing?” “That’s a good question,” I said to her. And it’s a question I want to explore with you. Why do some people stop growing? I think it’s because, in part, they stop learning. Learning is part of growing. To be growing is to be learning. And learning and growing is at the heart of a voracious learner.

Always Increasing

Wise people are always improving. They live the Kaizen way. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. It’s made up of two words, kai and zen. Kai is translated “to change,” while zen means “to make better.” As the two words are combined, we arrive at the widely accepted translation, which is “make a change for the better.”

Toyota Motor Corporation is known for being one of the great companies of the 20th century that embodied the Kaizen process. Credit is also given to Dr. William Edward Deming (1900-1993) for helping contribute to cultivating a renewed national work ethic and culture of “process improvement” that became the basis of the Kaizen revolution in Japan in the 1950s.

The Japanese economy was in disarray after World War II. Dr. Deming told their leaders that in five to 10 years, their economy would turn around if they began to apply these principles. He went on to say that in 30 years they would be a global economic power. One of the challenges that Deming faced in the beginning was that many of the Japanese embraced this new notion of “critical reflection” as failure, rather than improvement. Deming said that once they began to understand the benefits of things like “team debriefing” and “reflective evaluating” in light of this new process, the Japanese economy would explode.

Always Improving

Copyright 2015, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, Sigmoid Curve
Copyright 2015, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, Sigmoid Curve

Continuous improvement is more than a process for manufacturing, technology, and architecting organizational culture. It should be something that describes our life as learners. In our life and work, we should all be constantly improving––improving in how we solve problems, excelling in the quality of our relationships, increasing in our ability to steward limited financial resources, upgrading our understanding of technology, enhancing the quality of our work teams, enlarging our hearts for the less fortunate, excelling in people skills and business acumen, taking better care of our planet, owning more responsibility for the welfare of our communities, and deepening the quality of our character.

I love the saying, “The eye cannot see itself.” Therefore, we must learn, as it were, to install “mirrors” in our lives, so we can see the unseen and measure progress and success more accurately. Vision is always tethered to how well we can or cannot see. Let me be one of those “mirrors” and ask you to honestly evaluate your life and your learning. We have to know where we are in order to know where we want to go.