Feel the Shake

You’ve been there: obsessing about that very important meeting, or event, or opportunity that’s coming up very soon. You’re looking forward to it, but you’re worried about it, and possibly dreading it at the same time. You can feel the tension mounting the more you think about it. You feel all alone in your anxiety. It’s a clusterfuck of competing emotions. As this moment fast approaches, you’re wondering: “Why the hell did I sign-up for this… ?” 

Through my lifelong research and in my personal experience, managing this stuff effectively is what separates the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots.’ I’ve always been fascinated by the factors that separate the famously successful from everyone else. I’ve been devouring biographies, watching documentaries, and studying successful musicians, actors, artists, entrepreneurs, and others for years to learn about their journey’s. How they got from here to there, and to uncover what truly sets them apart.

Rob Lowe, one of the original 1980’s “brat-packers,” has had a long, and storied career in both film and television spanning over three decades. To me, he continues to epitomize the tenets of a real-world rock star as an enduring acting icon. His autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, includes the riviting details about his career-launching, yet arduous audition process for the Francis Ford Coppola flim, The Outsiders in 1982.

“There were days when I would’ve liked to have faced lower expectations and less pressure than learning at what this particular level demanded.” ~ Rob Lowe

This story made clear to me that two things must happen for people to achieve any type of “success” personally or professionally. First, you have to consistently take action and do what most others will not do. And second, you must be able to deliver results in the midst of the inevitable stress, angst, and anxiety that follows.

I’ve heard it said: “Nothing hurts a failure but a try.”

You must be deliberate about putting yourself into uncomfortable and uncertain situations at times. These are the types of situations that have you shaking in your boots, figuratively and literally. Extraordinary outcomes only come from first making choices that most others will not make. These are the difficult decisions, and ensuing actions that have the great potential to expose you to ridicule; and to place you in very vulnerable positions that make you a target for scrutiny and criticism. You’re thinking: “Am I out of my fucking mind?” The answer is… YES, you are out of your mind, and waaay out of your comfort zone. But, this is also the place where most worthwhile happenings, happen…

It’s at this point that the majority of people will opt out; they’ll quit because it’s the softer, easier way. Very often, our natural instincts are to go small; to retreat; to get invisible when faced with challenges or change. Instead, the best go big. They run into, instead of run away. They forge ahead, though often afraid. They then do their damndest to deliver the goods.

At some point, we all find ourselves alone on the “stage.” It’s an inevitability, and it’s exhilarating.

So how do you NOT get so shaken that you cannot perform? Three things:

  1. Feel the shake. Let it be. Don’t run from it, lean into it. You not only have to be willing to face it, but you must also embrace it. Let it help you by allowing it to push you to higher levels of performance. It’s a friend, not your foe.
  2. Focus on what the shake really is. It’s fear. But fear of what? When you boil it down, it’s simply the fear of looking bad or of being seen as not good enough in the eyes of others. That’s it; and that ain’t shit. It means nothing. Once you understand how base and universal these fears really are, they are much easier to manage and overcome. Everybody has them… EVERYBODY. And most people are actually rooting for you, whether you know it or not. Take comfort in knowing this, and let it empower and embolden you.
  3. Finally, let #1 and #2 Fuel your performance. Channel that energy into executing what your hard work and preparation has positioned you to do. Turn it into positive energy, not just negative anxiety. You’ve earned the right to be there, and deserve to be there, because you GOT there in the first place.

Now go kick ass!

Stay tuned-in…

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Fifty-Seven

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Winners. Losers. Posers. Pretenders

Who succeeds and who loses in life has plagued far greater thinkers than I for eons. What aligns the stars to make stars and successes of some who go on to become the envy of others? What magic needs to materialize for prosperity to become reality? Is it magic or luck at all, or is it literal and figurative manual labor? Is it an entitlement sensibility, or is it sweat equity?

One’s definition of “success” has to come into play prior to hypothesizing the answers to these questions. Does money matter? Does privilege or power matter? Does any of it really matter? It does to those who’ve chosen to matter. It does to those who’ve made things happen, made an impact, and reaped a reward. And it does to those who agonize over these answers. And I’m one in the latter category.

I have some very successful friends and colleagues who’ve accomplished amazing things with the same approximate amount of time on this planet as me. They’ve made a difference by making different decisions, to arrive at different destinations. Sometimes this is a jagged little pill to swallow. Call it envy… it wouldn’t be completely inaccurate. It can make me jaded and jilted at times if I allow it. And truthfully, I have my moments, but overall I’m over my disillusion of my current destination. I’ve done what I’ve done with the decisions I’ve made. I do what I do with what I’ve got. And finally, I’ll do what I’ll do to get to wherever I’m going.

My challenge right now, and yours too if any of this applies to you, is to continue to work on enjoying the journey more than the jury of your peers.

Stay tuned-in…


 

Twenty-Three

23

In recent years, there’s been a lot of chatter out there, and it’s become quite trendy to talk about the importance of self-awareness. I think it’s cool that this subject-matter is finally getting the attention it deserves because it’s so damn important. This shit NEEDS to be taught in schools, right along with the immediate next level concept of  >> situational awareness (that’s another post all together)… Most infamously, Gary Vaynerchuk is all over his vast social media empire incessantly preaching about the importance of self-awareness. And I’m glad because the dude has a huge reach, and a shit-ton of good insights to share.

But increased self-awareness is just the beginning. This must be quickly followed up with specific actions to accentuate and enhance the identified positives and then deemphasize and reduce the negatives in order for any of it to produce any tangible results. Awareness without action is only half the equation for success. What’s the point of knowing, if you’re not committed to doing anything positive with what you know…?

Stay tuned-in…


 

10 Tenets

By now, everyone knows that in today’s lexicon, the term “rock star” is a figurative expression used to identify someone who is great at what they do. For example, if you’re a “rock star” of plumbers, then you likely fix leaks and clean pipes better than your peers. If you’re a “rock star”  teacher, then you connect with and influence your students in ways that will be remembered long after school’s out for summer…

I used to use this phrase quite a bit in my writings a few years back to describe a way of life; a philosophy and a lifestyle if you will. I called it the RockStarWay. But today, these words are overused in pop culture and have become passe in my opinion. So I shit-canned using it all together in my stuff. But, the 10 tenets I used to describe the skills necessary to rock in the real world are still spot on and always applicable. So these are for the 5% of people who are interested in getting the best possible personal and professional end-results and outcomes by embracing and demonstrating skills in several key areas.

Here are the 10 TENETS (core principles) of Lifestyle Initiative Training:

1) Commit to being a GREAT COMMUNICATOR – Easier said than done. Few are as good at this as they think they are. All transactions with people, places, and things begin and end with communication in all of its various forms, in all types of situations and circumstances. Great communication is complex, multifaceted, and requires continual hard work to master ongoing. Intuitively understanding and applying the art and science of “Communichology™” is a key concept and cornerstone of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

2) Practice being PERSUASIVE – People don’t get lucky, they influence outcomes. The intersection of preparation and opportunity is where movers and shakers consciously place themselves to get ahead. Make others feel empowered by appealing to their needs. Master human relations skills and others will follow you. The successful understand that “success” and “failure” is largely their own fault. The ability to positively influence intention and action in yourself, and in others, is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

3) Demonstrate COMPASSION – Those who put others first, ultimately never finish last. Extending an uplifting and encouraging attitude, and hand toward others is contagious. Caring for more than just yourself, your stuff, and the center of your universe is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

4) Seek opportunities to LEARN new things – The smartest in the room know what they don’t know. Wisdom is the recognition that there is always more to learn or unlearn. Critical thinking is the rule, not the exception. Answering “Yes” to the “Is it possible…” question is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

5) Accept RESPONSIBILITY and seek SOLUTIONS – Living in problems only perpetuates them. Recognizing what’s wrong and then resolving to solve is how excuses become extinct. It’s those who stop blaming everything that truly start becoming something. Being accountable becomes desirable. Admitting mistakes and owning your own honesty is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

6) Embrace CHANGE – The only certainty is recurring uncertainty. A person’s success is proportional to the amount of change they can endure. Being flexible and pliable is more than nice; it’s necessary. The ability to adjust on-the-fly and in-the-moment, while still producing top quality is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

7) Take massive ACTION – Action is the antidote to fear. Life is full of too many risk-talkers and not enough risk-takers. Following deliberate and diligent planning, systematically executing your plans at high levels is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

8) Master your EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE – Beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, it’s much harder to be “smarter” emotionally. It’s also arguably more important in the big picture. Being aware of both your own, as well as others’ emotional states is a crucial skill-set to develop; and then the to ability to manage your emotions for situational-appropriateness and effectiveness is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

9) Be a student of SOCIAL STRATEGY – This is the all-important art and science of understanding human nature within the context of complex social situations. Leaders must study how human beings effectively interact socially to achieve their desired outcomes for maximum benefit. The most perceptive among us gain valuable perspective by “seeing things” and missing less than most. Strategically understanding how to successfully navigate the many varied and intricate social interactions we find ourselves in is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

10) Commit to RECOVER – from that which ails you in the form of neuroses, rejection, and/or addiction by being clear-headed, cogent, and conscientious . It’s not if bad stuff happens; it’s when. Winners recognize this and are able to rebound from both internal and external challenges. Neither extreme optimism nor pessimism is necessary. Possessing a healthy realism and a resilience to not only survive, but to thrive is a key concept of Lifestyle Initiative Training.

Acknowledging that these 10 tenets are easy to read and understand, but hard to own and execute is the first step. Being willing to work toward mastery of these areas is a lifestyle worth initiating.

Stay tuned-in…


 

Watershed

watershedThere’s nothing glamorous or appealing about a “starving artist.” Perhaps it’s attractive at some point; short-term, but never really appealing, long-term.

No one truly enjoys going without; struggling; just getting by; barely making it.

Only on television and in movies is this portrayed as desirable. These story lines and scripts are written by folks who are often already very comfortable in their lifestyle.

There comes a point when a person wants/needs to earn what they know/have proven they are worth. This may require shelving certain endeavors that may have been full of promise, but never fully materialized for whatever reason(s)… likely some combination of both internal and external factors.

Some may call this selling out. I would have when I was younger. But not today. Time + (my) experience = (my) wisdom.

This is a watershed moment…

The honest realization of where one’s personality best fits within any kind of income-producing endeavor is important and powerful. In addition to personality, one’s relative place in their life is also equally important.

It’s not enough to just “do what you love.” You have be able to do what you love while also managing the inevitable other (sucky) stuff that comes with it. For example, I love to speak, encourage, and inspire others. Always have… I used to think that travelling all around, speaking to different groups would be great. I finally made that happen, and guess what? It wasn’t great. It was just OK; sometimes less than OK. The speaking part was great, the travelling that came along with it wasn’t. When I was younger, this lifestyle would have been perfect for me. Not today… I like to be home with my family more than I don’t.

Depending on what point they’re at in their lives, some people need to work in a very structured, organized, often micro-managed environment. It suits their personality best. Some need to be primarily autonomous, totally self-employed, no overriding management except from themselves. Still others thrive in an environment that blends these two extremes.

So where does my personality best thrive at this point in my life?

I need the freedom to make my own destiny. But I also desire some amount of structure underneath this entrepreuerial spirit. Not sure exactly how that looks or works, but I’m willing to explore how to make it happen. This is the opposite of selling out. This is cashing in actually.

So, so long, long-suffering soul. I’ve seen that movie, and the ending is a disappointment…

Stay tuned-in…

Under A Rock?

under_a_rock

For those who “put it out there;” those who contribute to the world, not just consume; those who have the nuts to take risks; those who refuse to live under a fucking rock their whole life… here’s some great advice from a smart guy I’ve been following for years now, David Hooper of the Red Podcast:

Elbert Hubbard said, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” “That’s good advice. If you look me (Hooper) up in Google or elsewhere, you’ll see there are plenty of people who think I’m full of it. So what? When you touch enough people, somebody is going to be pissed. And a lot of the time, the problem isn’t you, it’s them. So just ignore those folks who think (you) suck. You can’t please everybody. And if you try, you’ll please nobody.”

Trying to please everyone results in pleasing no one. Sounds simple enough, but I’ve been a victim of this over the years myself. In an honorable attempt to build an audience, I used to be pretty middle-of-the-road and “vanilla” in my content delivery approach. I was, and still can be, an excellent diplomat if I want to. Sure, there’s a time and a place for it, but diplomacy is overrated much of the time.

Today I embrace a much more honest, transparent, and genuine approach to my content delivery that is congruent with my real personality. Some like it; some don’t. And that is just fine. In fact, it’s preferred. My stuff isn’t for everyone; nor should it be; nor do I want it to be. We all gravitate towards people, places, and things that we find similar to our interests. And I’m interested in reaching people who are interested in the kinds of things I talk shiFt about here. People who embrace growth, and improvement, and being challenged to reach higher levels of personal and professional achievement. Haters, cynics, and critics… there’s a place for you too. Your feedback can be valuable at times. And who knows, maybe a few of you will even come over to the other side once exposed to the “truth” eventually.

I’ll leave you with another great quote that really resonates with me:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

Stay tuned-in…


 

CWT-5: Something to Prove

Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture

Ricky Midway: So why do you try so hard?

Tom Leu: Is this a trick question? Are there hidden cameras nearby or something?

Not at all. I’m serious… you seem so serious all the time with all you do. I’m genuinely wondering why you put SO much effort into your work? 

First of all… I know of no other way to be. Second, I respect hard work and dedication from those who produce it. And third, I guess I feel like I have something to prove.

To whom?

To myself and to others I suppose.

Honestly, isn’t it more about proving it to others than to yourself?

Yes, I suppose that’s probably true.

And that’s honest.

I’m trying. Contributing truth; even if it’s just mine, is what I feel I most compelled to do, and what I most enjoy.

You worry about your life contributions quite a bit don’t you?

I do. Very much.

Why are you worried? Doesn’t that rob you of the joy of being a creative person in the first place?

At times it does, yes. But I think I worry because of my fear of mediocrity. I’m deathly afraid of being average. I guess I’d rather not do something at all if my output is going to be just okay. I want to move people with what I do; with what I contribute. I want to be great. I suppose it’s all born from insecurity in some form or another. My experience is that perceived greatness (whether internal or external) temporarily quiets feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. But this is fleeting. The inadequacy and insecurity is hauntingly incessant and persistent at times. It creeps back in after some time, and the quest to produce greatness ensues once again.

That’s real honest! And kind of depressing as well…

It’s hard to admit, but proving myself good enough to others has been a lifelong process and pursuit. It is rather depressing at times, I admit.

I’d say it is for most people in one way or another.

Why is that?

Like you alluded to before, it all boils down to self-esteem, feeling like we’re good enough, and our basic need to be liked and loved.

Sounds very psychological doesn’t it?

Well, it is. Everything is. And that’s just the way it is.

And that’s the old Bruce Hornsby song from the 80’s.

Of course it is. And I knew that was coming…

Sorry, but it was right there. As you were saying…

So people want to be accepted, liked and loved at their core. And so they pursue acquiring this love and acceptance through many different means… thus attempting to “prove” to others their worthiness of this so-called love? Agree?

Agreed. But the irony is that once a person STOPS feeling like they’ve got something to prove is when they truly START to prove something. This is one of life’s great distinctions that I’ve only recently come to realize. This is wonderful, but it’s also way easier said than done.

Yes it is. But that’s the secret to ultimate success and satisfaction isn’t it? The ability to transcend the need to prove one’s worthiness to others (and ourselves actually) again and again?

Yes, but this is NOT the way of the world. In real life, everything is set up as a test. Pass or fail. Bad or good. Better or worse. Winners and losers. Successful and not-so-successful.

So how is a person supposed to persist against such a deeply imbedded and ingrained social expectation?

This is the hardest test of all.

And one that few of us actually pass.

The only ones who truly have a shot at passing this test are the ones who are aware that it actually exists; the ones who are aware that they are actually taking the test each and every day; and the ones who can arrive at the place internally where they realize they really have nothing to prove to anyone other than themselves.

I’m aware.

Then you’re on your way.

Guess I’ll keep studying.

As should we all…

**More Conversations with Tom archives.