• Authentic Leaders Live

    I am excited to be part of a free online series with my friend Judi Glova called
    Your Mindful Mastery.  You can have access to this free series by signing up here.

    My interview airs November 2nd and registration gets you access to over 24 other speakers as well.  Check out this teaser about creating excellence in your life. https://vimeo.com/233879335

    I hope you can take advantage of this free series.

    Stephen McGhee


  • Mindset Mastery

    I recently did an interview with Judi Glova, a friend and colleague of mine…and I loved how the interview went. It was powerful and addresses how to navigate some of the feelings below.

    • You’ve been stuck in the hustle but you really want to spend time with the people and projects that really matter to you
    • You’re questioning if you’ll ever have enough money, fulfillment and clarity so you can breakthrough to up-level your game
    • You second-guess if you even have what it takes to get to the next level but know you can’t keep pushing harder — you need to work smarter.

    Here’s the thing…at times, you may be experiencing mindset blocks that are holding you back — and if this is the case, you absolutely CAN learn how to overcome them. And I have an invitation for you http://yourmindsetmasteryseries.com/registration/?ap_id=McGhee

    Judi is and executive business coach and leadership development facilitator is bringing together over 25 experts, including me, for a brand new, no-cost, online video interview series:

    Your Mindset Mastery:
    Winning Strategies to Create More Time, Money, and Meaning
    in Your Life & Business.

    Shift Your Mindset, Transform Your Results

    When you go to the link above and sign up, you’ll join me and other experts Oct 24–Nov 5th. Together we will discover how overthinking and worrying can create blocks, and everything you need to overcome it so you so you can finally find the meaning, fulfillment and breakthrough you crave!

    You’ll also discover:

    • A clear picture of how your mindset is wired (you may be telling yourself stories that keep you from taking the actions necessary to get the things you believe you want — which explains why you struggle to create the results you work so hard for)
    • How you get in your own way and what to do about it —so you can stop the spinning and mental noise, and get to the next level
    • Dozens of practical tools so you can make the time, money and meaning you desire, rather than chasing it
    • And so much more.

    You’ll walk away with greater self-trust AND the tools you need to achieve greater productivity, better financial rewards, and more success (however you define it)!

    >Get f.r.e.e. access now, to join us starting October 24<<

    Judi is the perfect person to host this summit because she’s been in your shoes. For more than 17 years in a fast-paced corporate job, she felt anxious and driven to perfection, until she learned that her own misinformed mindset was telling her she wasn’t as good as the others… and couldn’t be that successful. Everything changed when she learned to master her mindset. And for the last 12 years she’s been coaching executives like you to do the same.

    Now, during Your Mindset Mastery, she’s sharing the tools she learned — and bringing together a brilliant roster of experts on this topic — so you can master YOUR mindset and make the shifts to live the life you really want. When you join us, you’ll learn how to release the limiting mindsets and triggers that aren’t working for you, and create new ones that move you powerfully forward.

    Sign up here, and remember, it all begins October 24. >>>Master Your Mindset<<<

    To your success,

    Stephen McGhee

    P.S. What got you here won’t get you to the next level! If you want to achieve greater success, you’ve got to do the inner work and develop (and use!) new tools. We’ll show you how, starting October 24 during Your Mindset Mastery: Winning Strategies to Create More Time, Money, and Meaning in Your Life & Business. Sign up here:

  • How to Get What You Want

    Can I be real with you?

    For the past 25 years, I have guided business executives and influential leaders across the globe to go beyond self-imposed limitations to new levels of leadership. I am an international keynote speaker and author of three books on leadership. I have transformed accomplished individuals around the country and initiated cultural change with major corporations like Microsoft, Merck, Georgia Pacific and Firestone. I recently completed my first film, Climb For Freedom, a documentary about the transformation of seven men summiting one of the world’s highest peaks and the profound impact of that journey on their lives and relationships.

    Why am I sharing all this with you? To brag? Certainly not. I’m sharing this with you because my life almost went a very different direction – a direction not aligned in my truth and purpose in this life.

    You see, in 1994 I decided to leave a very prosperous position as an investment banker. In theory, I had it all. However, for me the work I was doing was not integral. Our business practices were out of alignment. I left banking to pursue the entelechy of my Soul. I let my insurance lapse and found myself in the emergency room, from a weight training accident. They gave me a strong medication to remove a blood clot and I can remember leaving my body. I spent the next 8 days in intensive care. This was a great gift to me, because I had time to ruminate on my life.

    This experience was clarifying for me and I feel as if I received information on leadership that I have been teaching ever since. It was a pivotal time for me, as I left the finance world and came away with a sense that anything is possible.

    I’m not suggesting you experience a life-threatening experience like I did. But maybe this sounds familiar to you. Maybe you’re stuck in serving other people’s expectations of you at the cost of your own. You’ve reached a certain level of success … but you want more. You feel like, if you just keep pushing harder and harder, you should be able to break free, achieve more, earn more, impact more, and reach the level of excellence that you are made for.

    The problem: something keeps getting in the way, doesn’t it? You know this; you feel this. I’ve been there. There is a solution.

    I’m inviting you to Join me beginning April 3, 2017, for AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP: Supercharge Your Productivity & Team’s Engagement, and Achieve Even More Incredible Success in Business, a FREE online series designed to guide you in accessing your inner wisdom so you can be an authentic, courageous leader, while increasing your productivity and effectiveness.

    This is a Joint Partnership opportunity with my friend and executive business coach colleague, Judi Glova. Judi is spearheading this special limited series with me and over 20 other experts in the field to share our secrets and strategies for authentic leadership.

    A few words from Judi…

    Join Stephen, me and 20+ other leaders for this special free online series where, you’ll discover how to create a clear path forward—from where you are now to exactly where you want to be in your life, leadership, and happiness.

    Here’s exactly what you’ll get:

    • Develop a clear picture of what Authentic Leadership is, what it means for you, and how to start living it, so you can enjoy being an incredible leader while achieving and maintaining that level of excellence about which you’re so passionate.
    • Discover how you are getting in your own way of being the kick-ass leader you were meant to be and what to do about it, so you can get the most out of your team and get the results you want.
    • Learn the importance of a powerful mindset and how to move beyond your self-imposed limitations, for good.
    • Learn powerful tools and strategies to dramatically increase your ability to experience more focus, productivity, success, and money in business.
    • And more.

    By now, you’re beginning to understand that pushing harder isn’t necessarily the answer. And you know giving up isn’t in your nature. The good news is that with what we’re sharing with you on the AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP: Supercharge Your Productivity & Team’s Engagement, and Achieve Even More Incredible Success in Business, you’ll discover that you don’t have to push, and you certainly shouldn’t give up.

    When you discover how to access, deeply access, your own intuition and own your value—which we’ll show you how to do—you can unleash a force stronger than you ever thought possible and become the leader you have the potential to be.

    I know this from experience: for nearly 20 years grinding through the corporate world I bought into the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. Constantly trying to prove my worth, I burnt out. I started my executive coaching and leadership development business 12 years ago to ensure other brilliant leaders, like you and me, don’t make the same mistakes. This free online series is the culmination of several years and considerable financial investment in tapping into the strongest, most productive leaders from around the world.

    Now, we’re coming together to share our practical, proven strategies for becoming the best, most effective, most authentic leader you can be—and it’s FREE.

    Sign up here to reserve your spot for the April 3rd kick-off. Space is limited and this program is likely to fill.

    Be The Best Leader You Can Be <<< Reserve Your Spot At No Cost

    If you’re ready to get real, embrace courage, and unearth your greatest potential, this is your chance!

    To your success

    Stephen and Judi

    P.S. When you put to use the strategies we’re sharing on this online series, you’ll find that you don’t have to push hard to be a better leader. When you’re in the zone, everything flows! Plus, when you sign up to join us, you’ll receive special gifts from most of the experts, designed to guide you toward successful, effective, authentic leadership. So sign up now, here:

    Get Out Of Your Own Way <<< Discover Authentic Leadership

  • The Art of Transition

    Today, rather than posting my own thoughts of Life and Leadership, I am posting a fantastic article on the art of transition.

    In my keynote speech in October 2016 in Aspen, at the “Lead with Love” conference at the Aspen Institute, I spoke to this very same idea. As leaders we must find ways to stay in the transition, and even moreover, learn to love the feeling of transition.

    Enjoy the writings from Danaan Parry:

    Trapeze by Danaan Parrytrapeze-thumbs-up

    Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

    Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.

    I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

    But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.

    Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.

    Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

    It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

    I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a noplace between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

    NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

    So, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.

  • How to create momentum and freedom in life and business?

    Sometimes telling the truth is just the beginning.  Sometimes when we know the truth about what needs to be done, we are also the ones who have to get off our butts and do something about it.

    One day I was driving home and singing along to one of my favorite songs on the radio, feeling peaceful as I contemplated a relaxing evening. Then, as the garage door opened, I stopped singing. Something dreadful loomed in front of me. It had been sitting there for months gloating at me. I’d seen it maybe a hundred times before, and I knew what needed to be done. Yet I’d done nothing. As if it would somehow fix itself, over time; like the problem would just go away by ignoring it.

    It was a lawnmower with a broken wheel. The day I’d first discovered that broken wheel, I’d told myself, “I need to fix that wheel.” Then I thought, “I’ll fix it later.” That was more than six months earlier, and now my nemesis had become so powerful it had silenced my song and darkened my mood. I had turned my lawnmower into an incomplete in my life, and incompletesprocrastination_stop rob me of creative energy.

    How many of us can relate to this scenario? In a way, it seems silly doesn’t it?

    I’m talking about things you know you need to handle, yet resist handling. Sometimes we’ll deal with the gnawing discomfort of procrastination for months, rather than deal with 10 minutes of “have to.”

    But make no mistake, when you put things off that you believe must be done, it steals the joy and creativity from other parts of your life. Why? Because your better Self keeps track of your internal promises. I knew I hadn’t fixed that broken wheel, and every time I saw it became a subtle reminder of a broken promise to myself.

    Here’s the terrible truth about things we don’t want to do that have to be done: if we’re waiting until we feel like it, we’ll never do it. I most likely will never wake up and say, “Today, I feel like fixing the wheel on that old lawnmower.” Meanwhile, when you’re waiting to feel like taking care of that one irritating item, a slew of others will follow on its heels, until the weight of all you’ve left undone threatens to make you feel so overwhelmed you don’t want to do anything at all.

    When we resist completion long enough it leads to numbness, inertia, freezing up.

    Let’s get real about the simplest yet hardest thing that leaders do. Leaders complete things. Leaders do what they say they’re going to do.

    I finally told myself that lawnmower would not fix itself, so I had one of five choices: 1) Decide I don’t give a hoot about the broken wheel, 2) Buy a new lawnmower, 3) Pay someone to fix it, 4) Figure out how to fix it myself, or 5) Do nothing and continue to feel frustrated every time I walk into the garage.

    I chose option four and fixed it myself. Take a guess how good that felt!

    I am not suggesting you should fix all the broken wheels in your life, unless you want to.

    When taking action, that’s an important thing to consider: Do you want to? Once you know that, it’s easier to complete the task. When you ask yourself that question, remember to consider the consequences if your option is not number four: How will you feel if you do nothing? Are you willing to live with that?

    Whatever you do, do yourself a favor, don’t wait until you feel like it to deal with the stuff that you believe needs doing. And let’s get real about the time element. How long does it really take to fix a broken wheel, or to handle most of the incompletes in your life? In most cases, not long!

    I spent many more frustrating moments not fixing that stupid wheel in my head than it took to fix it in reality—all of 10 minutes.

    task-completedWhat incompletes are you avoiding?

    Here’s some motivation to help you pick one and move on it: Incompleteness creates chaos, but completion releases energy and creates freedom and builds velocity in life and business. And it just feels good.



    Stephen Paul

  • The Grateful Leader has More JU JU

    “Ju Ju” is vital energy. Its velocity. It’s spiritual enthusiasm. It’s inspiration in motion. So, how does one create more Ju Ju?

    In my view, it comes from Gratitude.

    cheering woman open arms to sunrise at sea

    Notice that you work hard to reach your goals. You reach some, but not all of them. Because this world is so conditioned to look at what we don’t have, you therefore focus on what’s not working. And when you focus long enough on that negative viewpoint, your work life begins to feel meaningless.

    Like you, I am susceptible to the same temptations as other people—including the temptation to obsess about all the things in my life that are not working.

    So how do I get unstuck?

    I’ve trained my heart and mind to treat cynical thoughts the way a Teflon pan treats sticky proteins: it lets them slide in and out without sticking.

    You may be thinking: Sure that sounds great, but those negative thoughts just come up on their own, so how can I control them?

    Maybe you can’t control which thoughts appear. But you can do something about how long they stick around.

    Just notice when they do appear, and gently but deliberately follow them up with another thought.

    Try this: Every time you’re hit with a thought about how you’ve failed, what’s missing, or why your dreams aren’t possible, follow that thought with one of gratitude.

    You’ll begin to notice a shift in your mindset. Your heart will open more fully.

    By shifting your mind, you make room for the ideas, goals, and plans that can lead you toward success.

    What can you be grateful for?


    Not just successes, but failures, too. Not just everything you have, but everything that’s missing.

    The moment you find yourself mourning your past failures and losses, or fearing future failures and losses—you can acknowledge those thoughts, but then immediately follow them up with a thought of gratitude for anything in your life that you can think of at that moment.

    I mean anything.

    Anything you’ve experienced, learned, produced, seen, not seen, been, not been, done, not done. Be grateful for the gifts in your life and the achievements you’ve made. But also challenge yourself to honestly consider what kind of strength your losses and failures have given you. What have I learned from the tough times? How can I use those times for my advancement, learning and growth?backpackbricks

    You won’t ever be able to get rid of all negative thoughts. Knowing that is one of the benefits of getting real! But what you can do is gain gratitude. Without gratitude, it’s tough to rise above the obstacles in your life. Even if you run up a mountain halfway around the world, you’ll just bring all your issues with you, and carry them around like a backpack full of rocks. I know; I’ve been there. It can get heavy.

    Don’t try to force this process. Just gently turn your mind and heart toward the things you love and let the energy flow naturally. When I feel grateful and appreciative for my life, the feeling isn’t like pushing against the current of negativity. Instead, it’s like jumping into a river and letting myself float with the current, flowing with the stream.

    Gratitude is your key to freedom. Is that a spiritual idea? That’s up to you. You can be grateful to God, to everyone, to yourself…or you can simply feel gratitude for its own sake.

    Practicing gratitude works. Here’s to good Ju Ju.


    Stephen Paul

    Get Real

    The next time you findI am grateful for image any area of your life in a slump, try this experiment in gratitude: take note of how your day’s activities have been going so far? Now, stop, close your eyes and look for the things you are appreciative of? Feel those things deeply. It can be little things, like a good night’s sleep, a great conversation with a friend…and funny story. Use this opportunity to build the good Ju Ju in your life. Make note of how your day goes after that. Notice your mental acuity. Take note of your heart space or emotional state. Consider how productive you are.

    If you find that your day improves, then the next day, whether you’re having a bad day or not, list 10 things you’re grateful for. Add these to the previous list, or start a new one. The third time, I challenge you to make a list of 15 things you appreciate. I encourage you to do this for twenty days until you’ve made a list of at least 100 things that are working in your life. If you do this exercise in earnest, I assure you that you’ll shift from stuck to mobile, from negative to positive. Eventually, you may find this is a constant state of being in your body, heart and mind.

  • Film Premier

    Summer is a great time to be with family, enjoy the outdoors and relax. I also like to take time out to watch movies because:

    • Watching others achieve their goals inspires me to take a leap on my next goal
    • Enjoying amazing cinematography allows me to appreciate the amazing world around me
    • Hearing about people’s triumphs and struggles pushes me to live outside my box and start dreaming again.

    I invite you to check out my short documentary, Climb for Freedom: Seven Men Journey from the Ordinary to the Extraordinary. It’s being premiered on Fandependent Films through August 29th.  It’s about 7 men who train to climb the 22,834 foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, learning about themselves and what it means to hit the reset button.  Click here to watch the film for free

    Climb for Freedom DVD coverI sincerely appreciate your help in getting my film out to others who can benefit from its content. If my film gets the top three fan votes, it will be enshrined in the Collection for Fandependent Films. I would be honored to have your help in this endeavor.


    Stephen Paul

    Click here to watch Climb for Freedom on Vimeo at any time.

  • What’s The Meaning of Mistakes?

    Most of the people I know have a hard time making a mistake. I can identify with them. Many times in my life or business dealings I’ve had that same fear of making wrong decisions. When a bold choice confronted me, my mind started churning on all the things that could go wrong. This kind of thinking used to freeze me up like a winter pond.

    But the ice broke when I finally realized that there’s no way to know if a decision is good or bad until after you make it. What if I could see both possibilities as steps toward success? What if I could give myself the freedom to make a mistake? I realized I would be more willing to make the bold moves that lead to invention and innovation—true watchwords of success.

    fork in the road image for blog

    If your choice turns out to be right, you take a step forward. If your choice turns out to be wrong, it informs your next choice—and still, you take a step forward. If you don’t give yourself the freedom to fail, you take no steps forward at all; you just stand there, indecisive and afraid. And voilà, your fear of failure becomes failure by default.

    Sometimes all the time we spend trying to decide something becomes failure in and of itself. Inaction is failure. And tentative, uncommitted action can also lead to failure.

    Wise men and women can help us avoid some mistakes by sharing what they’ve learned. But they can also be examples: if you listen to them you’ll notice that most of what they learned they learned by making mistakes. Some of that mistake making you’ll have to do for yourself. Unless you only want to achieve what they have already achieved, and why waste time on that?

    It’s ironic isn’t it? Often the fear of messing up is what makes us mess up. Why? When we’ve set up an inner judge to stare over our shoulder, watching and waiting for us to mess up, we become nervously ineffective. When that internal judge promises to label us a failure for each mistake, our movements become constrained. We are no longer freewheeling and creative. We are no longer at our best. Our mind expends so much energy trying to guess how not to screw up that it has little energy left to imagine the possible actions that would lead to success.

    Leaders are most likely to turn to me for coaching when they’re struggling with a problem, a transition, or a tough decision. Sometimes their choices involve risking tremendous amounts of money, respected reputations, or important relationships. I have compassion for people facing these kinds of choices. Yet, I often see leaders put themselves through unnecessary suffering over the process, even when they can’t possibly predict the outcome either way.

    I had the privilege of interviewing Bill Farley, the former CEO of Jordache and Fruit of the Loom, and I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought set him apart from the hordes of businessmen who never made it to the top. His answer was simple: “My willingness to make the tough decisions.”

    He didn’t agonize or let himself get paralyzed with the fear of failure.

    After you’ve done your due diligence and researched all the pros and cons of the choices before you, it’s time to either listen to your gut, or just put your finger on the map and go. Don’t waste your time and the time of others. Get bold, make a move, and watch what grows.

    If you don’t see success growing outside you, stop and take a look inside yourself. That’s where the growth will happen, if you’re willing to accept failure, learn from it, and move on to the next tough choice.

    One day each of us is going to die, and most of us will have a tombstone, or at least a eulogy or obituary. Imagine for a second that yours will read one of two ways:

    “… a nice person who never made a mistake.”


    “… a true leader who inspired us all by living courageously.”


    Stephen Paul

  • What Are We Busy About?

    “It is not enough to be busy,” said Henry David Thoreau. “So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

    We all know the feeling that says, “If I sit down, I’ll never get up!” All successful journeys are like that, whether the sitting down is literal or figurative. Remember civil rights activist Rosa Parks? She refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger, supporting the Montgomery boycott and other efforts to end segregation. In other words, she sat down to make a big difference.

    When situations occur, don’t think about all the work ahead. Just ask yourself, “What is my highest expression of Self, now?”

    And in terms of momentum?  Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion basically states that a body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion, unless acted on by an external force.

    This is also true of human activity.

    So if you want to reach your objective, keep moving. Otherwise, it could take a lot of work to pry you from that state of rest.

    Many Americans are so excessively busy you may question their need for this advice. Aren’t they always in motion? But what kind of motion is it?  I’m not talking about going through motions for their own sake. I’m talking about forward momentum.

    Some motions people go through in life are merely circular. These motions take them back to the same points every day: bed to kitchen to car to work to kitchen to couch to bed, and back. But leaders, while they might go through some of those motions, also take motions that create upward momentum. They learn a new skill, visit a new country, start a new project, create a new business, and then they keep moving to execute and implement those new things.

    Leadership is not about robotic motion, rather it is about inspired movement toward goodness.

    Some people step outside the circular dance, now and then, simply to laugh, love, and play. That’s life-giving momentum, too.

    Whatever you’re busy doing, ask yourself: Am I moving forward in a meaningful way toward my authentic Self-expression?  If the answer is yes, then keep moving in that direction, at the pace that suits your heart and mind.

    Velocity has a grace and flow that can create a joyful atmosphere. Do you remember the last time you worked on a project that had that kind of momentum? The very air around everyone involved felt electrified, didn’t it?  As a leader, that’s the environment you want to deliberately and consciously create. You don’t just wait for it to happen.

    At times I’ve had to reach into my gut for the courage to take the next step. I have felt resistance in the strangest ways, whether I am attending a meeting, speaking my truth, or presenting to a large group. This resistance is good, if we will use it for our depth and growth as a Soul Centered Leader. Many times, when I have stepped through the greatest obstacles, I have experienced the largest result or upside.

    That next step is where the maturity of leadership prevails. You will grow as you keep stepping past the limitations you perceive yourself to have. That’s why many leaders become spiritually more mature as they get older: not because their body or brain is at its peak, but because they step through their challenges, fear and resistance and build a muscle of leadership that demonstrates wisdom and strength.

    We can make life easier by only focusing on the next ordinary step. Everything worthwhile in life offers the opportunity to discover grace in each and every step. If you need a reason to take the next step, envision your reward: the extraordinary achievement of true self-satisfaction and service to others.  We are not talking about mindless action herein, rather we are talking about the balance and wisdom of true leadership.  At times, the discipline is in slowing down, listening and paying attention to what is most necessary.

    Trust your Self, listen, act and lead.


    Stephen Paul

  • How to use an early life lesson for your greater good.

    A Lesson That Changed My Life

    When the teacher called my name, I just sat there, stunned. I couldn’t believe it: I was the winner of a national writing contest! It was all the more unexpected because I didn’t even know my work had been entered in the contest.

    Back then, I found writing easy and natural. When I’d written my essay, I was completely detached from thoughts of competition or winning, because I didn’t remember the teacher even mentioning a contest. I just did what I was asked to do, which was to write about the future of the world. To me the assignment was purely fun and creative. I was in the third grade.

    Winning that contest felt like an amazing accomplishment for me—until it was taken away.

    That moment came when the school principal called me into his office. I had no idea why he wanted to see me. When he asked if I had cheated on the contest, I was dumbfounded. I’d written the story on my own, without outside help or copying. But he kept questioning me, making it clear that he didn’t believe me. I asked him why he thought I was a “liar.” He replied that the words I used in my story were beyond a third grade vocabulary level, words like “decade,” for example.

    Instead of congratulating a student who had excelled beyond expectations, the principal seemed more inclined to prove that such excellence wasn’t possible.
    I was too young to know how to defend myself. I was guilty until proven innocent, and he acted so certain that I gave up.

    What could an eight-year-old boy do in the face of adult authority?

    As I walked out of his office carrying my Big Chief notepad, I felt sick inside. I felt tainted. From that moment on, I equated writing with pain. I didn’t think it was worth the effort to do well at something, if it would only lead to unfair accusations. I did as little writing as possible for more than 30 years.

    Has there been a “writing contest” story in your life, a moment along the way when you got the message to shut down an expression of yourself?

    It’s hard to blame that eight-year-old boy for shutting down. It also seems pointless to blame the principal, just another human prone to mistakes.

    But what about the grown man, who, based on a mistake someone else made when he was eight, decided to give up on his gift and hide it from the world?
    As a leader, I find it wastes time to place blame or play victim.

    I’d rather ask these questions: 1) How can I share my gifts? And, 2) What steps can I take to let go of the past and begin expressing myself again?
    Like you, I have something unique to offer…something that only I can offer. We all have something unique to offer. But are we courageous enough to let go of the villains and victims of our past and see ourselves as we truly are, and see our gifts for what they can be?

    Children are always learning, and when we grow up, we don’t have to stop. The lesson here is one of awareness. My choice of what to do with that moment in the principal’s office was available then, and it still remains. I can use that moment as an excuse to shrink from obstacles: injustice, fear of authority, and a belief that effort is rarely rewarded. Or, I can use it as an opportunity to grow into my strengths: a sense of justice, an instinct to stand up for myself, and a gift so exceptional that someone had trouble believing it.

    It’s not all that important for us to understand why we chose to shut down along the way. Only that we have.

    In my leadership work, I often say, “Understanding is the booby prize.” It no longer matters what choice you made then. What matters is the choice you make now.

    Now is all any of us has. Leadership is presence in action. Good leaders don’t waste time blaming themselves or others for their lot in life. They assess what they have to offer now, and create from there.
    If you can see your way to that, your next question will be, “What should I create?”

    How about whatever is in front of you?
    If you were being exactly the person you always wanted to be, what would be the next powerful thing to do?
    Why not do that?

    I’ve long since reframed my picture of that moment in the principal’s office, so that now I see it as a gift. Every day, that long-ago principal tests my resolve to write and the little boy I once was gives meaning to my words. When I write, I think of him.

    The people and moments that challenge us can be our best teachers, if we let them be. These experiences can give us the tools to shape our purpose and to develop our Leadership.  Further, each of these events are simply learning steps in the direction of mastery. When I look back on the path of my life, I see only progress; not perfection but progression. IMG_2830


    Stephen Paul