Your North Star

silhouette of mountain range under stars
Photo by Free Nature Stock on

The concept and reality of the NORTH STAR has been around for centuries.  Scientifically speaking, the North Star, or Polaris, is the brightest star in Ursa Minor constellation (the Big Dipper). Unlike other stars we see in the night sky Polaris stays constant in the sky no matter the season. It was the star that early explorers used to navigate their journeys. It is said to have been the star that slaves trying to escape their oppressors in the south used as they fled toward the north during the civil war years.

So, with this scientific and historical context, what is your NORTH STAR?  What is the one point in the sky that you are seeking, moving toward, focusing on? Question too deep? Maybe you could start by making a list of your values – those key concepts you hold most dear and that define you as a person/worker/spouse/parent/citizen. With your values in mind, you can then begin defining your own North Star.

Each of us has a lot to do – too much on some days, right? We could all fill our days with any number of tasks.  Our email inbox is screaming at us – “check me, check me!” Our TO-DO list grows longer and longer. And the voicemail box gets fuller and fuller. Each of these distractions offers an excuse to postpone our quest.

It is hard to decide what you should be concentrating on right now to move you closer to that elusive North Star.  Most of us tend to focus on the URGENT,  sacrificing the IMPORTANT.  We get distracted, sidetracked, drawn in unproductive and sometimes even self-destructive directions. That is when we need to ask ourselves that ever important question: What is the most important thing?

Of course, the answer is different for everyone. Will it mean going back to school? Seeking that new job? Starting that business you’ve always wanted to start? Will it mean getting out of your own way, clearing the urgent from your mind so that you can truly point your thinking toward the elusive, but essential, North Star?

So, for this week, and every week, let’s look North, shall we?

Mutually beneficial

group of people raising right hand
Photo by on

“Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” Recognize those lyrics? I know you need to hear the whole song, now, right”  Here you go: Spice Girls – Wannabe

And now you won’t be able to get the song out of your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome. 🙂

But back to the point.

We’ve all seen people rushing out of work at the end of a hard day, right?  On to dinner or the kid’s soccer practice or that favorite TV show or to the gym.  What if the work you do is so satisfying that you want to rush INTO work, too?  I truly believe that when you lead with the goal of mutually beneficial results, the job satisfaction will naturally flow to you.

Now please ponder this question for a moment:

What is it that you hope your clients/customers/participants/students/employees will be able to do, think, act, own, feel, behave or believe differently as a result of the work you do?

And the next logical question, of course, is: Given that my client/ customer/ participant/ student/ employee will be able to do X, what impact will that have on them as an individual? Or as a family? Or as a company/ team/ network/ organization?

Our impact is compounded when we seek to have an effect instead of simply being satisfied with the encounter. It is all about impact.  And impact is more likely when you develop a relationship that will lead to the desired outcome. How can what you do today build a relationship that will be beneficial for you AND your constituents into the future?  Call it what you want – customer service, service leadership, salesmanship. But if the goal is the relationship, the outcome will always be success.

Yeah, that’s hard. But it’s right, too, don’t you think? “Better at the other end” should always be our goal.  And that’s what we all really, really want!

Stretch yourself!


S   T   R   E   T   C   H 

Albert Einstein is famous for thinking about the world around him in new and mind-expanding ways.  How he stretched his own knowledge – and thus the world’s – is legendary. 

We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.                                                                             -Albert Einstein

And boy, oh boy, did Albert Einstein solve problems!

Obviously few of us have the wisdom of Einstein. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be more like Einstein in our thinking. When we are honest with ourselves we know that the things we did in the past will not continue to work in the future.  “Acting like Einstein” is always striving to reach the next level of performance.

A very practical example can be found within our schools. If a teacher continues to teach a child the letter ‘A’ over and over, that child will know a lot about ‘A’. But beyond that no real progress will be made. She must move to the next letter of the alphabet, to words, to numbers, to simple and then more complicated concepts, and so on.  Right?

Just as the child reaches new levels of performance over time, so must the teacher. It is like that in leadership, too.  How you lead a new employee is completely different from how you should be leading your top performers. If you don’t move to a new level of leadership performance your employees will suffer and so will your organization.

What’s your next level?

My guess is that you are generally happy with how far you’ve come in your development as a person – spouse – parent – employee – leader – citizen – volunteer – caregiver.

And now it is time to ask yourself: Are you working from the same place that got you to this point? Or are you stretching yourself?

You may be super-strong. But if you lift the same weights in the gym over time, your muscles will adapt and you’ll stop seeing progress. It’s the same at work.  If you continue with time-worn practices and processes in your profession, you will eventually stop seeing progress. Your competitors will be advancing, so you will actually begin to see things deteriorate if you continue doing things like you always have, comparatively speaking.  It is no coincidence that customers continue to expect more of each and every company. They expect us to make it to the next level, and the next, and the next.

Unfortunately, your  next level  doesn’t magically show up one day. It requires stretching – pushing past your previous limits.

Ponder these questions:

  • Are you satisfied with your impact in your own spheres of influence?
  • What needs reviewing/quitting/starting/revising?
  • Where would you like to be headed next with your work?
  • What do you need to do to get there?  Or need from others?
  • What’s step #1?

Let’s make this the summer to S  T  R  E  T  C  H  !

Noses, Degrees, Percents

One percent; one nose; one degree

You may be wondering what each of these things has in common.

The answer is really very simple: It is all about the effort.  What if you were training for a race? Could you go one extra minute? One tenth of a mile faster or further? Most runners would say that they could.  And what if the runner did that over time? That extra effort will most certainly result in better results at the finish line, right?

by a nose
Turallure, left, is passed Court Vision at the finish line at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, and from

Jockeys know how it feels to win a horse race by a nose – or how it feels to lose by the same amount.  And so do those who bet on one of those horses, too.  One percent more effort in the training and in the moment of the race, may be all the difference in whether the horse wins first or second. Big payoff for the owner and jockey, or not so much of a payoff, can be reduced to a nose.

A third example is temperature. What makes water boil? Your high school science teacher told you that it is heat applied to water. But it is also one degree.  211 degrees, you have very hot water. 212 degrees and it’s boiling. Boiling water creates steam, which powers engines, makes electricity, creates motion, and, well, you get the idea.  There is a great video that explains the importance of that one degree. It is only 212 seconds (cute, huh) and worth your time:

So what if you applied that one extra degree or percent of effort this week, and next, and next?  One second, one percent, one degree is so insignificant – unremarkable, unnoticeable, really.  But in a year’s time, think what a difference it could make!  I know you can pay 1% more attention to your work this week.

And you know it, too.

So here is my challenge: Every day when you get to work, ask yourself, “What I could do better today than I did yesterday?” And then do it. (Ask it in your home life, too, by the way. It will work there, too.) I promise you will notice a difference. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but over time, certainly. And when you do, I hope you will share your 1% stories with me.

I leave you with this Quote from writer and photographer James Clear:  “Most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse.”