Guest Post by Mark Nation: A More Thoughtful Workout

John:  We could probably all use a little more “work-out” time.  Mark Nation has some simple and effective steps to share with us that will make a significant and positive difference in our professional and personal lives.

Then maybe we will find working on our physical bodies a bit easier too:) …

A More Thoughtful Workout: 6 Steps to Better Mental and Emotional Health By Mark Nation

Most of us are familiar with emotional intelligence, and how important it is to couple strong “EQ,” or emotional intelligence, with strong IQ in the workplace. In addition, a strong body of work exists that helps us to understand how “thoughts are things” and, “what we think about, we bring about.” Both philosophies are very powerful, and together they have developed many leaders from ‘mental and emotional weaklings’ into ‘executive Atlases.’

How strong is your own mental and emotional physique? Have you ever spent time building intentional strength in these two areas? Were you once strong, but perhaps missed a few sessions (or a few months) at the gym? Has work ‘pounded’ you, such that you’re carrying around way too much excess weight? Or, are you currently sidelined, stagnant and motionless, fearful to rebuild your career or your life?

Whether you are a newbie to the discipline, a weekend warrior, a fallen hero, or a rising star, you always have great opportunities to improve mental and emotional fitness. These two leadership ‘dynamic duos’ pair perfectly together and work best when part of a combined workout.

Here are six steps to more “thought-full” exercise:

  1. Check Your Pulse. Be honest with yourself about your current mental and emotional fitness levels. Get in tune with what (and who) drives you – and who drains you. Target a couple of areas where you can get quick wins that keep you coming back.
  2. Start Where You Are. You may be working out already, and simply need more consistency and intensity. Or, you may never have worked on your mental nor emotional health before. No matter where you are…there you are. Just start. Begin now.
  3. Buy Some New Clothes. Chances are your mental and emotional wardrobe is tired, drab and out-of-date. Moths, dust, and cobwebs may pervade your thought closet. Workouts and training programs are always more fun when you wear nice clothing and shoes that fit well. Get some new “duds” for yourself; wrap your mind and heart in the garments you deserve. Wear wicking layers that allow the ‘wetness’ of life (including toxic jobs or relationships) to roll off these most precious parts of your physique.
  4. Work with What You Have. No doubt you have been through battles and sustained some scars and tears. We all have. Just promise not to let those aches and pains defeat you; instead, let them define Don’t underestimate the power of vulnerability to fuel your authentic leadership efforts – weakness (i.e., failures, struggles, heartbreaks, etc.) often houses your greatest strength and potential.
  5. Push Yourself. You have to lift heavier weights to build larger muscles; you have to run uncomfortably fast for uncomfortably long periods in order to eventually run faster, comfortably. Why don’t you apply this “be comfortable with being uncomfortable” technique to your mental and emotional capacity? Keep driving more work into the system, and your engine will not only grow, but also become more efficient, ever-happier to support more power at higher speeds.
  6. Try Something New. There are muscles inside you that you don’t even know exist, much less make any effort to use. Try a new type of workout to ‘crosstrain’ your brain and heart as frequently as you can. It could be any sort of positive and helpful activity, such as reading fiction, meditating, walking backward, calling one friend per day for a week, going to church or synagogue, doing puzzles, etc. Different workouts stimulate new muscles and joints which bring added strength and power previously unknown to you.

Focus on your mind, while emphasizing your heart and spirit. Make each of these incredible assets part of your daily workout. Think of the combined pair as a vital part of your authentic leadership superset. The more repetitions you perform, the stronger you will become. It’s truly the work of a lifetime, and a priceless gift you give yourself. I can think of no one more worth it than you, and no better time than now. Here’s to some of your most incredible workouts ever!

Mark Nation is a globally-recognized management expert, leadership consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. He is personally driven to discover what makes individuals, teams, and organizations amazing—those elements which power the heart and soul of individuals and businesses worldwide. His new book, Made for Amazing: An Instrumental Journey of Authentic Leadership Transformation, helps people to identify and optimize their unique talents.


Risking Without Risk …

Risking WIthout Risk -

Well, we ALL want glory, right? …

Not really … most folks are probably more interested in stability, safety, enough to meet our needs and some of our wants, and to be known to those who we care about.

If you are one of those many, you may think this post and that quotation have little to offer you.   I beg to differ …

As we go through life, most of us are confronted by a series of firsts:  First overnight away from Mom and Dad, first airplane trip, first date, first kiss, first day of high school … and so on and so on throughout our lives.  First job interview, first job, first promotion, first challenge at work, first job loss, first time to buy a car, rent a house, buy a house, have a child, adopt a child, watch a child leave, lose a close friend or a loved one.

Every first includes some element of risk that we might not succeed or manage the moment.

Whether we desire risk in our lives or not is immaterial, because risk is already present and very prominent.   Risk is part of what makes life interesting and sometimes very exciting.  We risk every morning when we open our eyes, take a deep breath, and move. Continue reading

Scared Straight …

Max Powell 4It all started with Mr. Powell …

Max Powell was just over 5 feet tall, our high school principal, and the second most feared and powerful man in my adolescent life, coming just after my father.  His authority was almost tangible and he stalked the building and events with a piercing stare that dared you to even consider being anything less than truthful, respectful, and deeply remorseful for whatever he had just observed you doing.

When I was a freshman, he shook up my world at our first meeting.  Upon learning I did not have a pen or pencil to sign a form, he introduced me to the concept of personal responsibility, remarking with that withering glare:  “What kind of student goes around without a pen?”.  

To this day, I carry multiple writing implements everywhere I go, regardless of place or intentions.  I will never be caught without a pen or pencil again.

When I was a senior, Mr. Powell also asked me what my college major would be, assuming that since I was not a farmer or particularly skilled, higher education was the path before me.  I weakly replied “I don’t know”, so a lengthy discussion ensued, after which we settled on Social Science, since those had been my favorite classes while under his charge.

Later on, as a young man, I was asked often by older adults about career and life goals.  Sometimes the questions were casual and relaxed indicating a real curiosity, but at other times, the questions were sharp and implied an expectation that I make some decisions and get on with it.  Either way, a decision was expected.

This has continued throughout my life … someone is always asking me to make a decision and focus on something.  As a counselor, I was encouraged strongly to pick a particular model and submerge myself into it, in much the same way that I had to pick topics and issues for my post-graduate work.   In business, I was constantly faced with the decision to choose a career path, one that would open some doors and slam others firmly shut.

Even in the Army, I had to pick a branch of service to become a specialist in, and not just learn about being a good soldier.

Choose one direction and let go of another … focus on something and learn it thoroughly … Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of this.

Instead of following the trend and creating a career based on toiling in a specific field for multiple decades, I have continually shifted and changed directions, moving from one type of work to another, diligently earning and later discarding professional education, degrees, licenses, and certifications.

I read books on very different subjects and have some trouble staying with one topic long enough to master it.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I could easily qualify for an ADHD diagnosis … high-functioning, of course.

While I have dabbled in many areas, I have gained supremacy in few.   This is viewed by some as a weakness or sub-optimal career management.

Two important observations at this stage of my life:

First, throughout all the changes, a few things have remained constant … and this is a good thing.  

I have core values around honesty, diligence, and collegiality that either show up or create a need to seek new environments.  I enjoy a quiet confidence because I have experienced a greater diversity of workplaces and people than those who have locked in and focused.

Second, I firmly believe that the patchwork quilt of my working life is an asset, rather than a hindrance.  

My working life has not had a laser-like focus, but more resembles a smorgasbord, from which I have sampled often and widely.  While I will never reach the heights of any particular profession, I understand sometimes wildly different issues and points of view, and I can connect dots between those points of view that others do not even see.

I mentioned earlier that I feared Mr. Powell.  I also deeply respected him and remember our interactions fondly.  Mr. Powell was one of those adults who challenged me, at a formative time of my life, to become more than I thought of aspiring to or could even imagine.

Looking back over your own life so far:

Who influenced you the most?

How did they do this?

What have you gained because of their influence?

Fondly remembering shaking in my boots at his approach in the school hallway in the Heartland …


February Leadership Development Carnival …

Leadership - Julius Caesar via WikipediaToday, I share another excellent compiliation of leadership thinking from a trusted source.

Leadership Development Carnival is a monthly collection of very talented folks who work in leadership development by coaching, speaking, researching, writing, and leading. 

Each month brings a different host on a different blog.  Paul LaRue, this month’s host, is thoughtful, decisive, approachable, and an all-around cool guy:).

Click the link for more high-quality leadership thinking and practice strategies than you could use in a lifetime … ENJOY:):


Feeling blessed in the area of leadership development this week in the Heartland ….


It’s Remarkable …

Looking at You with quote

Remarkable … in other words, something worth talking about …

I believe we need to speak clearly about those things which amaze and astound us, the things whose passing we ought to notice.

We all see things that are remarkable every day.

Just take the “sun coming up every day” thing … where is that guaranteed to happen?   In some ways, as you consider how the universe operates, you begin to realize we are all very small bits in a very large space, which runs on principles both known and unknown to us.  

In some ways, every single day of our existence is a miracle and a wonder.

That’s remarkable …

“Recognize the remarkable individuals in your life who help you envision a world far beyond yourself.”  (Bill Courtney)


Sometimes our world becomes remarkable for what does NOT happen …

Take presidential political campaigns … please (sorry, could not resist a small joke).

Joking aside, politics at the national level has become increasingly partisan and sometimes we struggle to hear a clear and positive message that has depth and understanding to it about the challenges our country faces.

Yet we will elect a new president and will do so without the type of violence and theater that other countries regularly experience.   Even with a history of violence in our own politics at times, we remain much more effective, at least on the surface, than most other countries.

That’s remarkable …

“Remarkable’s a well-chosen word. It doesn’t give you away.” (James Hilton)


Sometimes, remarkability has to do with the one alternative that occurs from a myriad of possibilities.

On the personal level, our lives should and could be a series of remarkable events, and not gossip or chitchat.  You know, the type of exciting and wondrous events that make one grateful they are in a particular place at a particular time doing a particular thing.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to create stable and long-term supportive relationships with a significant other person will recognize this type of remarkability.    

When I think of all the possibilities that would have resulted in me marrying someone other than the person I did, I tend to get all slack-jawed at just how really cool it was that things worked the way they did.

That is truly remarkable …


“If you are too afraid to offend anyone, then I’m afraid you may not be able to do anything remarkable”  (Bernard Kelvin Clive)

With regard to leadership, here’s a last thought about remarkability that has to do with achievements … helping make great things happen.   I cannot think of an instance when an idea or direction of any significance happened by someone without ANY resistance from someone else.  

If you would be the author of something about which others will remark, you need to have internal fortitude to bear the resistance that will undoubtedly come.   Sometimes doing a thing is remarkable not just for the being done, but for what was overcome or withstood to do the doing.

Feeling remarkably blessed for any number of reasons in the Heartland ….


Image:  adapted from