"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
Mark Twain

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Our friends at The McKinsey Quarterly (mckinseyquarterly.com) published a study this month called How Centered Leaders Achieve Extraordinary Results. It is a good read, and although the study has no surprsing results, once again we see the importance of knowing oneself, and especially one’s strengths when leading and connecting with people. (See also Covey, Buckingham & Coffman, Peters, Bock, Senge, Greenleaf, and a host of other leadership writers and researchers over the years)

One of the factors that the McKinsey report highlights is the idea of reframing “challenges constructively, emphasizing opportunities in change and uncertainty.” I was reminded of this important factor this weekend when my brother and his youngest son visited us. In conversation he told me of a line he’d heard; “the sh#& of your past, properly framed, becomes the fertilizer of your future!” (My apologies for the language, but it does make the point!)

All too often we find ourselves not going forward, not taking a risk because we fear a storm of feces from our boss, our colleagues, or even our own internal ‘gremlins.’ How wonderful to imagine the feces as mere fertilizer! Such reframing is challenging, but not impossible. Consistently asking yourself questions like the following will help you work on reframing; what am I learning here? what are some alternatives? if I’m moving too quickly, what slows but does not stop the initiative? what’s the opportunity, what’s the challenge? What do you think (not what your boss or colleague!)? 

Through the ages, the wisest amoung us have counselled us to look at the creativity of the world, the inherent possibilities, the life of opportunity within a context of reality and sometimes pain. As leaders, you and I are to model that persepctive, looking at the feces in our lives as fertilizer is a powerful reframing image for all of us.