Is this really the direction we are headed?

10% off if you use the code "LUKE10". Here's a video of my new PR - a 300lb clean and jerk... wearing my "XYZ brand shorts", after I drank my "XYZ pre-WOD", using my "XYZ knee sleeves" and my "XYZ belt". I also want to thank "XYZ" for my online programming, and of course I'd like to thank "XYZ" (spouse) for the relentless support and encouragement. REALLY?!?!? 

I can't seem to get over the increased number of on-line solicitations for everything from diet plans, to equipment, to supplements, and even to training regimens. Are we really that much 'for sale'? Maybe I'm just not up to speed with modern marketing but it seems social media has gone from a simple and friendly way to stay connected with family and friends, to a colossal medium to promote, promote, promote... It's shameless. And I understand that there are a lot of people making really good money (>$100k year) from pushing products and services, but for a guy who simply wants to see how awesome your C&J was, can we skip the promotion?

Imagine. What if social media could only be used to highlight 'others'? Nothing was allowed to be sold or promoted (except awareness of charities, because its not really in the interest of the person posting). What would get posted in social media if people couldn't post anything for a company, a sponsor, or about themselves? All posts had to be on behalf of someone else, motivational, or sharing of something unique and beautiful...? Maybe it would be a boring place for many people, but I think it would add some depth and meaning to what we are all putting out there. And as a side note, we should be very cautious and fully aware of the reasons why people are promoting a particular brand. They are getting PAID (usually). This confounds the ability for them to tell the truth about the product or service they are promoting. I know this is understood but its worth reminding people. I have many friends that are popular on social media (1000's of friends and 100s of 1000s of followers) who don't know jack shit about a product or service they are supporting. And I have many other friends who are dying to get "sponsored" so they can get free shit, financial compensation, and receive kick backs from purchases bought using their discount "code". They would promote whale sperm as the secret to their 300lb clean and jerk if they made some money for posting about it.

Realizing this is a little bit more of a 'rant' then it is a post, I'll wrap it up.

I can appreciate the temptation to use social media for marketing, but maybe we should curb our desire to tag everything and every company when we make our posts. Just show me your feats of strength and your incredible view from a place many people haven't been. Or even just send over some pics of the family, your child's first steps, or an announcement about a worthwhile charity event. Skip the marketing piece.and send me a note if you really can't afford to buy your supplements, I'll buy them for you... and you don't even need to thank me on social media.

The crucible of leadership.

'Leadership' continues to be a hot topic in business these days. And rightfully so, as it has been demonstrated time and time again, that without good leadership businesses, teams, and even families fail.

Most of what gets written and discussed about leadership is either 'what' makes a good leader or 'how' to become a good leader. These are usually important and interesting case studies on individual successful leaders or fantastic discoveries about the seemingly common elements of what qualities great leaders share. The literature is supported by countless hours of research, years of collecting data points, and entertaining real world (or even fictitious) stories to help illustrate the findings. What eventually gets published is the purported 'formula' for finding, becoming, or building great leaders.

But there are some other things we should consider. What about the extremely personal element of leadership? The kind of successful stewardship that is ONLY created between one particular group and their one particular leader. Or how about the fact that people change. Specifically, personalities and behaviors change. I can speak from my own experience, that I lead groups of people far differently today then I did 20 years ago. Thinking that we can take a great leader from one organization and drop them into another, expecting the exact same results, is like taking a husband from one marriage and dropping him into another marriage, expecting everything to function similarly. At a minimum there is a deeply personal and unique connection between successful leaders and their teams.  

Great leadership at its core has to be very personal and evolves from an organic nurturing of particular human elements over a period of time. There is no one-size-fits-all. There are no set of rules or even character attributes that if followed or adopted are guaranteed to garner 'great leadership'. We are dealing with humans on both the 'led' side and on the 'leader' side. There are no standard methods or qualities that make great leaders. And for those who want to point to leaders that have, year over year, produced successful teams; I would suggest that they were most likely effective at building 'good' teams amidst a sea of not-so-good leaders. I would also point to the countless examples of leaders that were deemed 'brilliant' or 'revolutionary' and have since moved on to another organization only to disappear into oblivion.

Similarly, one of the most frequent questions I get asked about my travel WODing is, "Who was the best (or worst) coach you've ever had when you've dropped in to a box?" And that is a difficult question to answer because each gym has it's own feel. It's own 'leadership'. It works for their members, their town, their part of the country, etc. Who am I to judge how well a coach runs a class or the quality of leadership from a coach? Of course we can all point to things that universally DON'T work well in leadership, coaching, and even marriages, but calculating the 'right formula' is a little more tricky...and requires an understanding of the unique human elements of each individual situation.

Here's one brutal truth, not everyone has the capacity to be a good leader. I understand that everyone can run a business, anyone can coach a team, and clearly anyone can have children, get married, and have a family. But not everyone is a leader or even good at any of those 'leadership' roles. We know that a title in business doesn't mean anything. And because there aren't any 'leadership police' that can make a ruling as to whether or not someone is qualified to be a leader, there is the potential for an ongoing environment of dangerously poor leadership. More often then I care to admit, I've watched questionable senior leaders in a position to promote and hire other leaders, make poor talent decisions and the cycle of bad leadership spirals out of control.

Happy ending? This post doesn't have a solution to the existing problem of poor leadership except to remind everyone to be extremely careful reading and trying to adopt skills or character attributes from some leadership 'bible' best seller. Those traits worked for that person, in those organizations, at that given time. It doesn't necessarily transfer to you or your company. Leadership is personal and specific to organizations like a marriage is personal and particular to a family. Choose where you work, who you work with, and what you do wisely. And for those out there looking to hire great leaders, I suggest picking people based on your mutual commitment, ability to care, and earned trust as much as anything that a person has achieved on their resume or their previous titles at other companies.    

Look deeper.

Don't let your workout (CrossFit, weight room, or sport) be just your workout. Look deeper. Find the real lesson that is buried in showing up for your workout. Cultivate the thing inside you that carries you through the brutal summer heat, the frigid cold of winter, or the temptation to 'just take the day off'. If you think hard, and really look for the gift, you'll see that all of highs and lows of training can be viewed as a simple correlation to your life. A snap shot of how you can grow and build the habits that you want. "Success is a habit. Unfortunately so is failure."

I turned to boxing when I was 15 years old. I wasn't a great athlete in any sport and boxing taught me to be tough. Not the tough that I originally thought, like being able to win and beat another fighter in the ring. The tough I learned was how to get beaten, how to get bloody and bruised but still answer the bell and fight one more round. What I am grateful for are the life lessons I learned through boxing. It starts with your failures and your set backs. Just like in your life, you will have both. If you aren't failing then you aren't reaching for high enough goals. Workouts will get tough and you will want to quit. As it is in life. No one gets a free ticket. No shortcut to happiness. No easy road. Life, lived or even un-lived, will kick you in the face. It will make you sweat, bleed, and leave you on your back some of the time.  All you have to do is NOT quit. Stand up. Breathe. Do one more rep, one more round. Sometimes you will feel like you are simply 'surviving' and other moments you will feel like you are a champion. Because, just like in boxing, CrossFit, or any other sport, the challenge isn't always winning, it is having the courage to stand up and move forward... Just like in life. The one is a reflection of the other. And because habits are built by the choices we make in all aspects of our lives, I would ask you to think deeper about how you face all the challenges in your life. I have found myself, as well as watched others, succumb to adversity in the gym and then forfeit in their jobs, marriages, and other areas of their life. Start the habit of pushing through adversity and it will manifest in all aspects of your life. 'Answer the bell' for one more round while boxing, or push to complete one more round in your daily CrossFit WOD, and watch how that attitude also carries you through the toughest events in your life.