REMAINING INSPIRED: WHY INSPIRATION IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

This is an excerpt from Jeff Henderson’s book, Know What You’re FOR: A Growth Strategy for Work, an Even Better Strategy for Life, releasing on October 1. For more information on Jeff’s book, please visit jeffhenderson.com

By Jeff Henderson

Remain Inspired

Those two words might be our greatest, personal challenge.

Think about it. Nothing significant is created, transformed or turned-around without inspiration.

The reason many companies have lost their way is inspiration walked out the door a long time ago. The reason many marriages lost their way is it was assumed inspiration would automatically stick around. The reason many people have lost their way is they stopped looking forward.

We assumed something wrong about inspiration. We assumed if we had to fight for it then it must not be real. We assumed it was enough to go to a conference once a year. We assumed there were more important things to do than remaining inspired.

We assumed inspiration rarely showed up on the bottom line.

Ironically, thriving companies are inspired companies. You feel it. You sense it. You experience it. It takes inspiration for a company to say, “It’s not enough to be the best company in the world. We must be the best company for the world.”

We need more organizational cultures like that. We need more inspired businesses. We need more inspired churches. We need more inspired non-profits. We need more inspired schools.

We need more people like that.

I’ve discovered something about inspiration, though. It’s not enough to be inspired. You must remain inspired.

We have to fight for it. It’s like Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy. One minute Commissioner Gordon is talking to Batman, then he turns around and Batman is gone. Poof!

Inspiration often goes poof. It seems fickle. One minute it likes you. The next minute it’s gone. There’s a reason for this. Inspiration has an enemy. It’s called Everyday Life.

Everyday life is rough on inspiration. It’s why 363 days of everyday life are more powerful than 2 days at a conference. In fact, does the following sound a little familiar?

The Conference notebook is full of ideas.

Each speaker seemed to be having a personal conversation with me. How did she know this was exactly what I needed to hear, both personally and professionally?

The team is going to love this. It’s the change we need to take it to the next level. It’s the change I need to take it to the next level.

The agenda for our next meeting is downloading what I learned at the conference. I have my notebook by my side and start reading through all of my highlights. I glance up occasionally and the inspiration I thought it would create seems to only produce some quizzical looks eventually followed by skeptical questions. “But how would that work here?” “That sounds great but how can we do that with all of the work already happening here?”

Slowly the inspiration from the conference fades away. It lasted all of four days.

I have a hunch this fictional account happens every week in organizations around the world. The greatest danger isn’t just to the organization though. The greatest danger is what it could potentially do to you.

We need an inspired you.

One of the best ways you can be for the customer, the team and community is giving them an inspired, healthy you. Like anything, life flows from a source. The life of an organization, or lack thereof, flows from the people of the organization.

It’s impossible to have a healthy organization with unhealthy people.

And eventually, an unhealthy organization can be turned around with healthy people. The question is, “What kind of life is flowing from you and me?”

Today, we are going to talk about your personal brand.

YOU, INC.

Just like an organization has a brand, individuals have a brand. This admittedly is a bit uncomfortable but let me explain why this can also be very helpful.

The reality for all of us is that we have an emotional climate that follows us. When you walk into a room, the climate of your brand comes with you. There are all sorts of climates. Cold climates, warm climates, hot climates.

Climates are important. They help dictate the forecast. It’s why a blizzard won’t happen near Maui. It’s why you don’t wear shorts to a Green Bay Packers game in January.

It’s not just true with the weather. The relational climate in your organization dictates the forecast of your organization. And it’s not just true with organizations.

It’s true with you and me.

Our personal climates dictate the forecast of our relationships, both personally and professionally. Years ago, I did a sermon series on this at our church called Climate Change. Our media team created a video about this concept showing people in a meeting at work. Above their heads, they had placed weather symbols letting everyone in the room know what their emotional climate was that day. Over one person’s head was a storm cloud. Everyone knew to stay away from that person. The biggest problem though was the person who had the storm cloud over their head couldn’t see it. They couldn’t see how the storm cloud was affecting their relationships. They couldn’t see how the storm cloud was affecting them personally. Sadly, we are often our own worst enemy.

It’s why we need to talk about our climate and our personal brand. We’re not just going to talk about this, though. In the bonus section of the book, you’re going to have the opportunity to take a Personal Brand Inventory. This will help you understand what your personal brand is and how you can improve it.

The good news for each of us is that we can improve in this area. In fact, if you’re perfect and have no issues, you have my permission to stop reading from this point forward. For the rest of us, let’s keep moving forward.

TWO QUESTIONS FOR YOU, INC.

If you were a corporation, we would begin with the two FOR questions:

What do YOU want to be known FOR?

What are YOU known FOR?

One of the reasons many people feel a disconnect at work and in their personal life is because the answers to these two questions are different. When people say they feel a lack of purpose at work, it’s often because the purpose at work is unknown or inconsistent with their personal purpose.

More often than that though is the reality that many people haven’t done the introspective work of asking themselves these two questions. So, let’s start here:

“What do YOU want to be known FOR?”

I’ll admit. It’s an intimidating question so let’s learn from Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A.

His life verse from the Bible answered this question for him.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Regardless of whether you believe in the Bible or not, this is a fantastic answer to the question, “what do you want to be known for?” I would highly encourage us all to follow Truett’s lead and adopt this as our answer.

It’s important to note as well that this verse is a great answer to the question of “What is branding?” When a company or organization make decisions through the filter of their good name over great riches, the long-term value of the brand name increases.

CLOSED ON SUNDAYS

An example of this is Truett’s decision to close his restaurant on Sundays. People often point to the fact of how much money Chick-fil-A “loses” by being closed one day a week. This was perhaps an even more difficult decision when Chick-fil-A was exclusively in shopping malls.

Sunday was a huge day for malls and there Chick-fil-A sat, closed up and shut down.

Looking back on the early days, he would admit that closing down one day a week was as much from exhaustion as it was from inspiration. But as the business grew, the Sunday question loomed large. As he signed agreements with shopping malls the perplexed looks on the other side of the table told him all he needed to know. “Why are you closed on one of the busiest days of the week?” As the company grew, the whispers grew louder. “Eventually, he’ll change his mind. No one will walk away from that much money just for a principle.”

Decisions and moments like these eventually land before all of us. Will we stay true to who we want to be and what we want to be known for, or will we make subtle compromises along the way? Long-term gain vs. Short-term gain. It’s as old as time.

For Truett, it was a simple decision. Of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, Commandment #4 says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.”

The word Sabbath means “a day of religious observance and abstinence from work.” So, on Saturday night, Truett turned off the lights, locked the doors and didn’t return until early Monday morning.

Why? It’s simple.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

When you answer the question of “What do you want to be known FOR?” in this way, it guides your decision-making. You actually sleep better at night. The stock market can take away financial gains but it can’t take away your character and integrity unless you give it that opportunity.

Practically speaking, what does this look like on an everyday basis?

It might make us uncomfortable to talk about our personal brand but in essence, that’s what a good name means. In other words, how can you improve your “good name” is another way to say “how can you improve your personal brand?” But this is actually a great way to be for the customer, team and community.

We need a healthy, inspired you – clear on your purpose, locked in on why, remaining inspired.