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How to Lead By Example
by On November 7, 2012

How to Lead By Example:  Dr. Schuler’s Ten Rules for Working and Living

by A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.

People talk about “leading by example,” but what does that mean? By incorporating the following attitudes and practices into your life, you will not only improve your own life, but also begin to fashion yourself into the kind of person that others will follow and emulate –  the very definition of  leading by example.  So, here are my “Ten Rules for Working and Living:”

The Lives We Live are the Lives We Create

Yes, life is a creative art.  Expectations are often self-fulfilling.  If we expect life to be good, if we believe it is filled with opportunities and cause for celebration, then we will notice those things and live so as to promote them, even without conscious intent.  If we believe life is a marathon of unremitting toil and scarcity, then toil and scarcity will be all that we find and experience, and we will inadvertently create the circumstances that promote them.  You cannot expect to win the lottery and then win the lottery: that is magical  thinking, the special realm of childhood (or of adult madness).  But you can (and do) nurture a basic attitude toward living, and if you don’t take control of it, it most assuredly will take control of you.

Health and Productivity go Hand in Hand

We talk a lot about the importance of balance, and surely everyone’s definition of balance is, well, different.  In order to be productive and healthy, we  all have to take care of our minds, bodies and spirits, but the reverse is also true: being productive is inherently healthy, and doing good,  meaningful work that fits our talents can keep us alive and healthy a long time.  How often do we see someone retire and then fall into poor health?  Doing what you love to do, and doing it well, and especially helping  other people learn and succeed, brings benefit back to you.  In the end, it does not matter what it is you do, so long as it is not destructive to others and you feel you are  making a contribution.  No matter how menial or arcane the job, all work has inherent dignity and can become a  medium through which a person can grow and make a contribution to others.

As We Treat Others, So Shall We Be Treated

This is about the law of averages.  Yes, there is injustice in the world, and  yes, there is cruelty.  Bad things happen  to good people, and vice versa.  But  in general, we may sow what we reap.  I once read a quote:  “Make your words sweet:“ you may have to eat them later!  People notice how we treat them, especially when we are in positions of leadership, and most especially when we think no one is looking.  What goes around comes around.

Don’t Wait for Solutions: Create Them

Some people are experts in seeing what is wrong with a situation, system, organization or person.  But what good is such expertise?  What does it solve or create?  I am forever baffled by people who see themselves as passive – unable to create a solution or work toward one.  What does anyone get out of being a perpetual critic?  A temporary feeling of power or superiority?  What could be a more impoverished way to  live than that?  Two schools of thought  here: the active and the passive. The passive and negative position waits for someone else to make a bad situation better, perhaps faulting others for their inaction (we see this in offices all the time).  The positive and active position works to build a productive awareness among those who can influence a negative situation so that all can take collective  action to make it better.  Guess which  type of person others naturally follow – and then imitate?

Negativity Kills

Literally.  What is violence but an extreme expression of negativity?  But killer negativity does not require a physical manifestation to wreck its  havoc.  We know that negative thinking weakens the immune system and contributes to disease and to an increase in mortality. We also know that negativity is contagious:  for example, when there is a high profile suicide in some community, health experts know to expect a new spate of imitative suicides or suicide attempts, even among those with no social connection to that first poor, despairing person.  Suicide, and even severe negativity or depression, can spread like an epidemic, or like a cancer.  Even in small doses, negativity contributes to illness and ultimately to death.  This represents a universal truth of  living, or “anti-living.” Why are people drawn to leaders?  Because leaders, through their attitudes  and abilities to resist or overcome negativity, function like antibodies in the world, fighting negativity and adding “life” to those around them.  If negativity is a cancer, then good  leaders, just in the way they carry themselves and approach the world, fight that cancer, all the time.

Communication Starts With Listening

Don’t worry about trying to express yourself better (you don’t have to be talkative to be a leader).  Think instead about asking better questions, and then repeat back your best understanding of what you’ve just heard.  Resist the temptation to think about what you want to say in response when carrying on a conversation.  You’ll be amazed at how much you learn, and how much better you understand people you thought you understood before.  People rightly see leaders as those who understand them, or who make the effort to try to understand them.  Only once you’ve listened will you have earned the right to speak your own point of view, based on a more complete understanding of other people and the circumstances around them.  That’s what makes a person an effective  leader.  By setting a tone of listening, others will follow suit.

Between Two Positions Always Lies a Third Option

Leaders know that dilemmas that come pre-packaged as “either-or” propositions are usually preset for failure.  There is always at least one other way to view a situation, either by expanding the issue, finding a third alternative  or creating a negotiated compromise.  There are certainly times not to compromise, but even that decision  should only come after a creative examination of many possible approaches has been completed.  But what makes leaders effective is their ability to generate those options, either through imagination or consultation, before making any final decisions.  While most people get trapped into defining conflicts as either/or, win/lose propositions, they end up  following those who prove they can craft better solutions, creating value and advantage for all involved.

Laughter Cures

You gotta laugh.  You just gotta!  Life presents too much that is just fun and funny, even absurd.  That’s the beauty of it.  If you keep that attitude about you, and nurture it, then you add the power, not only of avoiding negativity, but of adding joy and positivity to your life, and to the lives of others.  Laughter is even more infectious than negativity, and at least as powerful a force for health.  If the laughter comes at no one’s expense, but comes rather from a shared sense of the beauty and absurdity that we see all around us (especially in ourselves!), then people can be drawn to you, and your playfulness will catch on.

Do Great Work, Have Fun and Lend a Hand Along the Way

Good work is, well, good.  Great work is inherently rewarding.  Do it with fun and style, and you are not a prisoner of your labor, but rather a master of your craft.  If you help others along the way, either by teaching them or just by  setting them up for their own success, then both life and work acquire  greater meaning.  None of us live forever, and we should all leave a little something behind for the good.  This “rule” is one of my favorites; it’s one worth repeating and spreading around.

In the End, We Are All More or Less Human

. . . And that’s a good thing.  We are imperfect.  We have bad moods and bad moments.  We m
ake mistakes; we have parts of our character that may be less than forever admirable.  That just makes us human.  Keeping this in mind helps us refrain from taking ourselves too seriously when we succeed or when we fail, and it also gives us some humility and perspective through which to understand  the inescapable frailties of others – especially when they fail to see the  wisdom of our obviously superior points of view (wink wink, nudge  nudge)!  In the end, the pursuit of near-perfection is more important than its achievement, even if it is good to be competitive and dedicated to excellence in order to bring out the best in ourselves and others.

Copyright (c) 2003 A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.

Dr. A. J. Schuler is an expert in leadership and organizational change. To find out more about his programs and services, visit or call (703) 370-6545.


Sharpening The Sword
by On August 22, 2012

I just returned from a weekend in Bend, OR where I joined 21 other individuals for a Leadership Retreat led by Eric Plantenberg.  It was amazing for a multitude of reasons, but the biggest takeaway I got is the realization that sometimes the best thing you can do is just take some time to sharpen your blade.  I was definitely a huge advocate of continuous improvement and personal development on Thursday when I arrived.  By the time I left on Monday I was an evangelist.

We were there to dig a little deeper into the curriculum of the Abundant Living Retreat.  As a staff member for this event, one of my roles is helping facilitate some of the exercises that attendees take part in.  I would consider myself fairly competent at helping people with this, and I think this mindset gave me a false sense of confidence and was limiting my ability to be a great facilitator.   Continue reading ›

Think You Can't Take A Vacation? The Sound Business Reasons You Really Should
by On June 26, 2012

By Patty Azzarello | 06-26-2012 | 9:00 AM

We know–you’re totally, utterly indispensable to your business. Right? Think again: Here are 10 reasons work is better off without you for a while. Now skeedaddle.


Now that it’s summer, it’s a good time to remind yourself that you should go on a vacation–and not feel guilty about it.


Here are 10 reasons why the business is better off without you for awhile:


1. Going on a vacation shows you are competent. It is proof that you are good at your job because you can manage and plan enough to free up some time in your schedule–and not leave a festering mess in your absence. Not being able to take a vacation for years shows that you and your team are so out of control that you can’t even be gone for a week.


2. No one is impressed if you don’t. Bragging that you have not had a vacation in years or that you have maxed out on vacation days is not scoring points with anyone. If you think your company or your team see it as a super-keen work-ethic, and admires you for it–they don’t.


3. Your team is motivated. When you show by example that you support and allow people to have a life, they will be more motivated to contribute. As long as you don’t send them email every day while you are “on vacation”! Set the expectation you will be generally out of touch. If you can’t stand to let go entirely, arrange 1-2 scheduled check-in points, but don’t just go somewhere else and keep working.


4. Your team gets more productive. When you go away, you give your team a break from doing and worrying about all the things you throw in their way when they are trying to get their work done. After about 2 weeks, they will miss you and need you again, but in the mean time, their productivity will actually go up.


5. Being unavailable helps people develop. Being unreachable for periods of time is actually a very effective technique for developing people. It forces them to step up. If they think they can reach you at all times, they will never bother to think bigger, learn, and take risks–they’ll just ask you. Just be careful not to un-do everything they did in your absence just because it was different than the way you would have done it.


6. You will be more productive. If you step away from the day to day chaos and give your back-of-mind processes a chance to chew on things while you are in a good (or at least different) mood, you’ll think new thoughts. You will solve problems you might not solve if you stay fully engaged at all times.


7. You will prioritize better. Stepping away helps make it clear that some of the things that you thought were vitally important before your vacation don’t actually need to get done after all. When you step away, the difference becomes more clear. The most strategic things re-assert themselves and all the clutter drops several notches in volume.


8. You let other people be “important.” If you refuse to leave ever, you are sending the message that you are the only important person. Giving others the chance to be in charge, make decisions, speak on your behalf and solve problems sends the message that you have confidence in your team. This builds your credibility with your team, your peers, and your management more than pretending that the business can’t live without you for a moment. (Which doesn’t really build your credibility at all.)


9. Your company benefits. Your company prefers people who enjoy their life because they have more positive energy for their work. They are more effective and more productive. People who have interests outside of work also deal with pressures and disappointments in the workplace with more resilience and confidence.


10. You need a break, whether you know it or not!


Finally, if something comes up in your business that you really can’t avoid handling personally, and you need to cancel your vacation, reschedule another one while you are canceling. This will minimize resentment and disappointment, give you something to look forward to–and ensure you don’t get too full of your self-importance, and go too long without a vacation.

The Anatomy of Results
by On June 21, 2012

This TEDx presentation was released several days ago and is already one of the most viewed new TED talks on the internet today.

Eric Plantenberg breaks down the Anatomy of Results and highlights why some people are able to consistently create terrific results, and why most people do not.

If you are not familiar with – here is a brief overview of their mission as posted on their website.

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched in April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress, and you’re an important part of it.

At Freedom Personal Development, we are thrilled to promote as we believe that ultimately we share the same purpose: to deliver the Freedom to Choose. Good ideas make that possible. Congratulations to Freedom Personal Development president, Eric Plantenberg, for being invited to share his ideas along side of the planet’s “most inspired thinkers.”

Please post your comments about his talk on YouTube or this blog.

Be Free!

Freedom Personal Development

Hold Onto Your Goals Lightly
by On September 22, 2011

I recently posted on Facebook a thought that helps me to stay focused on what’s most important to me…

Hold onto your goals lightly.

That post inspired someone to ask the questions.

“Could you elaborate? Doesn’t this go against that whole ‘magnificent obsession’ thing that Napoleon Hill describes?”

I love these questions and remain amazed and grateful for how freely we can all share thoughts and questions now.

To answer the second question directly.  No.  That’s not my experience at all.

I love when i have a ‘magnificent obsession’ burning inside of me.  Holding onto a goal lightly and having a ‘magnificent obsession’ complement each other in a perfect way.  In fact, i believe you can’t really have a ‘magnificent’ obsession without holding onto goals lightly.

Let’s start by clarifying what a magnificent obsession is and why it’s so important.  When you look around at people that accomplish things that are awe inspiring…. it could be writing a piece of music, building a company, doing an amazing job raising a child, helping people in need, it could be anything … often when you look closely at the person, they have a level of commitment, believe and determination that could be described as obsessive.  The adjective magnificent is sweetly used by Mr. Hill to differentiate that positive, inspiring obsession, from that of a closed-minded or destructive obsession.  To be fair, there IS a narrow margin between a ‘magnificent obsession’ and that of a destructive one.

That margin is separated by the attachment to the doing or the having.  This is why my experience leads me to hold onto my goal lightly.

The beauty of a magnificent obsession is found in the activity itself. The love of the game.  The bliss of experiencing the activity.  The joy of the steps along journey.  A person feels good while thinking about and engaging in their obsession.

The problem with other obsessions is that they don’t bring joy and fulfillment in the process of creating or doing.  The obsession lies with the having.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to have something.   What I find quite ironic is that the less i am attached to having something, and the more passionate I am about doing the activity, the more likely it is that the have shows up.

My recent climb of Mt. Everest is a perfect example of this.

My magnificent obsession was climbing the mountain.  Climbing that mountain started with 7 years of planning and general preparation.  Followed by four months of intense conditioning (think of 4-6 hours of training per day starting at 4:39am). Concluded by the climb itself.  Sixty-two days of life in a tent in an environment that doesn’t sustain human life.

I loved the entire journey. The workouts.  The planning.  Coming up with the money.  The cold nights in a tent.  Stepping my crampons onto the rock and ice.  Then entire experience was fabulous.  That doesn’t mean their weren’t setbacks and frustrations.  It just means that i loved the process.

My goal was to “climb as high as I can safely go.”

I held onto the goal of climbing to the summit very lightly.  If it happened this trip in this time, great.  If it didn’t, no problem.  The mountain will always be there and I lived to climb another day.

I was feeling great about what i was doing –  with or without the attainment of having stood on the top.

This is equally as true for my other goals.  I’d encourage anyone reading this to look at where their obsession lies.  Is it in the being and doing?  Feeling great along the way.  Or in the having?  And they how does it feel when you don’t have what you want exactly when you want it?

I think that the number one goal is to feel good along the way.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Be Free!

Eric Plantenberg


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Event Invitation – Everest Slideshow – Madison, WI – August 31st
by On August 9, 2011

On Wednesday, August 31st, Eric Plantenberg will share his experience of ascending and summiting the worlds highest peak, Mt. Everest. 

In addition to Co-Founding Freedom Personal Development, Eric is the founder of “We Climb for Kids” and has climbed mountains all over the world in an effort to raise money that is used to build schools for Pakistani and Afghani girls.

Come join us as Eric takes you on an adventure that only very few ever get to experience first hand.

This is an open invitation to a free event.  All you need to do is register.

Free Registration

Event Details

Wednesday August 31st at 7:00 PM

Marriott Madison West
1313 John Q Hammons Dr
Middleton, WI 53562
Map and Directions

We Climb for Kids

To learn more about the project, go to;

Sponsored By

Sponsored By:

Special Invitation for Freedom Personal Development Blog Subscribers
by On June 21, 2011

BOSI Networking learn with like-minded individuals from around the world. Think of BOSI as the “LinkedIn for entrepreneurs”. In addition to building your Rolodex and accessing great insight, you get your own personal profile page where you can highlight yourself and your business cialis nebenwirkungen to the bigger entrepreneurial eco-system.

Joining BOSI is absolutely free so make sure to create your profile there today! Prior to creating your profile, pharmacy online store you’ll be asked to take the free BOSI Test – a fun way to discover your unique entrepreneurial DNA. It takes less than 5 Minutes. As soon as you’ve taken the test, you’ll get a full report of your DNA and have the opportunity to join BOSI using your Facebook or LinkedIn account.

All Freedom Personal Development clients are tagged as such so we’ll be able to network, collaborate, and learn together within the system. Freedom Personal Development clients who join BOSI and create their profile this week also get a complimentary copy of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (a $49 value). Breakthrough Entrepreneurship is an online video course packed full of insight and business development strategy specifically for your Entrepreneurial DNA. You’ll get more details on the course once you have created your personal profile.

Take 5 minutes right now and join us on this exciting social network!

Joe AbrahamJoe Abraham is the Founder & CEO of BOSI Inc.

The BOSI Networking Platform is built on the foundation of Joe’s new book: Entrepreneurial DNA. Order your copy today!

Video – Inspirational "IF" Poem
by On September 24, 2010

In this video, Rudyard Kipling’s inspirational poem, If , is read by tennis great Roger Federer. The poem gives lessons on how to live life, believe in yourself, act with dignity and be a leader. Words to the poem below.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or, being lied about, don’t deal in sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and, which is more, you’ll be a Man my son.

Be Free!

Top 10 Tips to Solve Problems
by On August 24, 2010

This is a guest by Michael Angier from 

Being alive means we have and will have problems.

And if we’re going to be confronted with problems the rest of our lives, then becoming good at facing and solving problems seems to me to be a worthy endeavor.

Before I jump into my list, allow me to share a few of my thoughts ABOUT problems.

I believe there is almost always more than one solution to any problem. And if you think there’s only one, you will be significantly limiting yourself.

I also think that in business, you don’t really have problems, you have expenses. This assumes that every problem in business can be solved. It’s just going to cost time, energy and/or money to solve it. Not so with all personal problems. Many of them cannot be solved with money alone.

Our attitude toward problems and problem-solving is probably as important, if not more important, than our skills or knowledge in solving them. How we approach our problems is critical.

If we’re angry about having the problem, it’s going to be a lot harder to solve. Complaining about why we have the problem takes time and energy away from SOLVING the problem. What we resist tends to persist.

And remember that problems can be, and often are, good things. We learn from them. We create or discover opportunities that wouldn’t be realized without working through them. If there were no problems to solve, we would not be necessary.

That said, here are my Top Ten Ways to Solve Problems:

1. Define or re-define the problem.
Charles Kettering said, “A problem clearly stated is a problem half-solved.” The way we define the problem has a lot to do with how we approach the solution. Many times a re-definition will work wonders on opening the possibilities.

2. Focus on the SOLUTION, not the problem.
Otherwise, we may just be worrying and making the problem bigger than it really is. Believe that it can be solved and stay centered upon the way to solve it.

3. Detach from the problem.
Many times we are too close and too emotionally involved to a problem to have a good perspective. Try looking at it like it was someone else’s problem. Take a larger view and you will likely find more possibilities.

4. Ask an expert or someone with experience.
Very few problems we face are brand new. Usually they have been solved by someone else, so don’t underestimate the value of someone with the right expertise and knowledge.

5. Access the knowledge and the skills necessary.
Determine what you need to know and the skills that need to be harnessed to get the job done. And if you don’t know what they are, find out.

6. Brainstorm.
Practice green light thinking with your mastermind team. Generate as many ideas as you can.

7. Use IWWCW.
That stands for “In What Ways Can We”. And it implies there is more than one tactic, strategy or action you can take. It will expand your thinking and that of others involved.

8. Don’t try to solve the problem without the knowledge, skills and information you need.
If you can delay decisions and actions until these things are determined and acquired, that’s usually the best thing to do. It also helps to sleep on it. Our subconscious mind often solves problems in our sleep. Just be sure you are tactically delaying things and not procrastinating or avoiding.

9. Look for ways to simplify the challenge and the potential solutions.
Often we complicate things more than we need. And many times the simplest solution is the best.

10. When possible, solve problems before they happen.
It’s much easier than dealing with it in crisis. Have contingency plans. Think about things that could happen and what action you will take if it does. This is not negative thinking. If you live in an earthquake zone or tornado area, what precautions can you take to be well prepared?

The more we accept our problems and the better we get at solving them, the more confidence we develop. In doing so, we increase our value in the marketplace because we are known for having a cool, thoughtful and logical approach to understanding and solving problems.


About the Author Michael Angier
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Video – Interview with Sir Richard Branson
by On August 20, 2010

British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson talks with Harry Smith (from CBS Sunday Morning) about his journey from dyslexic high school dropout to one of the world’s richest men.

Be Free!