Living with CertaintyTM Positivity Blog

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The Living with Certainty Positivity Blog is an environment of enlightenment that shares proven career success tools for the advancement of your career – which is a reward of Living with Certainty.

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The Living with Certainty Positivity Blog is a forum to share ideas that can enhance every aspect of your mind, body, and soul experiences – which is the essence of Living with Certainty. Book mark this blog and visit often. You will discover the life success strategies and career success tools that help you live with purpose, compassion, purity, and joy.

The New Power: Pure, Passionate Positivity for Life and Career

Serious, mainstream discussion about the power of pure, passionate, positive energy is becoming more prevalent everywhere I go – company/client meetings, schools and universities, health clubs, churches, book clubs, you name it. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are indicating a high need for an infusion of positivity throughout their ranks. Meetings, correspondence, water cooler talk, clients/customers, and overall corporate cultures are increasingly becoming infused with negativity in attitudes, demeanors, vocabulary, and rhetoric. Whether the context is personal or professional, pervasive negativity can sabotage all of your other efforts.

As an executive recruiter and business consultant focused on the recruitment of positive leaders, as well as on the development of powerful, positive corporate cultures, I have repeatedly witnessed first-hand the command and influence of pure, positive energy. Whether I am placing an individual into an executive role, or working with an organization to plant the seeds of a more positive, productive culture, the corporate need in this tough economy has been the same for several years: recruit the most positive, resilient, and inspiring leaders possible, and develop initiatives, programs, and job profiles that will engrain a more positive attitude — and more positive results –throughout the organization.

The collective consciousness, or culture, of your organization – its intrinsic values, attitudes, rhetoric, and behaviors — infuses the business and its employees. Positive, affirming corporate cultures are dynamic, energized work environments that proactively drive employee behavior creating better teamwork, and, overall, a more productive, engaged state of mind for all of your employees. Your leaders and managers set the tone for your organization’s culture. And if they are not putting forth a conscious, clear, and consistent effort to be positive these days, the slide will inevitably be toward negativity.

Through Thousands of Conversations… In almost 15 years as a retained executive recruiter, I have had the privilege of interviewing and assessing literally thousands of the globe’s most successful, purposeful, passionate, fulfilled, and joyous individuals. A guiding, intrinsic positivity and passion for what they do are defining traits of the “best of the best” executives — their work is more to them than a job. It is also interesting to note that the executives in “transition” who tend to rebound the fastest — not only securing a challenging and personally fulfilling role, but building an impressive and lasting network along the way — are innately positive individuals with a strong sense of resiliency and faith that they will land on their feet. People – including potential employers – are attracted to them and want to be around them.

Defining Positivity Specifically what constitutes positivity and positive energy as I describe here? Well, this is about a great deal more than merely smiling, posturing, cheerleading, or repeating positive affirmations. This has more to do with a palpable optimism, confidence, faith, encouragement, empowerment, vision, and resiliency in your interpersonal and communication skills, values, beliefs, actions, demeanor, relationships, expressions of gratitude, and overall leadership style.

Profound positivity and positive energy – the kind that carries with it the potential to transform lives and organizations — is substantial, inspiring, and contagious, even in the worst of times. It can’t be faked. It is intrinsic to who you are and how you live your life, personally and professionally.

And it all starts with feeling passionate and purposeful about what you do.

If you are in a leadership role, ask yourself: Do my thoughts, choices, emotions, attitudes, approaches, actions, and belief system all positively align every day in the pursuit of my passion and potential? Does every day bring for me the opportunity to optimize my greatness and success? It is through the daily, personal application of an integrated, positive alignment between your purpose and passion with your thoughts, actions, beliefs, and expressions of gratitude that you will create a life of great reward and fulfillment.

The Power of Living All Aspects of Life with Positive Energy Despite the depressed economy and market conditions, there are those people and organizations that are not merely surviving, but thriving. According to a Stanford Research Institute study, 88 percent of success is about attitude and only 12 percent is about education. Those people who live and work from a baseline of pure, passionate, positivity live fuller lives and enjoy myriad other benefits, including improved health, affirming personal and professional relationships, enhanced joy, productive choices and decisions, effective leadership, greater resiliency, enhanced professional accomplishments and success, and more effective problem-solving abilities.

Your ability to maintaining a positive mindset in both your life and work is a determining success factor, particularly in the toughest of times when so many people are being asked to take on added responsibilities and work longer hours. Everyone has felt the pressure brought on by restructuring, downsizing, upside down life-work balance, external uncertainty, and reduced budgets. The repercussion of these business adjustments is a resultant pervasive attitudinal and cultural slide toward apathy, pessimism, and outright negativity.

The demand for positive leaders has never been greater. You will always be challenged and tested, and an innately positive mindset serves as the bedrock of an iron will and the ability to prevail. To live a truly productive life and have a successful career, you must consistently rise to the occasion when faced with adversity, roadblocks, or negativity. Yet finding individuals, teams, and organizations that have at their core an unwavering positivity is rarer than one might think.

Without the internal fire provided by living and working everyday with purpose and passion, you won’t have the fuel to keep moving forward in the toughest of times. This is the secret of life-long positivity, fulfillment, and joy: irrespective of your specific circumstances, if you first believe that your own life has purpose, you follow your passions, and you live with an abiding faith and perspective that a master plan exists for your life and its inherent lessons, then you tap into a self-actualized personal power and internal certainty that empowers every aspect of your life, including your career.

What Does It Mean to Live with Certainty? I am frequently asked to define what it means to “live with certainty.” It means that the internal faith, belief, authenticity, purpose, passion, and positivity with which you live ignites an internal certainty, power, and influence greater than any fears or anxieties you may have. Self-actualized, high-achievers live and work each day with purpose, passion, and gratitude which serves to further fuel their positive attitude and productivity. Positive leaders understand that while they cannot control every aspect of their lives, they can control their mindset and attitude. They possess an unyielding faith and confidence in their vision and ability to ever-create a better future, personally and professionally. They trust in themselves and their abilities. Pessimism and negativity are not part of their mix.

Make no mistake; this is not the Pollyanna-Sunnyside view of life. Rather, it’s one of the most profound and effective ways to “cowboy-up” — when things get tough you must have the positive belief in yourself and your ability to prevail to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep trying. And as a leader, you must model this approach for your employees every single day.

Positivity as Key Leadership Trait In this challenging business environment, positivity as a key leadership trait is a highly sought after attribute that is increasingly finding its way into every job description I write. Increasingly, when I am retained to replace a senior executive, it is because the incumbent was not a transformational conveyer of positive belief within the organization, but rather was perceived as entirely focused on the financials, unapproachable, overwhelmed, overstressed, and underwater.

Positive leaders generally tend to be more motivated and productive than less positive individuals. They inspire others with their belief and faith in a better future in a way that is contagious. A truly positive leader first believes in the grand potential of his/her own life, which only then can transfer to his/her career through the expression of a passionate and achievable vision for their company, employees, and customers. Whether personally or professionally, the positive leader believes that he/she will successfully tackle the next challenge, climb the next mountain, make that next sale.

Your goal as a leader should be to uplift the beliefs of your employees. As a leader you establish your personal style and “brand,” in part, based upon the level of positive energy in your actions, reactions, vision, beliefs, interactions, relationships, progress, and expressions of gratitude. If you truly want to set yourself up for the next big job or promotion, begin by being the most positive, optimistic, faith-fueled visionary in your organization, particularly during the most challenging times.

Without question your demonstrated belief that you can succeed in a down market will go a long way in bringing out the best in others. This belief should be palpable in everything you say and do, so that when you do have to make the tough calls, your employees will have greater trust that your actions are in the organization’s best interest. The great contributors and great leaders have the ability to remain optimistic and fueled by positive energy even in the worst of times. Particularly when the going gets tough, they maintain positive energy through an optimistic attitude that they control much of their destiny and the best is yet to come, as well as an unflinching belief in a greater purpose which inspires powerful action.

The level to which you feel and express positive energy will directly affect the depth of your relationships and, as a leader, the ensuing level of respect and credibility you receive. Throughout my career working with organizations of every size and sector, I have witnessed the tremendous impact one positive leader can have on an organization. This is especially true with sales leaders where it is said that a lack of positive attitude plays a role in the failure of up to 50 percent of all salespeople. If you can’t successfully overcome rejection and navigate the left turns, hurdles, and roadblocks, you’ll never really understand your own resilience and personal power (or inspire anyone else), nor will you achieve your greatest potential and success.

Do you as a leader, or do the leaders in your organization, understand the impact you/they have on the beliefs, confidence, and goals of your employees? Do your employees believe that you care about them? Do they find you to be inspirational and positive? Do people love working for you? Do you have a reputation for bringing out the best in others? What you personally believe and project — and the limits you set — are contagious and affect the degree to which your employees actually engage and feel loyalty toward you and your organization.

Positivity Begets Positivity I know for certain that positivity begets positivity. As you extend the best of yourself and release positivity into the world, you invite more positive energy into your life, and goodness will ensue. I recently heard Oprah Winfrey say that you must believe that great things can happen in your life. When you are the recipient of goodness or positivity, recognize it, give thanks for it, and hold it in your heart. And then with every opportunity – how you live, how you give, what you do, and who you are, release that goodness and positivity back out into the world as it was given to you.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead about the power of positive energy and how to inject more of it into your relationships, leadership and team-building approach, and corporate culture. Whether in your career, family, school, sports team, or church group, you can become the positive difference-maker who characteristically reveals your best self and shines. The results will be inspired and engaged family members, children, friends, co-workers, team members, and customers who will in turn feel unleashed and inspired to allow their own best selves to shine. This is the stuff that transformation and success are made of. I invite you to become an active participant in my Positivity Blog — strategies for life and career — by sharing your comments at

Kristi LeBlanc is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director, N.A. Consumer Practice with DHR International, a top-5, retained, global executive search firm. She is also the author of the triple award-winning book, “Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy.”  To learn more visit,   or call Kristi at 612-669-9211.

Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual and personal, as well as financial growth. If it doesn’t, we’re wasting far too much of our lives. — James Autry

20 Ways to Create Positive, Passionate & Productive Corporate Cultures

As an executive recruiter who has worked at the most senior levels of organizations for over 20 years, my approach on leadership puzzlethe front-end of any search is to take a deep dive into the corporate culture one-on-one with all of the stakeholders involved – hiring managers, leaders, peers, and direct reports. And while most everyone can quite succinctly describe the culture and its impact, very few are satisfied that the current culture is what it could and should be – a healthy environment in complete support of the organization’s strategy, mission, vision, values, and goals. (As you might imagine, I am very often brought in to replace an executive who was not a “cultural fit.” Quite a few clients today are looking for executives who can initially assimilate into the existing culture without “rocking the boat,” but who can, over time, help to transition the culture to something far more positive, productive, and in alignment with organizational objectives.)

While there is already so much written about leadership as it relates to cultural change and transformation, based on my experience, much of it is not getting through in practical, simple, and implementable ways that are being taken to heart and actualized. My goal here is to provide some simple, implementable reminders and suggestions that can provide a foundation for the positive change that is so needed by – and that could improve the results of – myriad organizations, irrespective of size or industry.

Organizational Culture 101
We all think we know what culture means. And we think we know how to create healthy cultures in support of organizational objectives. And yet so many leaders and employees are talking about how “unhealthy-toxic-negative” their company’s culture actually is – and the turnover and poor performance are often there to support these claims.

Part of the problem is that there are many executives out there who label culture as a soft, touchy-feely aspect of the organization that is a non-essential responsibility of “human resources.” But this is a misperception. The impact of your organization’s culture is directly related to your company’s most basic mission, objectives, and performance. Secondly, without complete buy-in, modeling and support from the very top, many leaders feel any effort to alter or transform the culture will be futile, so they don’t bother with even the most basic efforts to shape a healthier – hence, more productive — underlying environment.

A quick refresher: Culture naturally emerges in organizations and underlies — and largely decides –aspects such as climate and values. Corporate culture is comprised of the collective employee attitudes, ideologies, norms, experiences, perceptions, behavior patterns, language and rhetoric, beliefs, rituals, symbols, ceremonies, customs, traditions, methods of problem solving, use of technology, work environment design, rights, common understanding, meanings, and values that are passed on to new members and that influence and control how people evaluate situations, interact with each other, and share knowledge and information. Your culture also ultimately impacts how employees interact with customers and external stakeholders, and has a direct impact on your business performance.

Your culture has been years in the making based on successes, failures, rewards, decisions, and historical anecdotes and stories. It determines how employees on a whole will act, react, and execute on a daily basis. It also affects how leadership is — or isn’t — exhibited. Very simply, your organization’s culture is its personality with its own deeply-rooted, traits, responses, conditioning, inclinations, tendencies, and so on. It is complex, and exerts much influence – and even a level of unpredictability — over perceptions and connections throughout the company.

There really is no right or wrong culture – and not all aspects of a culture are particularly important if they don’t have a significant impact on the workings of the company. What matters is that the culture supports the business’s goals and objectives. Leaders must take the time to determine which elements are, in fact, important, and place their attention and emphasis there.

Are you Fully Utilizing-Leveraging All of the Cultural Change Strategies at Your Disposal to Improve Organizational Performance?
Leaders must be aware and mindful of your organization’s culture which is largely determined by employee behavior – otherwise, it may control and manage you. A leader’s success or failure can depend to a large extent upon his/her first developing anunderstanding of the organizational culture, and then being able to lead/manage it. And, as a leader, you play a pivotal role in creating and maintaining those aspects of the organization – including all-important culture — that encourage, influence, support, and reward positive, productive collective effort. Whether everyone believes it or not, culture can and does have a profound effect on company performance.

You need a plan — and an ongoing, concerted effort — to create or maintain a powerful corporate leadership culture where employee vitality, drive, passion, potential, and knowledge can thrive in support of corporate objectives. The creation of this type of corporate culture should be near the top of any organization’s priority list.

Shifting Employee Demographics and Attitudes Increasingly Require Creating “Engaging” Organizational Cultures
Strategic leaders – powerful leaders who operate from a baseline of high morality and ethics in pursuit of operational objectives — are transformational. And with employee demographics and attitudes shifting at a breakneck pace, there is an increasing need for such leaders, as many organizations are finding themselves needing to redefine the informal “social contracts” they have with employees. How to create and maintain a work environment that engages the passion, meaning, and commitment of your employees is becoming a common organizational challenge. Long gone are the days of a simple exchange of good-natured hard work for a stable job and paycheck.

Today, to engage your employees in meaningful, sustainable ways – evoking feelings in them of purposefulness, passion, and a strong desire to authentically and uniquely contribute – you have to figure out how to overtly provide them with ample challenge, accountability, personal development, learning, and career growth opportunities. This new breed of employee isn’t going away, and they have a hunger – a requirement, actually – for high-impact, powerful leadership at the top (and everywhere in between, for that matter) that is in touch, and that they can see, hear, feel, trust, and respect every day.

Today’s thriving organizations are creating self-sustaining organizational cultures that align their objectives with authentic employee engagement, well-being, contentment, and self-actualization. Today’s most effective leaders are carving out time to create the means and opportunities to profoundly engage employees and to infuse them with new perspective about how their innate talents and potential can be more fully utilized and leveraged within the organization. This is about first hiring “right,” then tapping into the purpose and potential of your employees – and creating an environment that supports this ongoing commitment. The organizations that can figure out how to do this effectively — and continually – are better positioned to win.

As individuals begin to see and understand that you not only care about their development and well-being, but beyond that, are seeking for them challenging opportunities that bring them alive in ways they have never before experienced, they will engage with the organization in more profound, promotable, and longer-term ways. This is just the beginning of a cultural leader’s job, however, because once you place individuals in the right roles that leverage their innate inclinations, passions, and skills, you then as a leader must create and maintain an environment – a culture – that allows them to thrive. This is how the best companies achieve innovative, efficient, productive, and profitable operations – they capture and propagate ideologies and values that they clearly and continually communicate, that are internalized by employees, and that are then translated into ongoing, productive methods of thinking, creating, behaving, and working.

Leader Behavior At All Levels = Employee Behavior
Organizational cultures can only be created, maintained, and/or transformed by people and their behaviors. Culture most strongly emerges through behavior — and changes through behavior. Executive-level leaders are the primary source for the creation, articulation, and revitalization of a company’s ideology, core values, norms, and standards. Leaders should be constantly thinking of ways to communicate messages about desirable behaviors and to positively affect ways of perceiving, thinking, and behaving.

It’s basic stuff: Leaders own the responsibility for creating an environment and culture for success. Organizations operate against a business backdrop of customer needs and demands, community and stakeholder opinions, and competition. Only when a company can achieve and maintain strong, profitable results within the existing business backdrop, can it be considered “high-performing.”

And the only way to achieve and maintain this high-performing state is through people – their actions, creativity, performance, productivity, behaviors, relationships, interactions, beliefs, attitudes, rhetoric, level of motivation, and so on.  This is a lot to take into account and manage. But organizations can only be high-performing through employees who care about the business, and who are willing to work and do what it takes to achieve success. As management guru, Philip Wexler, has famously stated, “An organization can never be what its people are not.”

Theoretically we know the following, but clearly not all leaders allow it to provide a guiding light and internal guidance system where their own behavior is concerned: A leader’s every day, situational “style” — how they go about leading and treating people — has dramatic and significant impact on their employees’ behavior and performance. A leader’s “style” fundamentally seeps into and forms the defining values and priorities of companies that prescribe employee behaviors regarding quality and teamwork, and also significantly affects employee attitudes and approaches toward customer/guest and product/service.

The bottom line is that the values, actions, behaviors, and approaches of your leaders will determine, prescribe, and provide seed to the overall norms, procedures, and expectations that guide the behavior and decisions of employees in particular situations and that control the behavior they exhibit with one another. The greatest influence that leaders have on employee behavior comes through the values inherent in the leaders’ behaviors, actions/reactions, choices, main concerns, and rewards, and promotions/demotions.

Shifting a Culture Begins and Ends with Your Leaders
Culture arises and takes shape as a consequence – intentionally or unintentionally – of our social interactions and behaviors. And sometimes the culture that exists works against organizational objectives — and requires change. The need for cultural transformation can take many forms, i.e. transitioning from cut throat to cooperative, from negative/pessimistic to positive/optimistic, from bottom-line-oriented to customer service oriented, and so on.

The process of shifting a culture is a massive undertaking – and it begins and ends with your leaders. Most prominently, a leader’s distinct, observable actions and behavior patterns form the basic foundation for their employee’s behavior which then begins to set the culture.

Who you intrinsically are as a leader – your integrity, character, morals, values, priorities, inclinations, positivity, passion, drive, purposefulness, and humanity in dealing with people – will be reflected in those you influence. So, if your organization’s culture is negative, dysfunctional, or not in support of the company’s overarching objectives, you have to take a hard look at the behavior and tone of your leaders. Who they are and how they are approaching the company and its people every day affects and shapes the culture. Though some leaders may be technically skilled in the right ways, they don’t necessarily bring the cultural approaches and traits that need to be reflected back through the organization.

Shifting a culture is about far more than performance reviews and goal-setting. It requires an intrinsic ability on the part of your leaders to recognize, engage ,and inspire the best of people every day in alignment with your organizational goals and objectives. This takes self-awareness, commitment and effort.

It is a leader’s behavior – most prominently as expressed through priorities, rewards and values – that will most quickly, efficiently, and dramatically affect employee behavior. Where values and consequences are consistently seen and felt, your direct reports will be most influenced to act in accordance with prescribed, desired behaviors that will, in turn, positively impact the behaviors of their direct reports and employees in profound ways that will ultimately improve customer satisfaction and business performance. You may find it helpful as you contemplate whether your organization’s culture – and even your business unit, division, or department culture – is truly in alignment with your overarching organizational strategy, goals, and objectives to consider the following questions:

-          What general, overarching beliefs, ideas, and goals are worth pursuing?

-          What are the appropriate approaches and standards of behavior that employees should utilize to achieve these goals?

-          How – and with what frequency — have these beliefs, ideas, goals, approaches, and standards been communicated to employees? How do you measure the effectiveness of these communications?

-          How engaged are your employees toward the achievement of goals and objectives?

-          Do employees remain positive and engaged throughout their day?

-          How motivated are your employees?

-          Who is inspiring and motivating your employees – and with what frequency?

-          Who’s checking in with employees (more than annually in a performance review) to see how they are feeling about their contributions and interests?

-          Who’s calibrating your employee’s efforts and interests against the organization’s business results in a way that is not punitive, but rather is empowering and engaging?

-          Are your employee’s roles aligned with each of their innate gifts, interests, and passions? How do you know?

-          Are employees providing a positive influence on each other? How do you know?

-          How aligned and productive are your teams?

Can an Established Corporate Culture Ever Really Be Changed?
Attempting to alter values or climate without addressing the underlying culture will always be a futile effort. However, while corporate cultures are deep-seated and can be change-resistant, it certainly is possible for leaders to influence organizational culture. Though a challenging and slow undertaking, it can be done.

Many experts in organizational change believe that corporations are inherently resistant to positive cultural change and the larger the organization, the more difficult and tediously slow any sort of positive change can be. Why is this? Several factors: Old leadership with their old ways remains in position and their new words and messages through emails, memos, and mission and vision statements ring very hollow. From the get-go, employees perceive the effort as a lot of hot air thinly veiled in order to improve the bottom line. Employees themselves are also to blame because they don’t see what’s in it for them – why go to the trouble or effort of changing or adopting new behaviors or approaches when they see nothing wrong with the old, tried-and-true comfortable ways? At a very deep level, employees can be intuitively skeptical about corporate change.

It’s important to recognize that certain industries have certain traits that impact individual organizations. These can be the most difficult traits to alter or change. Certain engineering and manufacturing disciplines, for example, have processes and standards that infiltrate virtually all companies that operate within those spaces. It is highly unlikely that an organization will alter some of these historical, embedded traits.

However, if you can distinguish between these more “hardwired,” unchangeable traits and the other, more easily influenced aspects of organizational personality, i.e. behaviors and rhetoric, your cultural change efforts will be far more successful.

If your ultimate objective in seeking cultural change is to upgrade and positively alter employee behavior—what they do, how they do it, when or how frequently they do it, and what extra degree of valuable behavior or added effort they put forth—then your odds of achieving some level of positive transformation and change are much better.

The first step, however, needs to be accurately analyzing and evaluating your existing culture against your organizational objectives. The degree to which you are successful in achieving your strategic vision and goals is to a large extent dependent upon how consistent and successful you are in creating and maintaining an aligned, supportive culture.

For widespread cultural change to take hold, change must start at the top in terms of defining and consistently modeling corporate values, behaviors, actions, and leadership culture so that the new approaches and behaviors utilized by employees are encouraged, supported, and allowed to take hold in systemic ways. Without commitment and behavioral modeling at the top, individuals will abandon any new behaviors that they attempted to embrace, however briefly. In this day of the shifting social contract, if senior leadership isn’t seen as “walking their talk,” some of your best employees can be expected to leave the company in search of more committed leadership whom they can align with, trust, follow, and respect.

20 Ways to Create Positive, Passionate & Productive Corporate Cultures
If you are already doing all of these things, Bravo! So many companies and their leaders, however, could benefit greatly from implementing many, if not all, of these simple practices.

  1. Practice open communication. Poor communication, including poor listening skills, is one of the most common and significant corporate leadership weaknesses. Without question, inadequate communication around critical success factors and a general lack of trust are two of the most common and significant leadership short-comings. Are you doing everything possible to provide understanding and context through clear and constant two-way communication and reinforcement of corporate goals and objectives, strategic direction, critical success factors, mission, vision, and values? Corporate wide business metrics should be continually circulated and discussed to provide an ongoing clear sense of what needs to be done. Are you really listening to employees and taking appropriate action? Misunderstood and misinterpreted corporate values and goals lead to poor performance and poor morale. The frequency and quality of employee-leader interactions should be reinforcing and encouraging. What a leader says, and how she says it, establishes the subsequent context for direct reports to, in turn, say things that either encourage or discourage the productivity, effort, quality, and customer interactions of their employees/teams. It requires ample self-awareness on the leader’s part to know how they are impacting and affecting employee behavior. Once that knowledge is gained, it should be channeled for maximum positive influence. While parameters must be established for formal communication and interaction, never forget that all of a leader’s employee interactions and dialogues either reinforce or punish employee behaviors. You may even want to reinforce any common language or useful categories of speech, actions, and gestures that emerge in groups or throughout the organization in order to help employees and teams deal with conflict in cohesive and productive ways.
  2. Develop and communicate values and norms that set the foundation of the organization’s culture. Values, while not physically observable, underlie and determine behavior. Underlying assumptions and beliefs that are taken for granted (and that may over time even drop out of awareness and be difficult to articulate) initially emanate from values and they form the deepest level of culture. Values and priorities are observed and felt through employee rewards and punishments, systems, and approaches and need to be consistent. Is there complete alignment between your organization’s written and actual operating values?  Your organizational values, its stated preferences for specific behaviors and outcomes, should not only address profit generation, but also should speak directly to the growth, development, and well-being of employees. Norms are the behaviors, approaches, and means of achieving goals that have been deemed to be culturally acceptable by others. A change in leadership certainly can bring about positive change in a company’s culture – new leadership, reprioritization, redefined and clearer expectations, and often new strategies, all for the better. But, it’s important for new leadership to understand that to the extent that old procedures, priorities, systems, and processes remain in place, they will continue to represent the past and have the “old influence” on employee behavior. Remember that when it comes to values, missions, and vision statements, how people/leaders act carries far more weight, and more directly affects your culture, than any written statements. What is leadership permitting, sanctioning, rewarding, applauding, praising, approving, and allowing to continue? What is leadership punishing, ignoring, terminating, and ending? All of these things should be in alignment with company stated values.
  3. Foster an openness to – even a welcoming of – change. Along with change can come challenge – and this is discomforting for many employees. If the acceptance and readiness for change is a problem in your organization, perhaps you can try helping people to understand that every single day in your organization requires that people be ready to change – make it clear that they are required to be better today than they were yesterday. Stretching and raising the bar is something that should happen every single day. Leaders can ask each and every employee, how were you better today than you were yesterday? Leaders have to constantly ensure that the proper levels of continual communication, coaching, learning, and development are present ensuring that people are comfortable with and ready for the change at hand, as well as the change on the horizon. They must understand all the ways that the change will be good not only for the organization, but also for them professionally (and even personally in terms of engaging/leveraging their strengths and passions and fostering their development). Help people to perceive change differently – change is needed in business for growth and overall betterment, not just for problem-solving. Leaders must be constantly evangelizing that change is a positive, that thriving organizations are constantly changing in the quest to be innovative market leaders. Products and processes must be ever-changing as the organization moves forward and grows. Communicate openly and frequently about change and solicit a consensus on how best to affect change within your team.
  4. Create personal responsibility for results. One of a leader’s most basic duties is, obviously, to make sure that individual ability and skills meet specific organizational/role needs. And to the extent that your employees’ abilities/skills really tap into their passions and profound feelings of purposefulness, you will find them engaged in their jobs and compelled to meet objectives and exceed performance goals. To truly engage individual’s in their work requires that they feel empowered (not micro-managed or oppressed — it should be a given that general approaches, processes, systems are in place, including for communication and progress updates). Your employees will only be able to fully engage and identify with personal goals, as well as the overarching business goals, when they have a voice and some level of influence over process. They must fully understand and embrace the effects and impact that their contribution has on the whole – and have some degree of say over how they will get there. This is when they begin to feel responsibility for achieving results. (Leaders make a big mistake when they assume that employees already know and understand this.) Leaders should be routinely having conversations such as, without you we wouldn’t be able to achieve x-results – or, we need you to do x so that we can achieve y. Reinforce that the organization’s performance depends on each employee’s maximum daily contribution.
  5. Encourage idea-sharing, debate, and dialogue. Sure, one leader or individual may ultimately have the best idea, answer, or resolution. But if you are trying to foster ongoing teamwork and camaraderie toward objectives, everyone should have a voice and be asked to contribute their ideas toward the achievement of goals and the plan to get there. The leader’s ideas should be saved until everyone else’s ideas have been solicited, shared, and taken into thoughtful consideration. The best environment is one in which an individual with a great idea freely comes forward and shares – and is subsequently made to feel that his/her contribution is valued and appreciated. Debate and exchange of opinions is encouraged – and is always done in productive and healthy ways. When employees work in such an inclusive, fear-free environment, they can more fully bring to bear the best of themselves – their most unique talents, ideas, and contributions – and are more likely to align in terms of shared values, efforts, teamwork, and execution. Effective leadership solicits feedback, is open to criticism, and always remains accountable for its actions.
  6. Embrace and foster creativity, innovation and learning. An organization’s ability to learn and grow in today’s marketplace is perhaps its greatest strategic advantage. How does your team best learn? How are your ideas most effectively implemented – through your roll-up-the-sleeves example and role-modeling? Charisma? Confidence? What really sticks and seems to have the most positive, motivating influence over your team? Continually assess your approach to eliminate the ineffective and build upon the proven, effective methodologies.
  7. Display risk-tolerance and allowance for mistakes. If you are fostering the kind of environment that desires the fullest employee contribution and engagement in order to achieve the highest-performing results, then you are setting high-bars and asking employees to take on significant goals and challenges. If employees bite off more than they can chew occasionally in terms of process or goal, there must be some allowance and tolerance for mistakes or coming up short from time to time. This is particularly warranted when the circumstance provides learning opportunities or some other process or system improvement. While this is not to say that poor decisions, inattention, or carelessness should be disregarded – they should not. But it is to say that focused, smart, and committed employees should feel supported in their quest to be the best.
  8. Examine the assumptions you are teaching your employees. Your own overt behavior has great value for communicating assumptions and values to others. Remember, in every corporate culture there exists a significant level of appropriate — and inappropriate — behavior that is purely “understood” – and, therefore, unwritten. Think about the norms in your company that are unwritten. Are these unwritten aspects completely in alignment with your formal policies and procedures? It’s worth taking a look at. If people are treated consistently in terms of certain basic assumptions, they come eventually to behave according to those assumptions in order to make their world more stable and predictable. So make sure these assumptions are in alignment with stated values and organizational goals.
  9. Intentional role-modeling, coaching, mentoring, and teaching. Everything you do is role modeling for employees, like it or not. Do you truly and consistently “walk your talk?” You will not be perceived as a strong leader without walking your talk every day in every way. Consider the personal example you’re setting. Are you consistent and ethical? Walk your talk and then reinforce the desired values with coaching, mentoring, and teaching. Cultural transformation starts at the individual level and then snowballs into a larger group. As a leader, who can you recruit to be your first follower as you establish new approaches and behaviors? And where can you set an example as a follower for another leader in the organization? Leaders pulling together in this effort sets a powerful example.
  10. What are you emphasizing, paying attention to, and measuring as a leader? That which leaders pay attention to communicates major beliefs. What kinds of questions do you ask? What do you consistently comment and remark on? How do prioritize and set meeting agendas? Are you consistent? Where do you have the strongest emotional reactions? How and where do you allocate scarce resources, and how do you explain the rationale? When it comes to company culture, it is without doubt a direct reflection of the morals, ethics, behaviors, actions, decisions, and values of leadership. Words – whether through emails, memos, or mission and value statements cannot and will not alone positively shift your culture. They must be directly linked to actions — and consistency — to affect culture. One of the worst mistakes leaders can make is to create confusion among employees by being unaware and inconsistent.
  11. How are you reacting emotionally, particularly to crises and critical circumstances? Crises are especially important in culture creation. Crises heighten anxiety, which motivates new learning. Your reaction in times of stress and crisis speaks volumes about the company’s underlying core values, norms, and culture. Much credibility can be lost during these critical times when there is a disconnect between word and deed, and rhetoric becomes obvious. Do you consistently demonstrate for employees the appropriate actions to take under certain circumstances? You’re being observed and watched by your employees all the time. They are learning from you, and the accumulation of this shared learning over time impacts your culture. Your employees crave – and need – stability where reasoning, perception, and thought are concerned. Due to the high emotional involvement, how a crisis is handled can either strengthen the existing culture, or bring about change in the culture. A leader should never forget that inherent in crisis is the opportunity to impact and influence culture in positive or negative ways. Your reaction in crisis can create new norms, values, systems, and processes. You should also proactively provide emotional reassurances that help employees cope productively with job-induced emotion and stress. This can positively impact cohesion or camaraderie.
  12. Accurately assess and analyze the company’s existing culture, evaluating it against the cultural attributes required to achieve strategic objectives. Positive and desired cultural change is possible when leaders possess a crystal-clear understanding of strategic goals enabling them to identify the values, actions, and approaches necessary to achieve objectives. Then you must analyze the company’s existing ideologies, values and norms. Leaders should assess whether existing beliefs, behaviors, and descriptions of cause and effect relationships are healthy, productive, and applicable to the achievement of strategic objectives. Are employees experiencing uncertainty and ambiguity about the external/competitive landscape as well as about internal strategy/approach issues that could be rectified through stronger, more present leadership? Identify in writing implicit and explicit standards and values. Closely observe behavior including language and rhetoric. How many people really know – and act in alignment with — the company’s stated mission? What is the climate of group and team interaction?  What are socialization patterns? What are the primary means for communication? What are the metaphors and symbols of success – and of failure? Assess your culture periodically through anonymous employee surveys – allow everyone to provide input. Include categories that will be needed as the organization moves forward and that are in alignment with approaches needed to achieve strategic objectives, such as the culture’s impact on self-actualization, trust, competition, power, honesty. You can undertake this informally yourself, or hire an outside firm to do this for you. However, you choose to do it, your goal should be to gain a greater sense for the optimal internal operating environment needed and what you could do better or differently to get where you need to go.
  13. Examine the criteria for rewards, praise, and status. Reward and recognition approaches and practices affect other systems in your culture in significant ways. What rewards and consequences do you attach to the behaviors and outcomes of your employees/direct reports and their efforts? These are the values that are then circulated and proliferated throughout not only your company’s management hierarchy, but also through all ranks of employees. What you reward, ignore, and punish carries strong messages and significantly influences culture. Do you ignore or deride new ideas and those who propose them? If so, you may be perceived as threatened, and people will assume that you do not welcome new ideas, questions, or suggestions, and that coming forward with any of these things will put one in the doghouse. If this describes you, ask yourself what steps could be taken to modify the rewards, thereby changing this aspect of the culture? Employees learn through their own experience with promotions, performance appraisals, and discussions with the boss. Anything deemed worthy of learning should have a reward system attached to it to ensure it. ALL reward, recognition and incentive systems must be aligned with the type of culture you desire and organizational goals. Organizations that make a “big deal” out of non-compensation awards, rewards, and recognitions tend to have more positive cultures. Tie too much to money, and you will surely see the softer skills you desire usurped by cash rewards every time. Rewards should also be evaluated for the actual affect they have on employee engagement, decisions, teamwork, quality, integrity, and so on. Understand that formal reward, recognition, and incentive systems—while absolutely essential — can present obstacles to effective leadership. Formal, monetary rewards cannot be viewed as substitutes for the verbal, interactive encouragement and coaching of positive behaviors from a leader. Also, make sure that the rationale behind the distribution of power and status is clear. How are power and status distributedearned or assigned? How are influence, power, and authority allocated? How does tenure affect power? How and why do certain roles or functions carry more power than others? Everyone needs to understand who grants the power, the limits of said power, and how it is assigned.
  14. Impose real-time consequences that matter. There must be an understood system of support for goal-aligned actions and results, and sanctions for missing targets and disobeying rules. What actually happens has much greater impact than what is written or said. Too few leaders really understand the profound, performance-enhancing magic of positive reinforcement, recognition, and rewards. These things are seen as soft, nice-to-have, not-mission-critical approaches that can be doled out sparingly. But these are the very things that affect, shape, and drive employee behavior – what employees do, when they do it, whether they continue to do it, etc. Do you really understand the myriad ways that employee behavior is being influenced by your (written and unwritten) culture, priorities, expectations, consequences, systems, processes, physical environment, and employee/managerial rhetoric and attitudes? Leaders without this understanding and approach to the reinforcement of positive behaviors can be liabilities in and of themselves to the company.
  15. Examine criteria for recruitment, promotion, and termination. The individuals you hire, retain, and promote send powerful messages about your values. These decisions begin to establish a desired cultural foundation through these individuals who possess the values you need and desire. Who you don’t promote also speaks volumes. A succession/career progression planning program should be created and implemented that clearly articulates corporate expectations and charts a course for employee development.
  16. Understand and set group boundaries for inclusion or exclusion. What actually determines who is in and who is out? The leader should be determining this, but the broader team or group always tests it. Is it an inclusionary culture? Is it easy to go from outsider to insider? What are the criteria to do so? Tenure? Level? Department?  How important is consensus? How important is lack of consensus?  What instigates turf issues? What values are turf issues based upon?
  17. Create an environment of trust and respect. Are you doing everything possible to engender trust from your employees? Are you working one-on-one to build relationships? Do all of your words and deeds reflect ideals such as accountability, integrity, truth, and honesty? To bring forth optimal employee passion, engagement, meaning, and purposefulness, they must trust you.
  18. Utilize stories, rites, ceremonies, rituals, myths, legends, symbols, vocabulary, and gestures. Stories about important events and people can have significant effect on your culture. Stories define and set the organization’s identity. They reinforce assumptions, but don’t actually establish culture. The events and stories that leaders emphasize influence organizational identity. Stories and the use of symbols, humor, and traditions are powerful learning tools. They enhance collective learning, team-building, and camaraderie and are helpful in conveying new ways of behaving and acting that can be more practically internalized by individuals.
  19. Review organizational design, structure, systems, and procedures. Systems provide a form of stability and consistency that employees utilize and provide a platform for your culture. As cultures change, processes and routines sometimes need to change. Are there any archaic routines in your organization that really are no longer necessary? Repetitive, redundant bureaucracy should be identified and eliminated. Bring to the forefront healthy ways to adapt or adjust the organization’s basic structure that can alter norms, enhance communication, and affect culture.
  20. Consider the design and layout of the physical work environment. Whether your building includes an open layout, top floor executive offices, and other visible physical features that symbolize level, power and perquisites affects your culture. Make sure that whatever you choose to implement is in alignment with stated values

Final Word
Cultural change is arduous and requires specific understanding, patience, and commitment. Ultimately, an organization seeking cultural change is seeking performance and profit improvement. Leaders trying to achieve strategic outcomes must understand culture and how to transform it. By virtue of your role, you have the best perspective to assess the current cultural dynamics and decipher what is working and what needs to change. It is an important – and essential – aspect of your leadership role.

Every organization will develop a culture, and every organization has within its capacity the ability to create a culture whose leaders embrace and utilize these essential approaches and elements. Every leader who lives and breathes these approaches everyday will have better odds of impacting the culture in all the right ways, making the achievement of goals – and success — likelier, faster, and easier.

“Never Tasted Soup from a Can…”

Recently, I was inspired by an interview with actress Kate Winslet who has just finished filming a new movie only six weeks after giving birth to her third child. “…There’s actually something really empowering about going, ‘Hell, I can do this. I can do all this.’ And that’s the wonderful thing about mothers. You can, because you must, and you just do.”

After having three children myself, the Parkinson’s law adage which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” has taken on new meaning. I get so much more done now – personally and professionally — than I did prior to having children. I may not sleep or relax as much, but I certainly accomplish more in every aspect of my life.

As a purpose-driven person, I take everything that I undertake very seriously. I believe that everyone should be able to define what a life of purpose means for them, and then align their life in a way that continually furthers you toward that goal. For me, there was never any question that I would have a life that includes both being a mom and a working professional.

Gladys Kravitz

Gladys Kravitz

“Soup from a Can”

Rarely, if ever, do I mentally revisit non-work-related small-talk conversations, particularly if they took place with individuals from outside of my inner circle. As an executive recruiter, I speak to literally dozens and dozens of people every week, and I simply don’t have the mental capacity or inclination to run a continuous loop of past conversations. I’m always on to the next thing. However, for many years now, there’s a comment that has lingered in my mind, perhaps feasting upon my “guilt” as a driven, working mom.

Eight years ago, while living in a well-to-do suburb in Minnesota, a nosey neighbor (think Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched)approached my husband in our driveway when my twin boys were only a couple months old. “Kristi isn’t going back to work, is she?” My husband proceeded to tell her that I was, in fact, heading back to work in a few weeks. My daughter was two years old at the time, and I was entering the phase of experiencing real sadness each time I faced leaving my babies to go to the office. But, I was going back to work.

“Well, my children have never even tasted soup from a can,” judgmental, nosey neighbor — condescending and awkwardly — volunteered to my husband who felt it was a clear effort to try to discredit me (while apparently attempting to gain some sort of credit for herself).

Hmmmm…”never tasted soup from a can” somehow equates to exceptional mothering skills?

For years now, each time I heat a can of soup for my children’s lunch thermoses, I think about this comment. Should I be spending more time cooking up large kettles of homemade soup every weekend to save my children the horror of eating soup from a can? Perhaps this comment rankled me so much because I am one of the best home cooks out there, or maybe it’s just because I find the inherent judgment so distasteful. Regardless, it was a comment intended to cast the stay-at-home mom in a more positive light, and to throw the professional, working mom under the bus. I mean, how could I possibly be preparing healthy meals for my family when I work outside of the home?

Clearly, this modern day Mrs. Kravitz had absolutely no idea who she was talking about. Cooking and gardening have been my primary hobbies for decades. I began cooking when I was 13-years old as my mother rejoined the workforce. She would leave notes every day asking me, for example, to put a meatloaf in the oven or place a pot on the stove at a certain time. This quickly led to me preparing full meals for dinner. Had my mother not gone back to work, I may never have learned to cook, a skill I have built upon for over 30 years. Moreover, my husband also likes to cook, and makes a hot breakfast for our children every single morning. These kids suffer not in the food department.

Actively Creating Personal and Professional Alignment

Back in 1997 when I began my retained executive search career as an entry-level Associate with the world’s largest search firm, I quickly realized that if I persevered long enough to become a Managing Director, this career could allow me the flexibility to come as close to “having it all”as possible — a family and a flourishing career. It has since proven possibly to be one of the best careers out there for a “working mom.”

What I have done for the past 17 years is create a career, working environment and family life that are completely blended and co-exist in ways that work well 90% of the time for me, and more importantly, for my family (with one calendar that incorporates both sides of my life). And, I managed to write a three-award winning book along the way.

Am I sounding defensive? If so, it’s because I have felt defensive for years every time I think about the infamous soup line.

Playing Small

Over the years, it has become clear to me that the tension that exists between professional, working moms and stay at home moms is the obvious byproduct of playing – and thinking – small. I don’t play small. Nor do I make judgments as to whether a woman decides to work outside of the home, or not. For me not to have a career where I can exercise/bring to bear the best of myself would not be a good decision for me, nor would it be the example that I want to set for my children.

I take a great deal of pride in having my career while at the same not cutting corners in any respect as a mother. As a matter of fact, I consistently attempt to go above and beyond in everything I undertake – both personally and professionally – every single day. For example, I have a personal distaste for the unsupervised circus in school busses, thanks to several traumatic childhood experiences. As such, my husband and I have made a commitment not only to drive our kids to school each and every day (an easy commitment to make given that the school is five-minutes from our house), but also to walk them to the door. Between the two of us, we have never missed a day, and it’s always a very special family time that we all cherish.

No, being a working mom does not, at all, automatically equate to cutting corners, or taking the easy way out when it comes to child-rearing. I have been blessed to find a rewarding career that I have fully integrated with my personal life. I am also grateful to have a tremendous amount of support and help in my life from both my husband and my mother. I am blessed.

Far Bigger and Lasting Lessons

Obviously, I have spent a great deal of time stewing in this kettle of imperious, other-kind-of-mom judgment. However, I have finally come to terms with this commentary after observing how my now 10-year old daughter – and 8-year old sons – are learning from my example. Yes, I take pride in the fact that they love my food (well, most of it), and will enthusiastically ask most every day what we are having for dinner. But, there are far bigger and lasting lessons taking shape here.

How am I going to teach my children to actively pursue and create their very best lives if I am not a living, breathing example of doing the same?

If I Were Today to Give Up My Career and Professional Activities to Stay at Home, What Would that Say to My Children?

The example my children see today is an ever-present mom who always has time for them, who creates a lovely home for them, and who always places them first. They also see me working hard, focusing, concentrating, preparing for meetings, engaging in interesting telephone conversations and Skype calls (that they don’t quite understand, but know are pretty important), traveling occasionally to locations they wish they could visit, and celebrating lots of professional wins together with them. They also know that their mom is a writer and author with a purpose to help other people to improve their lives. My writing also is fueling them to try to be the best young writers they can be. Every day they observe the importance of being self-motivated and consistent in effort. They see hard work, and they are learning work ethic. They are happy and secure, and understand how my career enhances all of our lives.

My kids will never play small. They are being taught that they are here to create significant lives and to do it their way. They don’t have to settle for playing small ball.

And, my boys also will never, ever have the perspective that females are somehow less. Their mom works, loves, cooks, plays…and occasionally mows the lawn. They know I’m a well-rounded leader who can do it all, their sister can do it all, and every female in the world is their equal. There’s no question that they’ll relate to women throughout their personal and professional lives in positive and healthy ways.

My children also consistently hear conversations about the importance of thinking big and pursuing greatness. They routinely hear conversations I have with their father about topics such as values, missions, callings, integrity, and purpose. As a recruiter, it’s second nature for me to point out –pretty much everywhere that we go – the jobs people are performing and the myriad career options my children have ahead of them.

Unquestionably, what I do today is shaping these little people into the great people they are becoming. I am present. I pay attention. And I am not missing anything. I noted to my daughter just this week that I’m so proud that she’s taken complete responsibility this year for doing her homework, and meeting her deadlines without prompting every evening from me. She’s internalizing the work hard / play hard environment in which she’s being raised in ways that are already becoming part of her own work ethic. She’s learning that to live our best lives, we must take responsibility for ourselves. She likes the recognition she’s receiving for being a great, not just good, student.

And, I think that really sums it up: My example as a working mom is going to prove to be the difference maker in forming these little souls into great — not just good — people. And, really, it’s not about the homemade soup.

However, in a shout-out to my modern day Mrs. Kravitz, the judgmental, subversive mom from Edina, I share two of my family’s favorite soup recipes.

LeBlanc Family French Onion Soup frenchonionsoup


2 1/2 pounds or ~5 large sweet yellow onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (8 cups)

1/4 pound butter

4 bay leaves

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 scant teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fine ground Tellicherry pepper

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup medium-dry sherry

1 Tablespoon (or more to taste) beef base

64 ounces beef broth (I use Pacific or College Inn)

1 cup brandy or Cognac

1 1/2 cups good dry white wine

Freshly grated gruyere and gouda cheese


In a large stockpot on medium-low heat, sauté the onions with the butter and bay leaves for 60 minutes, until the onions turn a rich golden brown color. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes until reduced by about half. Add the beef base and simmer 2 minutes. Add the white wine, salt and peppers, and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, slice baguette one-inch thick and top with mixture of grated gruyere and Gouda cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

Add the beef stock plus salt and pepper to the onion mixture. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, and top with warm cheese toasts.


LeBlanc Family Beef Barley SoupBeef-Barley-Soup-2-410x307

Seasoning Mix:

1Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried sweet basils leaves


1Tablespoon good olive oil

2 pounds beef oxtails (in Denver, I find them at Tony’s or Edwards)

2 cups chopped sweet yellow onion

2 leeks chopped (white only)

4 carrots, diced

2 stalks ½-inch diced celery

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string

1 cup pearled barley

4 cups left-over, cubed roast beef or prime rib (optional)


Heat olive oil in a large pot. Lightly salt and pepper the oxtails and add to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned all over – approximately 12 – 15 minutes. Remove oxtails from pan and reserve.

Add the carrots, celery, leeks, onion, and garlic to pot and cook 12 – 15 minutes until the vegetables are just starting to soften and brown. Add the spice mixture and mix well, cooking for 4-5 minutes. Add thyme and bay leaves, and return oxtails to the pot, along with the cubed left-over beef, if using. Add the broth and raise the heat to a boil. Then, reduce heat to a simmer for 60 minutes.

In a separate pot, bring four cups of water to a boil and add barley. Simmer for 30 minutes and drain.

Remove bay leaves, oxtails and thyme bundle from pot. Add barley and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Kristi LeBlanc is an executive recruiter based out of Denver, Colorado, as well as  a writer, author of the award-winning book, Living with Certainty, speaker, and mom.

85 Ways To Lose Real Weight | Lighten Your Load

IMG_0123I work hard to keep my life as simple as possible. Why? Because when my life is simple, I feel good – at peace, joyous, lighter, and more centered. The less I have to do that isn’t in some way related to the expression of my intrinsic purpose in life (or somehow related to the creation or maintenance of my deepest joy) – and the less that unnecessary burdens and complications weigh me down — the happier I am. This isn’t to say that I’m not extremely busy – I am. Nor is it to say that I’m not constantly stretching myself and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am (and that’s the real secret to my success). But I know my limits, I know what really keeps life simple (a pure, purposeful, and authentic life of the highest integrity…in a nutshell), and I know when to retreat and recharge. And by keeping my focus on having a focused, simple, pure, and loving life, I can then (with relative ease) retreat to that place of pure rejuvenation and centeredness whenever I need to.

For the 40+ crowd, it was easier to do this when we were kids, – to naturally recharge our batteries – because we purely flitted from one pleasure pursuit to another…the next laugh, the next smile, the next popsicle, the next great adventure. As adults, however, many of us have so aimlessly created so many activities, circumstances, and responsibilities in our lives that really have nothing to do with the expression of our purpose — or the creation or maintenance of our deepest joy — that many people are experiencing little – if any – satisfaction in their lives. Not at all what was intended for our lives.

NOTE: I’m talking here about practical, doable ways to simplify and experience more joy in your life if you’re one of the many mature, hard-working people –parents and professionals — who I routinely speak with who are stressed, burned out, mired in negativity, and in need of some relief. However, there is a new generation (or two) of surly young individuals who have made selfishness and the pursuit of surface pleasures – not integrity or purpose — a way of life. And that’s a different issue altogether (and these individuals in many ways contribute greatly to the stress and negativity that others are experiencing today).

But the opportunity is still there for all of us – to varying degrees — to return to lives that are as easy and simple as possible. We can create adult lives that provide comfort, joy, and peace to us when we need it. That’s not to say that we won’t have circumstances and complications in our lives that we haven’t asked for or created. Without question, there are bad breaks and tragedies that are not of our own making. And in these circumstances, it’s all the more important that we take care of ourselves – mentally, spiritually, and physically – or we can drown in our valid pressures and worries.

So, how do you start un-complicating – at least to some degree — a complicated life of your own making? How can you shed unnecessary burdens and stressors that are weighing you down and stifling your hopes and deepest joys?

Ask yourself, do I still view my life, my potential, and my future through the same hopeful, positive lens through which I so naturally viewed the world when I was younger? If the answer is “no,” it’s time for a paradigm shift — because no matter what you face in your life, you deserve to experience as much joy, hope, and belief in a better tomorrow as possible.  When you consider the negative circumstances in your life that are of your own making, what specifically have you created or included in your life that is so spirit-draining? Bad career choice? Too-large of a mortgage? Toxic relationships? Over-spending?

In days long gone by, the living was easier. As a child, you moved in the direction of what was fun, what thoroughly engaged you, what brought joy, what felt good. There was no overthinking, no politics, no conditioned fears. There wasn’t even always a plan. Who was kind? Who was nice? What was fun? Who was fun? Who laughed a lot? Where were the best popsicles, the best pools, the best friends?

I rode my bike, picked blackberries, plucked vegetables from the garden and rinsed them with the hose, swam in the neighbor’s pool, jumped rope, played hopscotch, laid in the grass, drank Kool-Aid, ran with the dog, explored, and napped when needed. Ideal. And, as it turns out, even after many left turns and failed experiments, these are still the activities that bring me joy and center my soul (with a great bottle of wine thrown in every now and again). Why did I let my favorite activities go for so long? Sure, my teen years and young adulthood brought different interests. But at the same time, I allowed a core part of who I was to evaporate, as many people do. Why do we as adults allow the things we loved as children to become irrelevant, esoteric, and arcane aspects of who we once were?

Conditioning, pressures, expectations, difficulties, experiences, circumstances, coping mechanisms, etc. all kick in and change the extent to which we feel we can live freely and trust ourselves. We no longer view our choices, our activities, and our world through a simple lens. There is so much else to consider now.

We began orienting our lives differently and making choices that seemed safe in helping us to avoid what we don’t want, but that no longer necessarily move us toward what we do want. We do this as adults as naturally and effortlessly as we used to — in days gone by — gravitate toward bomb pops, smiles, and sunny playgrounds.

Think of the little ways every day that you “have to” avoid creating what would really make you happy because you are too busy prioritizing the avoidance of potential trouble or conflict. For example, for all of us, a loving, safe  atmosphere in our homes should serve as our lives’ foundation, but you may feel the need to avoid conflict with your spouse, parent, or child and so you avoid being at home altogether or you avoid engaging with others in your home by working more, talking on the phone more, spending time on the computer more, drinking alcohol more…everything but really creating the loving, safe, peaceful, and joyful environment – a soulful baseline — that could feed your soul and move your life forward in all the right ways. And all of these meaningless activities and time-wasters complicate your life in ways that remove you from your center of mind-body-spirit balance.

Your life can be as simple and balanced — or as complex and off-kilter — as you choose to make it. Here are some suggestions for finding your way back to simplicity, balance, and joy. Make a habit of as many of the following approaches as you can and you will see your life begin to change for the better:

  1. Don’t make things so hard – the moments when you feel at peace, calm, and balanced are those times when you are doing what is right for you. Trust this feeling. Strive to make the circumstances and activities of those times the predominate themes in your life.
  2. Maintain your health. Nothing will work right in your life without it. If you’re not focusing on being healthy, start here.
  3. Give your body the sleep it needs. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, your body needs to operate from a place of balance, and sleep is an essential aspect.
  4. Go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Avoid starting your day off by rushing or being late.
  5. Catch yourself comparing yourself with others and feeling competitive and jealous. Shun those thoughts – shut them down, as they are completely wasted time and mental effort.
  6. When you’re wrong and you know it, just quickly say so, apologize, and allow everyone to move on. Don’t allow stupid things to fester. We all make mistakes; we’re all wrong at times.
  7. Stop being a people-pleaser and stop trying to make everyone a friend.
  8. Stop being offended when everyone doesn’t want to be your friend. You can be kind, a nice neighbor, a compassionate human being, and helpful co-worker without having to be friends with everyone. Many of us already have a boat-load of significant relationships that we’re not paying enough attention to. I am extremely selective about with whom I’ll establish a personal relationship. There should be a values-match with the people you allow in your life. They should support you and you should support them. If they don’t make you feel good about you, question that relationships place in your life.
  9. Don’t talk incessantly about yourself. If you’ve been visiting with someone and all you’ve done is talk about yourself, trust me, they won’t want to visit with you anymore (and this may explain why everyone doesn’t want to be your friend).
  10. De-clutter your primary living and working environments – office, home, car, etc. Clutter is damaging to your energy – mental and spiritual.
  11. Forgive those who have hurt you – do it for you. There are many great books on learning to forgive. Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy also provides a strong approach to beginning the process of forgiveness.
  12. If you don’t know the answer, ask for help – be it directions, advice, instructions, etc. Get the help you need and move on. Asking questions or for clarification politely is not confrontational and is not belligerent. Getting answers will help you do things right the first time.
  13. Figure out where your life’s primary frustrations and time-wasters are, and put a plan in place to fix it. Get help, eliminate, put processes in place…fix it…now.
  14. Don’t assume …just stop making assumptions. Ask questions, clarify, converse, communicate.
  15. Don’t expect others to make assumptions. If you want something done a certain way, say so. You are not being aggressive or out of line when you politely state what you want.
  16. Take control of your temper by remembering to pause and breathe when you are about to say something nasty or rude. Stop yourself – pause — before a single word comes out of your mouth. You’ll save yourself a lot more time and heartache if you don’t speak out of anger.
  17. Always, always, always live below your means. Don’t make big impulse purchases….ever. Think about it first.
  18. Never, ever forego your monthly savings plan unless for a catastrophic emergency.
  19. Really do surround yourself with people who are smarter, funnier, and healthier than you. It really motivates you to raise your game and also comes in handy when you need help or guidance.
  20. Remember…what you do to others has already been done to you. There is no avoiding karma. Allow karma to serve as a self-governing system for all of your actions and words.
  21. Do what’s good, what’s right, what’s true for you. Always. Even when it’s not popular. Follow your own internal instruction system. And I don’t mean, if it feels good, do it. I’m referring to getting in touch with your spirit core and living from this place of pure, purposeful, high integrity. There is only one kind of authenticity – and that’s spirit-driven. Only the “Ego-You” is suggesting that you get tattoos, dress scantily, be rude, and so on.
  22. When stressed, anxious, or angry, go workout, go for a walk, physically burn off some energy.
  23. Never drink and drive.
  24. Be trustworthy. Honor all commitments and be known as an honorable, responsible person. Follow through, follow up, be impeccable in word and deed.
  25. Know that it’s never okay to say, “I’m always late.” (It’s very character revealing.)
  26. If you feel love, say so — frequently. “I love you” is a good thing to say.
  27. Use prioritized “to-do” lists every day/week if you really want to get things done and see forward progress in your life.
  28. Incorporate technology into your life wherever and whenever possible. It should expedite and simplify, not complicate, a lot of routine tasks.
  29. Never lie. Never steal.
  30. Avoid long daily commutes.
  31. Be honest with yourself. Living from a place of denial will prevent you from being deeply, truly happy.
  32. Live authentically; embrace your unique spirit-self. Allow others who are important to you to know who you really are.
  33. Only multi-task if you are someone who can get things done.  If you only really accomplish things one task at a time, then, by all means, do one thing at a time as expeditiously as possible.
  34. When packing for a trip, take the time to plan out what you will really need, and limit yourself to that.
  35. Clean as you go.
  36. If a job isn’t worth doing right the first time, then why do it at all?
  37. It’s not cool — male or female — to be proud that you can’t cook. It just isn’t. Learn to grill, learn to make a few simple things, but please don’t brag that you can’t cook.
  38. Shop when you need to, not just because you want to.
  39. Use cash, not credit, as much as possible. If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy an unnecessary item on credit.
  40. Mind your own business. Nobody really likes a nosey-nose.
  41. Don’t be a sounding board, or whipping board, for crazy, negative people.
  42. Never forget…where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…
  43. Spend time taking good care of your most significant assets – your body/health, your relationships, your home, your vehicles, and so on.
  44. Smile – doesn’t matter who smiles back. Putting out more love and good energy in the world can only be a good thing.
  45. Avoid bad people as much as possible. If you can cut them out of your life, do so. If you have a crazy, evil, addict neighbor – or someone else distasteful in your life, i.e. a co-worker whom you would never choose to associate with, but have to be exposed to everyday – limit your exposure or ignore them to the extent that you can. A daily dose of evil can only hurt you – ignore it. You’re better than that.
  46. Avoid doing things that make you feel bad about yourself as much as possible.
  47. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
  48. Be optimistic. Positive people rock.
  49. Treat the elderly with respect. If someone is frustrating you by moving slowly or otherwise impeding your path, imagine it’s your grandmother, grandfather, or other beloved elder. Show the same respect and patience you’d show – and want shown — to your own loved ones and family.
  50. Expect to forget things. Write things down. Commit to staying organized.
  51. Commit to learning something new every…day, week, month. Be a lifelong learner. Be curious. Engage in interesting moments and contemplate the relevance or applicability to your life. How can the learning of everyday moments be incorporated into your life in ways that can make you better?
  52. Give compliments.
  53. Say please and thank you.
  54. Hold the door for others behind you.
  55. Drink LOTS of water every day.
  56. Got a great idea. Pursue it. Pursuing talents, dreams, and passions is what your life was meant for.
  57. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. It’s going to be tough nowadays. Start-ups were never easy – and they’re even harder today. The people who innovate, persevere, and hang in there today will rule the world tomorrow.
  58. Spend time in nature as much as possible.
  59. Don’t be afraid of the sun….just wear sunscreen.
  60. Stop texting and driving.
  61. If you meet someone you like and would like to develop a relationship, let them know.
  62. Never stop building your network.
  63. Don’t repeatedly ignore people who reach out to you and then call them when you’re out of work or when you need something. Ever.
  64. Be bold. Be courageous. Don’t base your life, your choices, your actions on what you think other people will think.
  65. Never eat when you’re not hungry.
  66. Incorporate 30 minutes of activity into your every day schedule. How many days should you exercise…Well, how many days do you eat?
  67. Remember, people are what they do…not what they say.
  68. Give thanks every single day for all that you do have. Make gratitude for what is going right in your life – for what you do have—the foundation from which you approach your life. I give thanks for all that I have every single morning upon waking and frequently throughout the day. I learned through my cancer experience last year to take nothing – not a single day – for granted.
  69. Write out your life’s priorities. Create a life “purpose plan” and allow it to guide your priorities, decisions, and choices. If a major decision or choice doesn’t move you toward what you ultimately want, why do it in the first place?
  70. If you can’t change something, learn how to live peacefully with it.
  71. Remember, “luck” goes to the hard workers.
  72. Be a great problem-solver. Think deeply and move toward the solutions that – upon considering them – immediately lighten your load emotionally.
  73. Be a great friend. Be the kind of friend that you’d like to have.
  74. Don’t try to be older than you really are. Relish every age. The sweet times pass quickly.
  75. Find the lesson in everything…and then move on. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t be a victim. Live in the here and now and create your future moment by moment.
  76. Make sure you choose a vocation that you truly love, that doesn’t feel like work. Love your job. If you don’t, figure out what you do love and get about the business of doing it. Get a foot in the door. Volunteer. Hang your own shingle. Life is too precious to unnecessarily spend it doing something that sucks the life out of you.
  77. Don’t allow anyone to discourage you when you are following your heart and dreams…go for it!
  78. In the midst of the hardest times, tell yourself, this, too, shall pass.
  79. Take time to smell the roses….literally. Breathe deeply the fresh air. Take in the sunset/sunrise. Gaze at the stars. Soak up a sunny, blue sky. Don’t lose your sense of wonder. Listen to the Lee Ann Womack song, I Hope You Dance.
  80. Give yourself a pat on the back, a toast, and “three cheers” when you have even small victories.
  81. Laugh…hard and often.
  82. Give affection, allow yourself to receive affection.
  83. Focus on what you’re good at – and then strive to be very, very good. This brings pride and satisfaction, and helps to eliminate frustration.
  84. Don’t defend or overlook out-of-line, incompetent, or incorrigible behavior. Better to say nothing than to defend or protect evil.
  85. Meditate, meditate, and meditate. Did I mention that you should meditate? Meditate.

121 Ways to Become “Truly Rich” in Mindset & Wealth

“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” ~Oscar Wilde

Kiss CJBeing “truly rich” begins, not after you have acquired wealth, but when you begin your journey to create such a life. Who you ultimately become is determined by the person you are during your journey to create your best life.

Despite all the wealthy people I know, I know relatively few people who can be categorized as “truly rich,” meaning they’ve created compassionate, passionate, purpose-filled, loving, and service-oriented lives, along their path to accumulating monetary riches. Of those who do, in fact, meet these criteria, I outlined their remarkable traits in my book, Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy, and the 65 “Energy Enablers.”

While the wealthy have money by definition, the truly rich are not always extremely wealthy. Accumulating wealth is what you do, but being rich is who you are. The “truly rich” are rich in spirit well in advance of acquiring wealth. You must be rich inside to be truly rich.  Amassing wealth will open more doors of choice, but will not automatically make you happy and fulfilled. Being “truly rich” is about developing a lifestyle that enables reaching your fullest potentiality — not just financially.

Are You Truly Rich? Ask Yourself:

Do I brighten up the world of those around me, and help to shape their lives in profound ways?

Do I have abundance and balance spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually, relationally, and financially?

Do I live in awe and with gratitude for this thing called “life”?

Do I help others who are less fortunate?

Do I give and serve?

Do I have the freedom to live where I want, vacation when I want, retire when I want, see my family and friends when I want?

Do I help others to lift themselves higher?

Do I spend enough time working towards accomplishments that will endure, memories that will endure, and relationships that will endure?

Do I have a giving, loving spirit and do I consistently contribute to the greater good?

Have I fully examined and defined my values, priorities, goals, and beliefs?

Do I have a clear vision that I actualize through a daily action plan and plain, old-fashioned, hard work?

Do I have enough money to be comfortable and secure for the rest of my life?

A Wealthy Mindset Having a “rich” mindset (mental makeup, principles, and habits that guide your actions) – in addition to your hard work – is essential and fosters wealth-building thoughts, behaviors, and activities. It is a rich mindset that will ultimately lead you to a rich life and wealth – and some people don’t naturally have this mindset. I hope the following tips and tactics can set you on your journey to a truly rich life.

121 Ways to Become “Truly Rich” in Mindset & Wealth

  1. Take Action – You must do more than dream and think; you must act. Acting takes courage and the strategic ability to consider the consequences. Self-made millionaires are extremely action-oriented; they “walk” way more than they “talk.” Work overtime. Ask your supervisor at work how you can take on additional responsibility, and make sure that he/she is aware of your passions and goals. Always be willing to present yourself as the person who will do more and take on more work/responsibility.
  2. Adventure – Following your gut, taking risks, putting yourself “out there” should be viewed “big picture” as an adventure. You have to crave – and have the guts to embrace — your life’s “adventure.”
  3. Attitude – Recession;  financial difficulties; businesses failures…this was the reality for many people over the past 6 years. But, winners didn’t allow that to rob them of their vision, of their will to succeed. Figure out how to keep a positive attitude; to keep trying new things to move forward. “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” Take the lesson from each  knock down and believe that success is within reach. It is precisely your  positive attitude that will keep your creative juices flowing and keep you  aware of opportunity that others might miss.
  4. Authenticity – Remain true at all times to your most authentic self – listen to those inner voices, follow your instinct.
  5. Awareness – Keep your eyes and ears open every day, all the time. Opportunities and people who can help you quickly appear and then vanish. Stay aware to seize opportunities, to grow, to give.
  6. Money  Orientation - How were you taught to use money? Are you a saver or a spender? Do you  have an inherent respect for money? Are you on top of your finances to the nickel? Is your wallet neatly organized? Do you know how much money you have at all times? You should. Some people learned bad money habits from their parents who didn’t save or acquire wealth. Consider what you have learned about money throughout your life. If you desire a different life than previous generations in your family, you may have to do things differently.
  7. Belief – The most successful people believe without a doubt that they can achieve their dreams and that they are a part of something larger than themselves.
  8. Immense Boldness – While everyone can have some level of self-doubt at times, the wealthy face fears head-on with a resolve to conquer them. Boldness doesn’t mean you don’t have fear; rather it means you won’t let it prevent you from taking decisive action when an opportunity presents itself.
  9. Limit What You Borrow – Living on credit lines, credit cards and loans is obviously a wealth-killer.
  10. Brainpower – Smart, clever,  insightful, and strategic…If you’re not, surround yourself with people who are.
  11. Cash – Pay for big ticket items like appliances and cars with cash. No cash, no stuff.
  12. Open to Change – If you accept that nothing ever stays the same, that change is inevitable, and you keep a focus on the future and what’s coming next, you will be able to respond quickly and effectively to changing circumstances.
  13. Character and Reputation – Don’t ever allow your desire for wealth and/or power to tempt you to take any low-character action that can damage your reputation. To be truly rich, you must have impeccable character if you  wish to be truly fulfilled, purposeful, authentic and rewarded. Never lose sight of who you really want to be and how you really want to be regarded; this is your brand.
  14. Clarity – Be extremely clear-minded about what you want, where you’re going, and how you plan to get there. Write out a plan in great detail. Clarity is the first step toward great achievement
  15. Eliminate Clutter in All Aspects of Your Life –You need an un-cluttered, crystal clear vision of what you intend to achieve, and you must also have a clean, clear environment to support your efforts. Your home, office, car, etc. should not be chaotic. If they are, this is a distraction, a time-waster, and a mental energy drainer. Reorganize, reprioritize in a way that is conducive to your best thought and work mode.  You will become clearer in your thinking and feel empowered to get more done.
  16. Commitment – Are you truly committed, long-term, to the goals you have set? Commitment helps deter the temptation and off-the rails beckoning of instant gratification.
  17. Excellent Communicators – Your written, spoken and negotiation skills should be impeccable if you are to sell your ideas to others and to create and inspire others to help you achieve your goals.
  18. Competitive – In the world of commerce and entrepreneurship, you must have a healthy competitiveness and desire to always be the best – even if it’s just being the best You that you can be.
  19. Rarely Complain – No one – no one – likes a whiner.     
  20. Confidence – Life is hard enough without beating up ourselves. Confidence helps you to know who you are, respect yourself, make the right choices, live with integrity, be inspired, trust your instincts, and have the courage to pursue your purpose and greatness.  The extent to which you experience self-worth and fulfillment in your life depends in part upon how much you believe in yourself. You have to be your own biggest fan – be bold in your dreams and pat yourself on the back when things go right.
  21. Connection – Don’t live a cloistered life. Even if you are not a gregarious extrovert, social media and email allow us to connect with others like never before. Connect. Form meaningful bonds. Serve others. Ask for help when you need it.
  22. Conscientiousness – including dependability, industriousness, and organization – seems to be a trait that is mightily lacking among many. Psychologists consider it to be a personality trait that exhibits stability in how you act, think, and feel. Conscientiousness and emotional stability have been closely linked by researchers to economic success. Individuals with these traits had higher lifetime earnings.
  23. Contentment – The truly rich  are content with who they are and what they’ve accomplished.  They spend – or give – money on the things that bring them joy. They don’t waste money trying to keep up with The Joneses. Ick.
  24. Courage – Courage is needed to pursue dreams, to take calculated risks. But, know that great rewards/huge payoffs typically accompany risk. Entrepreneurs know this.
  25. Crazy – By “crazy” I mean having the courage to dream and take the risks that the average person might shy away from. You simply won’t attain greatness if you don’t think outside the box and follow your own path. You are an original; tap into your unique, singular greatness and show it to the world.  A little crazy in this regard can be a very good thing.
  26. Extraordinary Creativity and Innovation – Create, and be creative. Never cease looking for inspiration, innovations, opportunities, signs, new directions, and possibilities. Even challenges and problems should be looked at through a lens of opportunity and innovation. How can you get closer to your goals? How can you create more opportunities? Some people talk about “taking chances” but the real smart-craft is in making great choices. How can you save more money? Where do you need more inspiration? Where do you need more training?  Where do you need advice and mentoring? How can you overcome obstacles?  How can you make things happen? Keep searching. Keep looking. Get creative. Innovate to make things happen and create new opportunities for yourself.  The truly innovative are observant and resourceful and never stop looking for new opportunities that can make them rich.
  27. Curiosity - Be curious. Ask questions. Read. Explore. Push boundaries. Ponder. Try. Stretch yourself.  Keep an open mind. It goes hand and hand with creativity. How can you continually integrate new and exciting aspects of our world into your  efforts to achieve your goals for both life and career? People who move through their lives like this earn, learn and know more. Curiosity and the ability to tangibly assimilate learning and insight into your life and circumstances in innovative ways are more impactful to your ultimate success than book smarts. Curiosity is crucial for learning, experimenting and improving yourself. Curious people are very often the most knowledgeable…and successful.
  28. Debt – Make eliminating personal debt a priority. There is no real financial freedom when you are  in debt. Cash is king/queen. Relative to business debt, be very shrewd and  consult your wisest advisors before taking it on to grow your business.
  29. Decisiveness – The ability to be decisive when needed – to swiftly make a decision, seize an opportunity and act on it — is a key trait of the truly rich and successful. Unnecessary stalling and “thinking” for overly long periods is not a trait of the truly successful.
  30. Define Rich for Yourself – It’s a subjective word that you must define for yourself. Envision the life you want. How are you measuring it? What is involved? Figure it out to the last detail.
  31. Determined – The truly rich knew what they wanted and were determined to get it. They weren’t waiting for luck or a white knight. They went over, around, or through all obstacles. What are you really pursuing, and how determined are you to get there?
  32. Develop Yourself – Never stop developing yourself – personally, professionally, financially, socially, managerially, whatever. Not only does it increase your value to others, it vastly improves your chances of achieving your goals.
  33. Be Willing To Be Different – Forget what everyone else is saying and doing – unless they are exactly where you want to be. Always follow your own drumbeat. If you want to be average or mediocre, do what everybody else is doing.  To be truly rich and exceptional, judge yourself by your own standards of purposefulness and fulfillment.
  34. Discipline and  Self-Control - Whether discussing work ethic, finances, or health, discipline is a trait of the truly rich and successful. Work hard, persevere, don’t slack off,  save money, dot I’s and cross T’s.  Dig deep; don’t merely skim the surface of your life. Apply yourself to reach your highest potential. Use self-control to avoid spending money on a whim.
  35. Avoid Distractions – Don’t run in circles chasing endless and senseless distractions. A sure way to short-circuit your success is to allow life’s inevitable interruptions to take you off task. Keep your focus squarely on that which moves you forward that day. Many successful people create a checklist of the days’ most pressing activities, and don’t end the day until they get through the list. Seek to create home and work environments that are conducive to productivity. Simplify and organize your life.  Figure out what means  a lot to you and say no to distraction as much as possible.
  36. Do What You Love – Spend time doing what you love to be truly rich.  The goal is to not feel as though you are “working,” but to be purposeful and fulfilled, and then paid well for your time.
  37. Don’t Quit Your Day Job – If the goals you are pursuing are separate from your day job, keep that day job – it’s your safety net – until your passion pays off. This doesn’t mean that you are not committed to your dream; it is rather a prudent financial decision. Quit your day job only when your sales take off and  the day job is preventing you from maximizing the potential of the next phase.
  38. Dream – Dream big,  and hold on to your dream with all of your might. Don’t allow any negative self-talk from yourself or negative, pessimistic commentary from others to taint it or dissuade you.
  39. Drive – You have to possess the energy, the will, the motivation, the drive to keep yourself moving forward every single day.
  40. Education – Applying all of yourself to be a high-achiever in school and to get the best high school and college education possible is one of the most important things you can do to secure your future.
  41. Emotional Health and Low Emotion – Emotional health and balance are gifts to be thankful for every day. Imbalanced, overflowing emotions can get you in trouble. Control your emotions. Think logically.
  42. Entrepreneurial Spirit – Over 30% of the millionaires in the U.S. are entrepreneurs, which means they are likely disciplined, follow their passion, take calculated risks, and continually learn and improve in their niche. Many, if not most, started their businesses part-time. High risk = High reward. Less than 1% of millionaires achieved their wealth through “other” means. It is imperative that you start out with a strong advisory board since many businesses commonly fail in their first year.
  43. Excellence – You must have the training, discipline, and commitment to be the best at what you do. You can’t skim the surface of your life and tasks and be truly excellent.
  44. Experiment and Expand Your Horizons – Learn, stretch, grow. Proactively try new approaches and tactics every day. Always be open to meeting new people. You will never regret having a life rule that every day you try one new thing. It will keep you stimulated, creative, vibrant and engaged. Never stop experimenting.
  45. High Expectations – Consistently maintain the highest expectations for yourself and your life. You must have the belief and mindset that without a doubt you will achieve your goals –that your hard work will pay off. Have high expectations of the people who surround you, as well.
  46. Watch Small Expenses – Know how much money you have and don’t fritter it away. Watch the tiniest of expenditures. Remaining vigilant about every expense is how you save money and turn profits.
  47. Failure Connoisseurs – You must learn from left turns, failures and disappointment. Find the lesson in everything. Once you find and learn the lesson, you can adjust your path and move forward knowing that you won’t make the same mistake twice. Failure either defeats you or expands you. Your choice. Having to readjust and face failure, change and left turns is part and parcel of the process of trying to build a business and accumulate wealth. Don’t fear failure – use it to help you examine a situation and make you better. You will have unlimited opportunities to try and try again.
  48. Fidelity – You will have a richer life when you live with integrity and cherish the bonds you have with family. The truly rich have earned, and return, the respect of their spouses, children, family, friends, etc.
  49. Financial Literacy – Math matters for all of us – male and female – whether we are just managing our personal finances, doing our job, or running a business. You must have the cognitive skills to calculate and understand the implications. Balancing a checkbook, calculating interest rates, saving for retirement – work hard on developing solid, basic mathematical skills.
  50. Proactively Address Flaws and Be Self-Aware – Self-awareness is one of the most lacking traits in humans.  Successful people are self-aware and  constantly try to develop themselves and make changes and improvements to encourage optimal performance and increase their odds of success.
  51. Freedom – The truly rich have the privilege of being relatively free from financial worry and pressure. With this kind of financial freedom, your whole life is better, more creative, less stifled. The truly rich have life circumstances and professions that allow them to explore their passions and express  themselves to the fullest extent. They do not feel “trapped” in a dead-end job.  We feel free when we live authentically, find our life’s purpose, and work/serve in a way that expresses the best of ourselves.
  52. Get a Job – Educate yourself on which careers align with your innate gifts…and also pay well.
  53. Give – The more value you give, the more value you will receive. Try to create win-win circumstances for people around you in order for people to want to work with you.  Share your goodness. Give to others more than they expect  and more than they give to you.  Don’t use people.  Don’t try to fool people.  Serve. Support. Contribute.
  54. Goal Orientation - Clearly define lofty and meaningful, yet achievable goals that align with your life’s purpose. Know precisely where you want to go. Know what you want, then figure out a plan to get you there. The process of defining your goals makes you more internally driven and helps you to persevere.  Your actions should thoughtfully, consistently move you      forward every day toward your goals. Set small goals within your broader objective so that you are consistently achieving and remaining motivated. Don’t know what your goals should be? For now, think about who you want to be, where you want to go, what you want. Your goals may change and evolve – that’s fine; that’s life. Just don’t allow yourself to be without goals. The earlier your goal-orientation in life, the better.
  55. Gratitude - Even in tough times – especially in tough times – take time every day to give thanks and feel positivity and optimism for all that is right in your life. The energy of gratitude is pure and powerful, and will work in so many ways to      bring more goodness into your life.  Gratitude affects your choices and actions and keeps you in a more positive mindset.
  56. Good Health – Good health must be the baseline for the creation of your richest life. When you wake in the morning, you should feel energized, motivated, and optimistic. Exercise, eat healthfully, get enough sleep, and avoid addictions to      anything unhealthy.  The better you feel, the harder and longer you can work toward your goals.
  57. Honesty and Integrity – To have a rich life, you must be honest, ethical and principled.
  58. Humor – A sense of humor will help you every day in every way.
  59. Have an Identity – And a direction. Know who you really are, what you stand for, what your purpose is, and where your life is going. You have a unique identity – leverage your special gifts for all you can. Remain true to your best, most authentic self. Never allow others to define you for you.
  60. Informed – Read a news  feed, stay informed on a regular/daily basis. Don’t be one of those  buffoons on Jay Leno who don’t know the basic facts of our world. There’s nothing cute or cool about that, and it will never lead you to a truly rich life. You can’t have a leg up on anyone if you are uninformed. And you sure won’t have any credibility.
  61. Instincts and  Intuition – Listen to your instincts and intuition. Follow your gut and hunch.  Live a life in which you filter out the needless, distracting static so that you have the awareness to see opportunity when it appears. No one can do this for you – and this is how you will create your best life.
  62. Well-Intentioned – Move through life with good intentions surrounded by good people. Don’t be short-sighted and focus merely on selfish gain; it will come back to bite you every time.
  63. Invest in Yourself - Read. Gain knowledge. Acquire wisdom. Become educated. Listen. Learn. Develop yourself into becoming the person you have always envisioned yourself to be.
  64. Investments – Part of smart saving is investing.  You want your money to work for you by putting it into investments that will increase in value over time, and that, ideally, will earn you supplementary income.
  65. Leadership – In the world of work, you must be a competent, strong, and inspiring leader to become successful.
  66. Learning – Self-educate.  Continually learn. Work hard at being smart. Your brain and mind are truly your greatest assets because they shape your destiny. “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn
  67. Leverage – The successful know their limitations and will utilize and leverage the strengths of others, where possible, to achieve goals. You can’t do everything yourself – know when to ask for (or hire) help.
  68. Lifestyle – Don’t waste money and effort living a lifestyle that you cannot yet afford. People only do this when they are trying to impress others. You should always live a bit below your means. The truly rich know that accumulating stuff is not the priority; they don’t just spend money because they can. The truly rich save money, re-invest it, use it wisely, and make charitable donations.  They invest wealth in order to secure more wealth.  They are not consumed with image. Rather they spend on things that increase their – and others – happiness
  69. Have a Life, a  Real, Fulfilling Life – Don’t be all about your bank account. Don’t postpone attempting to live your best, most authentic life until you have money. Do what you love NOW.  As you become your best self, as you live your best life, you will do and achieve more. This is how you develop a rich mindset that will lead you to wealth.
  70. Listen – Stop talking and  start listening. You don’t know it all.
  71. Love of Money – Wealth is more likely to come to you if you want it and if you respect money. If you are willing to take calculated risks, make sacrifices, put forth hard work and supreme effort to make money, you likely will be successful.
  72. Luck and  Opportunism – A lot of people believe in luck. Some people define luck as merely preparation meeting the moment of opportunity. If you are in the right place at the right time, that is luck. Be ready, aware and nimble enough to      seize the opportunity/luck when it reveals itself.
  73. Mentors and Network – Entrepreneurs often have a strong network of advisors whom they meet/speak with several times a month. Create relationships with top professionals in your field.  Surround yourself with the smartest and most effective people possible.  This is essential. Networking and developing relationships with a diverse group of people should always be a priority. Develop solid relationships so you can call on people when needed. Respect people – return their calls and  emails. Your network includes friends, classmates, teachers, colleagues, subordinates, superiors, vendors, customers, teammates, virtual friends, clubs, etc. Who you know, and the quality of these relationships, matters.
  74. Motivation – Water seeks its own level. Align yourself with people who inspire and motivate you. People who can keep your spirits up and your eye on the prize.
  75. Take Nothing for Granted – Anything can change at any time – you can lose your job, lose your best customer, the stock market can crash, a natural disaster can take your home in an instant, your health can change, etc. Change is the only      constant. Be nimble and have a contingency plan.
  76. Objectivity – Falling in love with an idea or approach, instead of following the value it provides, has killed many a business.
  77. Openness and Receptivity – Stay open, stay relevant. Be receptive to advice and guidance.
  78. Optimism – Many well-known money experts believe that optimism attracts wealth by positively affecting your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological health. Your best life will always be an optimistic life because whether you expect to succeed or expect to fail, you will be right.
  79. Be Organized – Pay bills on time. Know how much money you have, and where it’s going. Organize your office and desk to get more done in less time. Know where everything is. Plan. Meet deadlines. You have to know where you are going in order to get there.
  80. Passion – Successful people are passionate about what they do. Their passion provides life fuel - courage, motivation, excellence, and persistence. Passion is the fuel in your engine. If you don’t have a driving force inside you, you haven’t found your passion. Living your passion brings fulfillment and contentment. If you want to live a rich life of the deepest joy – deep-soul joy – you have to first  create a life around your passions. Enough riches to help your heart sing every day can then follow.
  81. Passive Income Sources – Always be on the look-out for ways that you can build income streams that come from passive sources. You want to eventually be able to make money without a physical presence. Have your ideas work for you.
  82. Patience – Patience can help you in a multitude of ways. It can prevent you from making impulse purchases on credit.  It allows you to sleep on it to determine what  you really want and need.  It enables you to take the time to shop around for a better price. It allows you to make more rational decisions.  It also enables you to continue working toward a goal without giving up. When you feel money burning a hole in your pocket, force yourself to wait  a month before spending. Consider the pro’s and con’s. Often an immediate desire looks less compelling once you pause and consider it. Delaying gratification when it comes to large purchases is often the smart thing to do.
  83. Perspective – You have to be able to maintain your wits, balance, humor and perspective, even in times of crisis. The successful rise to the occasion in tough times – they ask the right questions and are decisive.
  84. Persistence – Quitters never prosper. Don’t give up, and never quit. Persistence and tenacity reduces your chances of failure. There will always be left-turns, detours, and obstacles. You can’t allow defeat to beat you. Remove stumbling blocks from your path. Success doesn’t happen overnight.  Experiment until you find something that works. Achieving success requires on-going effort. Really internalize in your mind and heart that it is normal –and required – to give all of yourself over a long period of time to really make it big.
  85. Preparation – You can avoid losing money, time, and energy by preparing properly before undertaking anything. Preparation can go a long way toward ensuring your success.
  86. Present Moment – Seize the moment. Don’t put things off when you should take action. Live in the here and now; it’s the only moment that can be controlled.  Enjoy your life – don’t allow it to pass you by.
  87. Prioritize – Before spending money on a swanky lifestyle, prioritize and budget your money to take care of necessities. Buy insurance, save, and invest. Be financially disciplined. Meet your longer term needs before you spend money on wants. Don’t be a slave to wasteful priorities that prevent you from accumulating wealth. Allow your priorities to bring order and focus to your life.
  88. Proactive, Not Reactive - Take preventative care of your life – health, financials, career, etc. What  liabilities exist in your life? Avoid problems of any sort wherever  possible.
  89. Protect Your Money – Have adequate liability insurance, and consult experts on how to protect  your assets.
  90. Reflection – Look at your life and reflect on your choices and outcomes.  Learn from mistakes and grow from them. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t dwell in the past or the future – but reflect thoughtfully on the past,      present, future on a weekly, if not daily, basis. What has gone well in  your life? What has gone wrong? What mistakes should you avoid?
  91. Reinvest Your Profits - Reinvest the profits you make from investments.
  92. Relationships and Human Connection – You need people in your inner circle to love and care for, and who love and care for you. Socialize with friends at least once a week. So much can be learned about who we are and what we want from the emotional exchange in your relationships. Our lives are empty and boring without someone to share them with.
  93. Resilient – Thick skin will serve you well in every aspect of your life. Be strong. When you get knocked down, get up again.
  94. Take Responsibility and Be Self-Reliant – Don’t blame, complain, or shirk responsibility. Intrinsically take initiative for your life and accept responsibility for your actions. The truly rich understand that they have a great responsibility for the people in their lives. Whether things go well, or go wrong, you must take responsibility. You must be a person of integrity to be the best of yourself.
  95. Results Orientation - Be specific about the results you want.
  96. Take Calculated Risks – You have to be willing to take calculated risks with your financial investments, your career, your business, your life from time to time. Weigh all of your options and taking calculated risks when appropriate. If you are fearful and avoid risk altogether, you’ll likely end up living too safe a life to achieve greatness. To be truly rich, you will likely need to make moves that others don’t have the courage to make. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “and then what?” in order to begin to consider possible consequences. Consider taking a risk when you see strong potential for a return. The truly rich tend to be risk takers by nature. You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
  97. Sacrifice – Any sacrifices you make shouldn’t adversely affect your relationships, family, well-being, or pursuit of your goals and dreams. The truly rich do not create this kind of unhappiness in their lives just to have money in the bank.
  98. Financial Cautiousness and Safety - Stay as debt free as possible.
  99. Salesmanship – The ability to sell yourself and your ideas is important if you want people to recognize your talents. However, the ability to sell is sorely lacking in a lot of people who have great ideas that never get off the ground.
  100. Satisfaction - Know yourself well enough to know what will really bring satisfaction to your life. The accumulation of “stuff” that you’ve always wanted really won’t feed your soul and bring lasting fulfillment. Going into debt for stuff is always a bad idea. When you know who you are and what you want, you are much less likely to be a sucker for non-essential stuff.  Over spending on “stuff” happens when you are generally dissatisfied with yourself and your life.
  101. Saving and Security – The truly rich are more committed to saving money than the general public. Pay yourself first which means before you go blow money on little extravagances; put a set amount of money from each paycheck into the bank. This requires discipline. Accumulating wealth is a slow and steady commitment. With every dollar you save, you bring yourself closer to freedom – freedom to start a business, freedom to stay home with your kids, freedom to retire early, freedom to take vacations, freedom to cut back at work to raise your children, etc. Those who have had a long-term commitment to saving money also have far more security when the unexpected happens – job loss, illness, recession.
  102. Service – Think about how you can give back and be of service to others in your community. Using your innate skills and talents to serve others is one of the most impactful ways to live a truly rich life. Volunteering in your community can also assist you in making life-long connections.
  103. Define Success for Yourself – What does success mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like?  Measure your life success with meaningful benchmarks, such as how many of the people you care about actually care about you in return.
  104. Be Money Smart – Learn about money – budgeting, debt, credit, interest rates. In your spare time, read everything there is to read about investing and business. Spend time talking to and networking with people who know a lot about what you want to know about – business, investing, leadership, etc.
  105. Self-Improvement – The truly rich are always seeking feedback, self-improvement and self-development.
  106. Spell Out The Terms Before You Start A Job – Before you start a job or ink a deal, nail down all the specifics in advance — even with friends and relatives.
  107. Spend Wisely - Spend your money on things that really matter and hold significance to you - experiences, travel, family, friends, education/learning opportunities – rather than more “stuff.” Your spending habits will make or break you.
  108. Spiritual Awakening – An intrinsic belief that you were put on Earth to serve a purpose, and a faith that everything that occurs in your life is happening for a reason – a lesson you need to learn – in order to take your life to higher and higher levels, makes your life’s journey richer and more meaningful. For some, joining a church and regularly attending/participating can be powerfully spirit-lifting, as well as a strong networking approach.
  109. Start Now - Don’t put off saving or beginning to do any of the things outlined in this article. Start now. The power of compound interest cannot be overstated.
  110. Stocks – Instead of wasting money on “stuff” and products, consider buying the company’s stock instead…if you really want to acquire wealth.  What’s going to make you wealthy – owning iphones, ipads, macs, etc? Or, owning Apple stock? No-brainer.
  111. Study and Emulate the Successful and Truly Rich – Identify the traits you admire in your heroes and role models. Also identify the traits you dislike. Write them all down into lists. Do everything in your power to develop the traits you like and reject the ones you don’t.
  112. Tax Savvy – The truly rich have a string understanding of how to pay less taxes, without bending any rules. Think minimization, not avoidance.  You must be efficient at dealing with taxes. Hiring a CPA to do your taxes is a good place to      start. Don’t be afraid to pay your fair share of taxes, but never pay more than you have to.
  113. Team Players – The truly rich understand how to get the best from others and are true team players.
  114. Thinking Big – Think outside the box. Set objectives and goals for that seem insurmountable and then get to work. The truly rich march to the beat of their own drum. Don’t be afraid to do things your own way. Be brilliant and unique.
  115. Time Management – Time is money. Time is your greatest asset. And you can’t buy time, so manage it closely. It is fleeting. Prioritize those things that will move you forward and help you succeed.
  116. Trends – The truly rich and successful observe trends to anticipate the future. Stay aware and present to observe nuances that will lead to future change.
  117. Values – What are your core values? Your goals and actions must be aligned with a baseline of strong core values.
  118. Vision – Focus your ambition by developing a clear vision of your life and future. Based on this vision, set your goals. Visualize what you want to accomplish. What specific results do you hope to achieve? A strong vision can help you to recognize and seize opportunities when they present themselves.
  119. Walk Away – Sometimes you just need to admit that something isn’t going to work and you need to know when to walk away and cut your losses. Listen to your advisors. Walk away from a loss, rather than continue to dump money into a losing venture to keep it afloat.
  120. Work Hard – Get up early, go to bed late. Work hard and smart. Be efficient. Give all of yourself when you’re working—your brainpower, creativity, commitment, passion, diligence, results-orientation.
  121. Don’t Worry – Where you are going matters more than where you are today. If you work hard toward your goals and vision, and save as much money as you can, you will eventually find yourself in a place of greater freedom and fulfillment. With      diligence and responsibility, financial prosperity is there for the taking.


You may not possess all of the above traits today, but being aware of these important actions and characteristics can help you make changes so that you nurture the ones that you have, and work on developing the others. What you want is a “truly rich” life – to reach your final days being able to say, I really had a fulfilling, secure life with lots of love, laughter, family and friends. I had the freedom to follow my dreams, and I achieved my main goals. I was healthy and happy, and I loved and respected myself. My children are healthy, purposeful, and joy-filled individuals. I made a lasting contribution, and leave behind a significant legacy that will live on long after I am gone.

While we will all prioritize these things in our own ways, these are the baseline tenets of a truly rich life. Money can’t buy happiness, but fulfillment, well-being, joy, and financial security provide you with the soaring spirit and freedom to experience more of life.

“What material success does is provide you with the ability to concentrate on other things that really matter.  And that is being able to make a difference, not only in your own life, but in other people’s lives.” ~Oprah

Kristi LeBlanc is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director, North American Consumer Practice, with DHR International, a top-5, retained, global executive search firm. She has spent 16 years as a retained executive recruiter with the globe’s largest, most prestigious executive search firms, including DHR Int’l and Korn/Ferry Int’l where she was a Senior Partner.  Kristi is also the author of the award-winning, “Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy,” and writes for the popular Living with Certainty lifestyle blog site. To learn more visit