Not just for Dads

Intentional Influence – Thoughts for Leaders and Fathers…and anyone who knows some!

You shouldn’t be reading this!


It’s not always easy to get them right…
Even though we often KNOW what we should be doing, actually DOING that is a different story.

I am pretty sure some of you shouldn’t be reading this blog right now. You have other things that are more important right now and you know it!

Actually, I shouldn’t be writing this right now…

Where are we going, Daddy?

A few weeks ago I was out with my family. There was a crowd of people and I had to go and find someone. I offered my 2-year old son, Joshua, to join me and he got all excited that he was allowed to come along. He came running after me, took hold of my hand and we made our way through the crowds.

After a while he looked up to me and said: “Daddy, where are we going?”

I stopped. His question surprised me. I felt bad for not considering his situation more. And it got me thinking:

If you are leading people, they generally want to know where you are headed. My son (still) has enough faith in me to follow first and THEN ask where we are going. But most people won’t be happy to follow very long, if they don’t know where you are going or what you doing.

One thing I failed to appreciate as we were making our way through the crowd was that while I was about a head taller than most people in the crowd and had a good view of what was going on, my son was about a head shorter…than most people’s waistline. All he could see was legs! No wonder he asked where we were going.

Remember: as a leader (or a parent, or…) you have usually spent a considerable amount of time thinking through and discussing an idea. You have enough information and insight, that you feel about a head above the crowds. You  see what is going on and you are moving ahead with confidence. But the people following you are in a different situation. They might feel more like they are just looking at a forrest of legs. They DON’T see what’s going on and they are not willing to follow with confidence. They will say something like my son did: “Daddy, where are we going?”

“So what do we do about this dilemma, Andreas?” you ask me.
I’m glad you asked!
Tell them where you are going!
If it’s worthwhile, they’ll follow!

How a letter to yourself could change your life…

The website “Future Me” let’s you write an e-mail to yourself, that will be delivered at a specific point in the future. That’s a great idea, because if you are anything like me, you have good ideas, great intentions, lots of motivation…until you get busy…get distracted…forget.
By sending yourself an e-mail NOW about something that really matters to you, you will actually receive that reminder sometime in the future when you are…well, busy, distracted and in need of a reminder.

Another way to help you stay on track, or help you understand what you personally define as success in your life, is something called “the 7-year-letter”.

In this simple exercise, you write a letter to a close friend or family member. The twist is that you imagine yourself 7 years from now and that you havn’t had contact with the person you are writing to in those seven years. Tell them where you are, what you are up to and what happened in the past 7 years, if you could CHOOSE the results. Be specific, add as many details as you can think of:
Are you married or single?
What are the names of your kids? How old are they?
Where do you live? What type of accommodation?
What jobs have you had,  what’s your position right now?
What kind of things are you involved in outside of work? Sports? Clubs? Teams?
What have you accomplished? What are you proud of?
What went wrong in the past 7 years? What are some of the things you would rather not mention (but will, for the sake of the excercise)?

By writing this letter as if it were 7 years from now, you are forcing yourself to think ahead, to look inside, what is really important to you.
In some way, you are putting yourself in your ideal setting, without the restrictions of time, money or opportunity. You are creating a “dream scenario”.

But it doesn’t stop there:
The next step, after you have written the 7-year-letter is to review it frequently and use it as a map. It’s NOT like a navigation system. It won’t tell you what step to take next. But it IS like a map. It shows you where you want to be. Now it’s up to you to figure out how best to get there…one step at a time.

So in review:
– Take some time to think about where you want to be 7 years from now in life.
– Write a friend or family member a letter, imagining it is seven years from now.
– Frequently review the letter, as it will give you a good idea of what success in life is, by your own definition.
– Use the map (the letter) to help you make small steps towards that future situation.

A friend of mine did this simple little excercise and it changed his life!
I have done it and I am excited, how it has worked for me so far.

Will you take the time and be brave?
Let yourself dream of where you want to be in 7 years and then start writing…it might just change your life, as well!

Isaac Newton and You – Part 2: Friction, Momentum and the Rest

In my last post, I talked about how the law of inertia can help to explain our tendency towards procrastination.
The first step towards success is “getting started”. Now, admittedly, that is a very simple approach. Because it makes things sound a lot easier than they are. So consider with me these three ideas to help us move on once we’ve started: Friction, Momentum and the Rest.

For the sake of simplicity I said we would forget about gravity and friction (after all, that is usually what physics teacher do to explain why the results of an experiment don’t match our experience in “real life”). But we all know that real life doesn’t work without friction.

And that’s all there is to it! Realizing that there will always be friction is the key to success. Things will be harder than we expect, and take more energy than we calculated. Realizing this can help us with two things:
– Take measures to reduce the friction (e.g. plan ahead, communicate well, etc.)
– Not to be surprised, when things get tough.

Momentum is defined as the product of the mass and velocity of an object. That sounds very technical, but it’s quite simple actually: “Momentum describes the resistance to stop”. Now the last thing we want to do after we got started is to stop. And momentum says: the bigger the mass and the bigger the speed, the harder it is to stop an object.
In other words: the bigger and the faster something is, the harder it is to stop.
Don’t believe me? Consider this: try stopping a car at 100 kph then try stopping a truck at 100kph. Which one had more momentum?

How does that apply to us? Well, the best way I know how to increase the mass and the speed is to team up with an accountability partner or a group. That increases the mass (unless you partner with vacuum) and usually increases the speed by creating excitement, competition and accountability.
With a team of support behind us, we are less likely to quit when things get a little (or a lot) difficult.
The more people we are, moving in the same direction, the harder it is to stop us.

The Rest:
We humans are not “perpetual motion machines”…we can’t just keep going indefinitely. I know, Newton said we could…but remember friction?

So in order to stay functional, we need to rest.
If you don’t rest, you will crash.
You can’t blame Newton.
You certainly can’t blame me.
You can only blame yourself.
Take a rest and you will get a lot further.

In summary:
Reduce the effect of friction by planning ahead. Nothing can surprise you, if you are expecting it!
Increase momentum by building a team. Anyone can walk alone, when it’s easy. It’s when things get tough that we need support.
Take a rest to stay your best. You can’t keep going at full speed all the time.

Isaac Newton and you – Part I: A not quite scientific approach to Newton’s law of inertia!

Do you ever struggle with procrastination?
Do you sometimes have difficulties getting started?
Do you often think and talk and plan…when what you need is to DO?
So do I…

 But fear not. There is hope!

 Most of you will be (at least vaguely) familiar with the guy called Isaac Newton. A few might even have heard of his so-called “law of inertia”. In simplest of terms this law states that, unless acted upon by an external force “what is in motion will stay in motion and what is at rest will stay at rest”.

Usually this is demonstrated with marbles, but I am convinced the same applies to human beings. It certainly applies to me! Let me explain:
Forget gravity, friction and all that stuff for a moment. As long as a marble (or a human being) is at rest, it will stay at rest without using much energy at all. On the other hand, should a marble (or human being) be in motion, it will continue moving in the same direction at the same speed forever without needing any energy to do so (we’re not considering friction, remember?). In other words: It is easy to stay at rest, when at rest and it is easy to stay in motion, when in motion. What requires energy is going from a state of rest to a state of motion: Getting started is what is so difficult. Let me rephrase that in case you missed it: The key to success here is that moment of going from rest to motion: Getting STARTED. That is what requires the energy. That is what takes will-power. That is what needs a kick in the backside. Once we start, things get easier. Or as Newton would say: “We’re on a roll”.

So to overcome procrastination it is important to understand that key moment between not doing and doing. Between rest and action. Between procrastinating and getting started.

One reason we struggle with procrastination is that in our heads we feel we need to come up with the energy for the whole task before we can start. We don’t. All we need to do is get up and get at it. We need to start!

Getting up out of the couch to go running is the hard part. Once we’re running, we might actually enjoy it.
Sitting down to start writing that chapter, e-mail or report is what takes the energy. Once we start writing, often the words just start flowing.
Whatever it is, usually if we could just GET STARTED, things would get a lot easier very quickly.

So next time you struggle to get started, remember Newton’s wise words: “What is in motion will stay in motion, what is at rest will stay at rest.”

It takes some energy to get started, but once you start it’s a lot easier to keep things moving.
Focus on getting started.
Let Newton take care of the rest.

Not your experience? Let me know what you think in the comments and wait for part 2 of Isaac Newton and you: “Friction, Momentum and Rest!!


Six words is all it takes!

I recently read that Ernest Hemingway managed to write a novel using just six words. Here is what he wrote: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn”

I’ll leave it up to you to decide what it means…
Is it the desperation of parents who lost their child?
The disappointment of realizing it’s the “wrong” gender?
Is it the slightly humorous naivety of new parents realizing babies don’t walk?

What I want you to remember is this: If he can write a whole novel using just 6 words, maybe you can spare some words next time you write a letter, a memo, an instruction, an e-mail…whatever.

Write less. Much less. Say more!

Six words is all it takes!



The best you is best for everyone around you!

Personal Growth…

Some people love those two words, others start feeling sick to their stomach. They think of discipline, hard work, getting up early, reading way more than you can handle, dealing with anger or impatience, etc.

It’s probably not a surprise, that I belong to the first group. I am excited about personal growth. That doesn’t mean it comes easy to me, or that I am any good at it. I just think it is so so important in our lives. That has many different reasons, but I will just give you one today:

The best you is best for everyone around you!

It’s simple really, but we don’t often think about it.

We are social beings. We interact with people, many people, on a daily basis. And who we are is not just our business. Who we are, affects those around us.

In a negative sense, when you struggle with impatience, with anger, with selfishness, others are negatively affected.
When you are impatient, others suffer.
When you are annoyed, you are annoying to others.
When you only think and talk about yourself, others don’t want to think and talk about you or to you.

In a positive sense, if you work on your skills and knowledge, you can bring more to your team, your boss, your family.
When you work on your discipline and efficiency you will be more productive and have a bigger impact.
When you grow in character and attitude, others will experience you as pleasant to be around and feel encouraged and motivated by spending time with you.

You feel better, they feel better.
You live better, those around you live better.

We all know someone who is just a GREAT person to be around. They just have something about them that makes you want to know them, be known by them, be around them.

And we secretly wish we could be a little bit like them.

Let’s not look at them and wish we could be like that as well.
Let’s start doing something about it and take little steps towards being like them.

Let’s grow.
I need to grow. You need to grow.

Because the best you is best for everyone around you!

Tell me who your friends are!

“Tell me who you friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”
Or at least I will tell you who you will become someday soon…

Because your friends have a huge influence on you.
So do the things you do, watch, read, look at and spend your time on…

We all know that. But do we do anything about it?

It is not uncommon for us to start adding phrases from movies we’ve seen or expressions our friends use to our own vocabulary. “Houston, we have a problem” was a phrase used once in the movie “Apollo 13” and then thousands of times by those who watched and were influenced by the movie.

In 1987 a scientific study found that couples that have been married for many years eventually even begin to LOOK alike. Talk about influence!

We are easily influenced. Positively and negatively. Often unintentionally. It just happens.

This blog is about intentional influence. But I don’t just want to influence OTHERS intentionally. I want to be intentional about who or what influences ME. Because that has a huge effect on my character and my behavior and who I will become as a person…and ultimately on my ability to influence others positively.

And there is only one person who has that responsibility in my life: ME! I can choose what influences me, by choosing what I surround myself with.
Who I spend time with influences me…
What I do, read, watch and look at influences me….

But I have to make a choice. And I have to be proactive:
Who or what is influencing me that needs to get out of my life? – What do I need to stop?
Who or what should have a bigger impact on my life? – What do I need to start?

I need to write it down (so do you!), I need to do something about it (so do you!), I need to start growing intentionally (so do you!).

Then I can better influence others positively (so can you!)

It’s the thought that counts…NOT!

The other day I was in stop-and-go traffic with my family. We passed a vehicle with a foreign numberplate that had broken down on the side of the road. We started talking about how sad it is for them, how we’d love to help, how nice it would be if we were in that situation and someone would help us…
And then we drove on…

Almost subconsciously I mumbled “It’s the thought that counts”.

Then I thought about it…It’s the thought that counts…NOT!

A thought doesn’t feed anyone. A thought doesn’t comfort anyone. A thought doesn’t change anything in another person.

Action counts!

A thought makes ME feel better. Action makes someone else feel better!

It’s not the thought that counts. Action counts. Action makes the difference!

Stop thinking, start DOING!


Getting a clue from the clueless

I’m currently looking for a job.

So naturally, I have been looking at a few job postings in the process. One thing I noticed (nothing spectacular, as you will see) is that companies often add phrases like:

  • minimum experience of X years in … required
  • At least X years of experience with …
  • Degree in … considered an asset

These companies are looking for people with many years of experience, people who know what they are talking about, who have been there and done that. In other words: they are looking for experts.

And that is great. There is nothing wrong or bad about that. Experts are awesome.

But it made me think. It made me think of the quote*: “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got”.

In some cases that is exactly what we want. We want what we always got. We want proven quality. We want reliability. If so, ask the experts.

But sometimes what we need is inspiration. We are looking for innovation. We are stuck and need a new way, some brilliant idea to solve a problem. What we always got is no longer good enough. We need a new perspective.

In that case I would suggest asking a Non-Expert. Someone who hasn’t been there and hasn’t done that. Someone who “doesn’t have a clue”. Someone who “doesn’t really care”. Someone who can offer a fresh look…

Ask someone who “probably doesn’t have a clue” about something they “probably don’t care about” and you will get a response you probably didn’t expect. 
But it might be just the answer you were looking for!

Ask the high school student about his opinion on taxes…
Talk to the mother of five children about project management…
See if the manager next door has some thoughts on meal planning and home cooking…
Start a conversation with anybody about anything…you’ll likely learn something…

They probably won’t give the answers the experts in that field would give.
They may not have the answers needed to solve the problem.
But they might just give you that bit of insight or new perspective you need.

*This quote has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein and a few others. If you know who it came from and have credible evidence I’d love to hear it.

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