Read Wide, Lead Deep

Just returned from my weekly trip to the library; also in the stack are a few new acquisitions to my library.


It’s a varied list that’s for sure, but I believe that wide reading develops deep leading.

Look for a few short ideas from these books in the next few days.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

–Haruki Murakami


How to Be Like Walt, Part 1

Growing up in the 60’s, my earliest memories of Walt Disney came through his television shows and movies. Only decades later did I experience the magic of one of his theme parks. Looking back over all those experiences, I realize that in some sense, Walt Disney’s creative genius was equal, if not superior, to another genius of our time – Steve Jobs.

My curiosity led to ongoing research about the man called Walt Disney – and is producing some amazing lessons from his life that are powerful leadership lessons for today.

Walt Disney was more than a man. He is a symbol of the values he represents: imagination, honesty, perseverance, optimism, and vision. He was a creative genius who could visualize a future found only in his dreams – and then make those dreams come true.

Pat Williams

Walt Disney’s life provides powerful lessons that can be applied in any leadership position. Author Pat Williams recognized this, and went behind the legend to discover a man every bit as fascinating as the world he created.

How to Be Like Walt is the result of thousands of hours of interviews of the people who knew Walt best. In addition to being a fascinating life story of one of our nation’s most creative minds, the author has distilled Walt’s life into 17 lessons – lessons that we all could learn from.

Live the Adventure – Walt’s boyhood on a farm near Marceline MO inspired a sense of wonder and imagination that stayed with him throughout his life. He also experienced treatment from his father that by today’s standards would be abusive. Yet he didn’t let those memories dominate; instead, he shaped his life around the warm, nostalgic memories of his boyhood. It doesn’t matter where you came from, or who your parents are, or what happened when you were a child. All that matters is that you are willing to live the adventure and dream big dreams, them make those dreams come true.

Be a Salesman – A deeper look at Walt’s life reveals that from the beginning of his career, he was a salesman – one of the greatest salesman the world has ever known. He worked hard and sold his ideas from the earliest days of his career. Walt had the right idea and the right spirit, and he was willing to go out and sell his ideas, even when faced with huge challenges. A great salesman can’t be stopped. Be honest, enthusiastic, confident, courageous and persistent. Sell your dreams, and make them come true.

Dare to Do the Impossible – Walt returned from France after WWI and believed that anything was possible. He was audacious enough to believe that an 18-year old with one year of art school could go to a newspaper and get a job as a political cartoonist. He was brash enough to believe that he could teach animation to other artists – after learning to animate after reading two books checked out from the library. He was reckless enough that, after going bankrupt in Kansas City he went to Hollywood to start over in animated cartoons when all the animation studios were in New York City. Dare to do the impossible. Dream big dreams, and don’t be surprised when your impossible dreams come true.

Unleash Your Imagination – After losing the rights to his first cartoon creation (Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), Walt responded with imagination. In effect, he said “I’ll solve this problem by creating something new, something the world has never seen before.” So Walt created Mickey Mouse. Walt had an astounding creative awareness. He not only stored up ideas and material in his mind, but he was alert to ideas from the world around him. He had the ability to expand a good idea into a spectacular idea.

Tomorrow: How to Be Like Walt, Part 2 

My favorite post from July, 2012

My Big Toe, I Corinthians 12, and the Body of Christ

You’ve seen it hundreds of times in spy movies, or read about it in a book. The hero, after fighting off dozens of bad guys, is finally knocked unconscious, awakening in a dimly lit, cold, dank dungeon. A truly evil face is staring at him as he regains consciousness. “You think you can resist us, but you will change your mind once we begin pulling out your nails, one by one.”

Okay, maybe a little heavy there.

For the last two weeks, I have been self-treating an ingrown toenail on my big toe. Over the past weekend, the pain began to override the every four hours of Advil, and my OTC meds weren’t making a dent. I called my doctor Monday morning to see if he would refer me to a specialist. “No problem,” his nurse said, “He does these all the time. We can see you tomorrow.”

With only a little trepidation (especially after almost passing out this morning after bumping my toe on the bedpost), I greeted my doctor and showed him the toe. With a sly grin that masked the truly evil person he is, he barely touched the toe and said “Does this hurt?” After coming down off the ceiling, I managed to nod. (The preceding sentence is just hyperbole – my doctor is a great guy, has been for the 17+ years I have known him, and furthermore, is my age. Somehow it is comforting to know your doctor really understands what’s going on in your middle-age body).

He then said, “That nail has got to come off so we can treat the whole problem, not just the pain. Are you game?” (Flashback to all those movies)

My reply? “As long as anesthesia is involved, and the end result is the pain going away, I’m good for whatever you recommend.”

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (I Corinthians 12:12-26)

It might have just been a pain in my big toe, but one thing led to another, and before long my whole body was involved:

  • Shifting weight off the front of my foot caused my heel to hurt
  • To relieve the heel pain, I altered my stride while walking
  • Before long, my back began to ache
  • With an achy back, I could not sit in my usual work position
  • With the toe sensitive to even the lightest touch, I did not sleep well
  • Taking 400mg of Advil every 3-4 hours around the clock for 2+ weeks eventually has its own issues

Who knew what big problems a little toe could cause?

In a sense, that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul was talking about in the passage above.

The gathered believers are the Body of Christ, and like the human body, have different roles to play in a healthy Body. When everyone is doing their part, the Body is functioning as it was intended.

But when one part of the Body is not working as it was designed, the whole Body suffers.

God created each believer with as specific role and gifting. If you are not fulfilling that role and using your gift, the Body suffers.

What’s your role?

What’s your gift?

Are you contributing to a whole, healthy Body? Or is your absence causing the Body to suffer?

Welcome to Readers Week, 2012!

This Might Work cover

Today kicks off an annual tradition: taking a look at why reading is important for leaders, hearing from leaders on reading, and announcing my version of the best books of 2012.

And there’s no better way to start it off with a little make that a lot of Seth Godin…

Yesterday I met our mailman at the door with a not too happy look on his face. In addition to the increased volume of holiday mail, he was straining to carry a large, heavy box – one I have been anticipating since mid-summer:

Seth Godin’s latest work, This Might Work, is a huge behemoth of a book weighing in at 15.4 pounds and measuring 15x11x3 inches. It contains Seth’s incomparable blog posts from 2006-2012, curated by his most avid follower, Bernadette Jiwa. Jiwa is an Australian writer and Seth’s only choice to undertake this Herculean task.

She succeeded.

Here is her choice for the opening page, from Seth’s blog on May 20, 2004:

Five years from now…

Assume that:

Hard drive space is free

Wifi like connections are everywhere

Connections speeds are 10 to 100 times faster

Everyone has a digital camera

Everyone carries a device that is sort of like a laptop, but cheap and tiny

The number of new products introduced every day is five times greater than now

Wal-Mart’s sales are three times as big

Any manufactured product that’s more than five years old in design sells at commodity pricing

The retirement age will be five years higher than it is now

Your current profession will either be gone or totally different
What then?

Classic Seth Godin…

Also in the package was Seth’s latest normal book, The Icarus Deception, due out on 12/31. Continuing with the theme he first introduced in Linchpin, Godin shows how we can thrive in an economy that rewards art, not compliance. He explains why true innovators focus on trust, remarkability, leadership, and stories that spread. And he makes a passionate argument for why you should be treating your work as art. A review will be coming soon!

In a few sentences above, this is why leaders read..

And why you should, too.

Next: Thomas Edison on Reading

How Are You Celebrating “Evaluate Your Life Day?”

I haven’t been to the Hallmark store to see if there’s a card for it, but today is apparently “Evaluate Your Life” day. Being reminded to reflect on your life – where it is, where you want it to go – can be a valuable exercise. In the spirit of that thought, here’s a repost from an earlier series called “Brand You.”

Very Old New Job Security

Tom Peters was one of the early leaders of the “Brand You” movement. First writing about it in Fast Company magazine, he soon expanded into a series of books. Writing in “The Brand You 50”, Peters has the following comments about job security:

Job security – as we have known it – is vanishing.

So…what now?

My answer: Return to Job Security. Actually, it’s Very Old New Job Security.

It’s what job security was all about before – long before – Big Corporations. Before Social Security. And unemployment insurance. Before there was a big so-called safety net that had the unintended consequence of sucking the initiative, drive, and moxie out of millions of white-collar workers.

I’m talking about job security in the Colonies and in the first century after our country was founded. Which was:

  • Craft
  • Distinction
  • Networking skills

Craft = marketable skill… Determination = Memorable. Networking Skills = Word of Mouth Collegial Support.

It’s about being so good and meticulous and responsible, about what you do (and making sure that what you do is work that needs to be done) that the world taps a speed path to your laptop (or mobile phone – or iPad).

My modern-language term for this ancient, self-reliant, networked, word-of-mouth-dependent, distinguished craftsperson: Brand You.

What are you doing to create “Brand You?”


Other Brand You posts you might be interested in:


Developing Your “Brand You”

All leaders are in sales.

You may not be selling a widget or a gizmo, but you are “selling” vision and ideas and momentum, and dozens of other powerful intangibles that are very real.

One of the keys to being successful in sales is being memorable. One important way to be memorable is to have a personal brand. Valerie Sokolosky, an executive coach, recommends that professionals build personal brand equity in the following 5 ways:

Brand yourself through your professional presence. First impressions count! What messages are your clothes, grooming, and posture presenting? Your outside appearance speaks volumes before you even open your mouth.

Brand yourself as a valued partner. What do you know about the group you are leading or the project you are trying to tackle? Take time to do research on the people, places, and process involved, and when you lead, you will be doing it from a solid knowledge base.

Brand yourself with strong communication skills. Learn how to quickly gauge the people and environment you are in. Is it appropriate for small talk first or is it time to get right to business?

Brand yourself by staying one step ahead. Anticipate what the group wants or needs. Anticipate what may be going on in the team. Be fully prepared for questions, and always be truthful when you’re asked something you don’t know. “I don’t know but I’ll find out” is always an acceptable answer.

Brand yourself as being socially savvy. In today’s world that means both interpersonal and digital skills. Be a good conversationalist, mixing and mingling as appropriate. Ask open-ended questions, and really listen.


How are you going to develop Brand You today?


Do You Have a Magnetic Personality?

Careful about that… 

Some people just naturally draw others to them. What’s it take to be magnetic? John Maxwell suggests these characteristics as displayed in the life of Peter:

  • Confidence – Peter displayed poise and optimism as a communicator
  • Conviction – Peter knew where he was going and what he had to say
  • Connection – Peter focused not on himself but on others
  • Compassion – Peter exuded warmth and love

When Peter ended his message in Acts 2, everyone asked “What shall we do?” They felt motivated and ready to act. God used Peter’s charisma like a magnet.

Just remember that magnets have the unique properties to both attract and repel!

Over in 1 Kings 19, Ahab and Jezebel demonstrated some roadblocks to attracting people. Characteristics like:

  • Pride
  • Insecurity
  • Moodiness
  • Selfishness
  • Perfectionism
  • Cynicism

If you exhibit characteristics like these very long, you will find yourself repelling people from you.

I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly the type of magnetic personality you were thinking of.

How to Be Like Walt, Part 2

Walt Disney had a burning desire for excellence in everything he did. He was always thinking, ‘We can do it better.’ That’s a common trait of all successful people.

Royal Clark, former treasurer of WED Enterprises

Walt Disney’s life provides powerful lessons that can be applied in any leadership position. Author Pat Williams recognized this, and went behind the legend to discover a man every bit as fascinating as the world he created.

How to Be Like Walt is the result of thousands of hours of interviews of the people who knew Walt best. In addition to being a fascinating life story of one of our nation’s most creative minds, the author has distilled Walt’s life into 17 lessons – lessons that we all could learn from. I introduced the topic yesterday; here are a few more:

Plus Every Experience: Sometime during the 1940s, Walt coined the term “plussing.” Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, as in “two plus two equals four.” But Walt used the word as a verb – an action word. To “plus” something is to improve it. “Plussing” means giving your guests more than they paid for, more than they expect, more than you have to give them. No matter what “business” you are in, your success depends on your commitment to excellence and attention to detail. If you deliver more than people expect, you will turn people into fans. Pursue excellence in everything you do.

Be a Person of Stick-to-it-ivity: Today we look at Disneyland and say, “Of course! Just what the world needed. How could it miss?” But in 1955, Disneyland was the biggest gamble in the history of American business. The risk paid off – not because Walt was lucky or favored or a genius. It paid off because Walt wouldn’t quit. The success of Disneyland is, first and foremost, the result of sheer dogged determination and persistence in the face of obstacles and opposition. In his own words, “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right.”

Become Like a Sponge for Ideas: Walt continually fed his mind with information and ideas. He absorbed inspiration wherever he went. If you want to be like Walt – more creative, more imaginative, and more successful – then keep your eyes and ears open. Read. Watch. Travel. Talk to people wherever you go. Ask questions. Invite opinions. Become a sponge for ideas.

Ask Yourself “How About Tomorrow?”: Walt embraced the future and put the stamp of his own personality on tomorrow. If we want to help shape a better tomorrow, then we need to continually ask ourselves the same question Walt asked Ray Bradbury: “How about tomorrow?” The difference between today and tomorrow is something called change. It takes courage to embrace the future, because the future is about change, and change brings uncertainty and anxiety. We fear change; we prefer the comfort of the familiar. But change is inevitable. If we do not become future-focused, we are doomed to obsolescence when tomorrow arrives. There are so many possible futures – which one will you choose?

Here are the rest of the author’s “How to Be Like Walt” lessons:

  • Become an Animated Leader
  • Take a Risk
  • Dealing with Loss
  • Live for the Next Generation
  • Build Complementary Partnerships
  • Stay Focused
  • Accept Your Mortality
  • Make Your Family Your Top Priority
  • Be the Person God Made You to Be

Each of the 17 lessons in the book are richly illustrated with stories by and about Walt Disney. I encourage you to get a copy and prepare to be delighted – and challenged.

Walt’s life challenges us to dream bigger, reach higher, work harder, risk more, and persevere as long as it takes. That is the rich legacy Walt Disney left us. That is the supreme lesson of his endlessly instructive life. The riches of an incredible, adventure-filled life are within our grasp – if we will dare to be like Walt.

Pat Williams

If you liked these two posts, here a few more select Disney-related posts:

The Secret of Disney World

Top Ten Takeaways from Our Disney World Adventure

Understanding Guests Like Disney

2 Questions for Your Consideration

Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and author of the book “Rules of Thumb“, thinks every leader needs to keep 2 lists:

  • What gets you up in the morning?
  • What keeps you up at night?

There is a lot for leaders to think about in those two sentences. Here is a summary of  Webber’s challenges:

Some people just have jobs. Others have something they really work at.

Some people are just occupied. Others have something that preoccupies them.

It makes all the difference in the world.

Consider this: you spend at least eight hours a day working, five days a week. A minimum of forty hours a week for at least forty-eight to fifty weeks a year. That’s a minimum of 1,920 hours a year. For how many years? You do the math.

What gets you up in the morning?

The level of energy put out by an organization’s people is one of the things that you are aware of as soon as you enter their space. There’s a buzz in the air (sometimes literally) created by people who are working  hard and working together. They want to be there – they came in ready to go.

What keeps you up at night?

This is a chance to be honest with yourself. Many times leaders rarely get a chance to reflect on the things that really matter to the organization’s goals. Most of the time, day-to-day urgent concerns crowd out broader issues that are the really important ones. The things that often keep leaders up are the things that never seem to find the time or place for serious engagement in the course of an ordinary workday.

We all want to do work that excites us. We want to care about things that concern us. So, about that list…

Take out a stack of three-by-five cards. Use one to write down the answer to the question “What gets you up in the morning?” Keep it to one sentence. If you don’t like your answer, throw away the card and start over – it’s only a card. Keep doing it until you’ve got an answer you can live with.

Now repeat the exercise for the question “What keeps you up at night?” Work at it until you’ve got an honest answer.

Now read your answers out loud to yourself. If you like them – if they give you a sense of purpose and direction – congratulations! Use them as a compass, checking from time to time to see if they’re still true.

If you don’t like one or both of your answers, you have a new question to consider: What are you going to do about it?

Whatever your answers are, you’re spending almost two thousand hours a year of your life doing it.

That makes it worthwhile to come up with answers you can not only live with but also live for.

The Power of a Word

The immediate reaction is the only reaction that matters.

When we meet someone new, when we introduce a new thought into a conversation, when we send a text, we are making a first impression.

As soon as we do that, people begin to make judgments about us – the same way we are making judgments about them. We may not intend to and they are mostly subconscious, but we are making them nevertheless.

You’ve probably heard the saying – “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.

It’s right.

What will your “first impression” be today? To your spouse, children, or other family members? To your boss, employees, or co-workers? To the neighbors walking the dog? To the barista at the coffee shop? To the checkout person in a long line at the store? And so on…

Make your first impression your best impression.

It may be the only one you will ever make with that person – and it may be a life-changing one.