Family leadership

Don't wait for the perfect moment | | Photo courtesy of (27794209 by martiapunts) Don’t wait for the perfect moment | | Photo courtesy of (27794209 by martiapunts)

Who you are in your personal time directly affects who you are professionally.

You either have the discipline of consistently adding value and energy, or you don’t. If you are an Energy Drainer with family and friends, it’s unlikely you are an Energy Leader in your work.

By “your work,” I don’t just mean your occupation, but any way in which you contribute value to the world using your available resources. This, of course, includes every task you do and project you engage in, but also every time you encourage someone else or contribute to a relationship, every instance in which you make an effort to grow your skills or develop your mind, or every time you go the extra mile even though you are exhausted. Your body of work comprises the sum total of where you choose to place your limited focus, assets, resources, time, and energy. For the purpose of this book, I will define work as any instance where you make an effort to create value where it didn’t previously exist. ~ Todd Henry, Die Empty

One of the best ways to develop the consistent discipline of adding energy is to be aware and take advantage of opportunities in your daily life to create a perfect moment.

What Is a “Perfect Moment”?

A couple years ago, I read Michael Hyatt’s description of the perfect moment, which is essentially an informal, unspoken purpose or goal for time spent with friends or family. Michael had learned the “perfect moment” principle from Eugene O’Kelly’s book Chasing Daylight.

According to O’Kelly, a perfect moment is an experience with others when time stands still. It is a time full of the present, when the past is left behind and the future is set aside. It is a special time of focused attention and heightened awareness. Interruptions and distractions are consciously excluded. Cell phones are off. Hearts are wide open. All that matters is this moment—the people I am with and the conversation we are having now.

At first, I thought it seemed overly “Type A” to set a goal for what you want to accomplish with leisure time with friends and family. But upon reflection after a many of those occasions, I noticed that several of them were rather … blah. Sometimes, I had been too focused on having a good time myself, or monopolized a conversation, or made too many jokes at someone else’s expense, or created negative energy by complaining about little problems like the slow restaurant service we were receiving. Aren’t those times with family and friends worthy of being intentional … don’t they have the potential to be truly precious on a fairly consistent basis, rather than taking a hit-or-miss approach and hoping the time will be well spent?

Putting It into Practice

At first for me, striving for a perfect moment often seemed forced and artificial – as if I were applying specific tactics to what should simply be a relaxed time of authenticity. Over time, however, it simply became an ethic for me, and I didn’t need to think about it as much – I simply became more likely to notice when I was acting contrary to my ethic, and then tried to correct myself.

For example, recently I spent a few days with my in-laws. The setting was imperfect; most of us were tired from traveling (nearly everyone had spent at least a full day reaching the gathering place), several of us were coping with mild illnesses, young children were bouncing off the walls, and the wide range of ages and interests meant frequent disagreement on what the group wanted to do at any given moment (Go out for dinner? If so, where?). Sometimes I was tempted to write off the time as simply a moment to endure, or I was tempted to give in to frustration, boredom, or distraction into my smartphone. (OK, I’ll admit to the smartphone).

And in case you didn’t catch the key word in the paragraph above, I’ll repeat it: in-laws.

But guess what? Over those few days, I ended up experiencing several perfect moments. I discovered that my two brothers-in-law and I have a mutual interest in history and biographies; I never knew that we could talk for hours about books we had recently read. My sister-in-law and I talked shop, comparing experiences from her law firm and from my consulting firm. From my mother-in-law, a professional musician and music teacher, I learned the music theory behind the famous five-note “alien communication” riff in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (parodied 30 years later in a scene that I delighted in explaining to my kids in 2009’s Monsters vs. Aliens). I re-connected with my wife’s aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I noticed for the first time how most marriages on that side of the family have thrived for 20-40 years or more. I told one of the teenage kids about a personal frustration, and I was blown away by the wise response I received. And I was surprised to see how all the kids had grown so smart and personable since I last saw them.

Take the Moment

Don't wait for the perfect moment | | Photo courtesy of (10146004 by digitex)Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect.

Here are six keys that help create a perfect moment:

  • Stay in the “now.” Be fully present with the people you care about. Don’t let your mind wander to yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s problems.
  • Focus on adding energy. Be an Energy Leader, not an Energy Drainer. However, this does not mean you need to act like Pollyanna, avoiding charged topics and presenting yourself as perfectly happy.
  • Be real. Breezy small talk and fake positivism don’t create real connections. Author and executive coach Akim Nowak recommends being willing to reveal something intimate about yourself, if you have a hunch it will advance the conversation and allow others to be authentic too. And be comfortable discussing controversial topics, he says, because “having the confidence to disagree, explore points of conflict, and learn new points of view elevates the quality of our relationships.”
  • Be curious. It’s amazing how much energy and connection is created by asking genuine learning questions.
  • Be helpful and generous with your attention and energy. As the saying goes, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Focusing too much on creating a perfect moment for yourself is a one-way ticket to regret and unhappiness. Unless you’re in solitude, a perfect moment is always experienced mutually. As Erin and I trained our kids to ask themselves when they were playing together, “Is everyone having fun?” (This is not to suggest that you are responsible for the happiness of everyone in the room; this is simply a lens to guide your interactions with the people around you.)
  • Lighten up. Some people reading this might start stressing at every social interaction that seems imperfect. That’s already a sign that you are focusing on yourself. I’m talking about creating perfect moments, not about being perfect … this is just about being intentional with your time, energy, and focus. Enjoy the people you are with!

What “perfect moment” have you experienced recently? Was it purely a random thing? If not, how did you or others take the moment and make it perfect? I’d love your thoughts!

Quick note: For other ways to be a leader in every area of life, you may be interested in my free e-book.

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!


Re-discover Your Treasure

by Jesse Lahey on April 24, 2013

Rediscover Your Treasure | Photo courtesy of depositphotos (Ivan Krayev #17768413)

Picture this: You walk into a house that is 100% neat and tidy, except for a T-shirt lying on the kitchen floor. What catches your attention? For most of us, we will notice the T-shirt … one very minor imperfection in an otherwise perfect home.

Chalk it up to human nature. But let’s not allow that “fact of life” to cause us to focus on the minor imperfections of the people with whom we live and work.

Treasure Re-discovered

Four years ago, I recognized I was taking for granted some important things about my wife Erin. When I stopped to think about it, I couldn’t imagine anyone being more perfectly suited to me. And I couldn’t think of anyone else in the entire world with whom I’d so enjoy sharing my life. I decided it would be helpful for me to jot down a list of reasons why I love and admire her. By occasionally looking at this list, I hoped to be less likely to take her for granted, less likely to feel bothered by the occasional small issues, and more appreciative of her impact on me.

I reviewed and added to the list a few times that year – but then I lost it. Today, I was excited to stumble on that old list. I read through it and was reminded once again that I’ve been blessed with a life partner way beyond what I deserve.

What if you kept a similar list for the important people in your life – including those you work with?

A Few of My Favorite Things about My Wife

I share my list here, though I feel a bit vulnerable because it’s so personal for me. In my awkward expressions of how I feel about the most important person in the world to me, what if I say something that could be misinterpreted by someone without full context? But perhaps there will be someone who reads this – maybe YOU – who is encouraged to recognize the treasure in your own backyard.

  • Has personal values that fit well with mine
  • Creative … nearly always has a project going on
  • Likes to read
  • Nearly always learning and trying new things
  • Loves God
  • Very smart … I usually feel a lot more confident when I solicit her thoughts
  • Enjoys being alone with me
  • Athletic … likes to do yoga, weights, exercise videos, cross-country ski, ice-skate, hike, canoe, ride horses, and sometimes gets on a jogging kick
  • Looks great (to say the least!)
  • Invests in exercise and eating right to keep looking great (I like to think this is for my benefit)
  • Not too materialistic … for example, although every other woman we know had a cell phone, she gave up her cell phone for five years as I started my business and we paid off our home mortgage
  • Not overly concerned with looking perfect … for example, doesn’t get uptight if her hair gets messed up or if she isn’t wearing the latest fashions
  • Likes me and enjoys doing things with me
  • Similar sense of humor as me
  • Willing to stay at home and raise our kids
  • Excels at homeschooling our kids
  • Fantastic cook … and keeps expanding her repertoire
  • Raising my daughters to be capable, happy, strong women
  • More sympathetic than I am when our kids have problems
  • Well-read and knowledgeable on a variety of topics
  • Prevailing attitude is cheerful, optimistic, and strong
  • Willing to make sacrifices for the sake of other people and the gospel
  • Lets me snuggle up to her at night … and always has warm feet (and did I mention that her feet are cute?)
  • Still fun to kiss after all these years
  • Cheerful eyes
  • Willing to wear her hair long, like I like it best
  • Willing to humor my superficial requests like wearing perfume for special occasions
  • A great mother … loving, but not a pushover
  • Frugal … willing to buy second-hand clothes and furniture, drive extra miles to the less-expensive grocery store, etc.
  • Health conscious … buys quality, wholesome food and even raises her own
  • Wife of my youth … what a history we have together!
  • Not given to fads, whether worldly or “Christian”
  • Doesn’t do things that I see or hear about other people’s spouses doing that would probably bother me, such as:
    • Bringing up various men to compare me with
    • Vying to be our kids’ favorite parent
    • Bringing up old grievances or calling to mind my past blunders
    • Watching a lot of TV
    • Reading trashy books or magazines
    • Having crushes on celebrity men
    • Focusing on partying with friends rather than enjoying our family
    • Being controlled by an addiction
    • Maintaining close relationships with other guys
  • Lovely voice to listen to when she talks or sings
  • Tidy and organized, especially for a mother of four children
  • Minimizes her time on the computer, and in particular reserving it for when the kids don’t need her attention (this is difficult, because where we live the Internet is the primary way to get information and  shop wisely, but I think it makes a world of difference in our home)
  • Willing to consider doing things or change certain things when I ask her, even though she doesn’t want to. For example, grocery shopping was a huge weekly ordeal that was getting in the way of my work productivity because I need to mind some of the kids while she is gone for most of the day. She switched to twice-weekly, and even shifted the time of day so less of the workday is affected. It takes humility to respond to such a request, not to mention consideration and self-sacrifice.
  • Forgives and forgets. Next to God, she is the one who most knows about the times I’ve been a big jerk. Like God, she forgives me, still loves me, and still has high hopes for me. It’s amazing to me that she doesn’t keep bringing up some major screw-ups I’ve done in the past.
  • When it comes to money, I am by nature a saver, where she is more of a free spirit. While this sometimes causes friction, she never treats me like a tightwad. We discuss things and generally come to a mutual decision. I say “generally” because sometimes the thriftier person (which could be Erin if we’re talking about something I want to spend money on) seems to have veto power due to the reality that we only have so much money; in those cases, it’s not exactly mutually decided, but we both accept the decision. Anyway, it would be easy for Erin to manipulate or play a martyr often by rolling her eyes and saying, “You’re just a cheapskate” or “Don’t bother asking Daddy, because he hates spending money.” By treating me with respect, she gives me the freedom to carefully think about what’s best for the family (which often involves spending more money than feels right, but hey — I’m a tightwad).
  • I mentioned above that Erin is a great cook, but it deserves special mention that she often makes up a new dish or dessert. To me, that makes eating at home continually feel special and as exciting as going to a restaurant.
  • It really feels nice when she does something just for me, like paint her toenails or wear her hair a certain way or buy something that she knows I like. Those thoughtful moments bring a feeling akin to when we were dating — what a thrill that someone so awesome cares about me!
  • If we both have errands around town or in another town, she tries to arrange schedules so we can ride together, even if driving separately would be more efficient. How cool is it that she likes to spend time with me?
  • She has the flexibility and patience to play along with a guy who likes change.

Would your life or impact be improved if you kept a similar list for the people who matter most? 

 Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and the managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.


022: Messages They Need to Hear from You

January 31, 2013

Messages drive thoughts, which drive actions, which drive results. To get the outcome you want, many leaders start with training certain actions or behaviors to their people. But researchers at Burnham Rosen Group have discovered that it’s more effective to train people to think differently, because the right thoughts will lead to the right actions. […]

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11 Messages to Inspire Your Kids (and Other People You Lead)

January 30, 2013

You may have heard the phrase “thoughts become things.” What people think about often becomes actual reality in their life. Many parents and other leaders don’t have this figured out. They believe that actions/behaviors becomes things, so they focus their time on training and reinforcing the actions and behaviors they want to see from their […]

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Fueling Their 5-Stroke Engine: How to Win Lovers and Influence Co-workers

August 21, 2012

Cars have a four-stroke (or “four-cylinder”) engine, and lawn mowers have a two-stroke engine. But did you know that people have a five-stroke engine? “It doesn’t feel like you love me when you hardly even appreciate me,” my wife told me. “I do some pretty amazing things, but to you they’re only worth a mildly […]

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