‘I’ve had my ups and downs,’ he says. ‘My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection. A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics and a mindset to master the most epic of splits.’ – Jean-Claude Van Damme
Volvo released a commercial ‘The Epic Split’ on Nov 14th, 2013, in which Jean Claude does an amazing feat – does a split between two Volvo trucks. The commercial brings out the precision of the Volvo trucks with perfect clarity. But to me, as an Executive Coach, what was even more fascinating is the feat done by Jean Claude.
As I studied about his life, the two values that he embraced from age 11 were Consistency and Courage. At the age of 11, his father took Jean Claude for martial arts lessons because he was physically weak. At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976-1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in matches.The application and dedication to the sport has contributed significantly to an enviable Hollywood film career for him.
Jean-Claude has struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for a significant period in his life. He had reached a point when he had strong suicidal tendencies. 1997 was a turning point in his life when started to pull things back to normalcy in his life.
As I read about Jean Claude’s life, I was impressed with the way he kept his singular focus on martial arts through his difficult times. This focus gave him the ability to deal with the other circumstances.
As leaders, do you have a purpose, which gives you direction in your life? “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” Rudder is the smallest part of a ship without which a ship is directionless. It takes courage to have a purpose and even more courage to hold on to this purpose through challenging times by consistently altering our mindsets. May we have more leaders like Jean-Claude!
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
At the age of 26 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating and progressive neurological disorder. By age 42 I had to use a wheelchair. The first few years of my life in a wheelchair were an absolute misery. I felt less than other people; I felt that I could not compete in the real world; I felt that my life had come to an end. I was bitter, angry and resentful. I was exhausted and sick.There was nothing that could help me to see the brighter side of life. I saw the wheelchair as a curse.
One significant day in my life, I was having a conversation with my father. I cried to him about the way my life had changed and wept about my stagnancy. My father was a quiet man of very few words. He did not have many motivational conversations with people as he always saw facts and not possibilities. But on this day he saw the possibility that changed my life; he said, “If President Roosevelt could rule America for 12 years in a wheelchair, what is stopping you?” I am not sure that it was earth shattering when he said it but as the days went by it permeated every cell in my being and I went from being in bed for 22 hours in a day to where I am today – traveling the world by myself in a wheelchair doing the work I love. I am an Executive Coach and a Leadership Trainer. I started MMM Training Solutions from my bed 8 years ago and today we have an enviable client list.
The wheelchair I once saw as a curse I now started to see as a blessing. Nothing had changed except my thinking. I moved from a Victim Mindset to a Creator Mindset.
There are two primary mindsets that we can all identify with – the first one is the Victim Mindset where a person with this mindset constantly feels victimized by his circumstances, his work pressures, his boss, his family – just about everyone and everything in his life. The victim mentality sucks the life out of innovative energy and has an excuse for every situation. Victims are addicted to complaining. They spread negative energy and want others to take on the same victim mentality that they are attached to.
The second one is the Creator Mindset where the mind is constantly looking for possibilities and has a single-minded devotion, diligence and dedication to what it wants to achieve. Such people are energized by challenges as they welcome the learning that they get from it.
The fundamental difference between these two types of mindsets is on where the person places their attention & focus:
- For victims the focus is on what they don’t want. People who see themselves as victims feel victimized by everything – the economy, the pollution, lack of time, an illness in the family, a bad childhood…the list just goes on and on and on. Such people rarely rise to new heights in their organization. Most successful leaders have looked into the mirror, recognized a victim mindset, taken steps to shift theirs to a creator mindset and have gone on reach dizzying heights in their personal and professional lives.
- Creators place their focus on what they do want. They ask the questions – “What outcome do I want? How do I get there?” Their goals, targets and purposes are crystal clear. They do not leave this to memory but they write it in significant places, they talk to significant people about it and plan their life around it. This helps them to push through all the vicissitudes of life with their eye on the goal. This is the only mindset of leaders.
“Limitations can only be true as long as we believe them. Believe in yourself instead. Amazing things will happen.” Doe Zantamata
Recently I was running a leadership development program for a group of branch managers of a public sector bank. Repeated requests to turn off or put their cell phones on silent fell on deaf ears. As the session progressed one the issues that quite a few participants voiced was that it was hard to handle generation Y. They said that the new generation had very little respect for the seniors. At this point I asked the participants this question, “I have asked you many times to put your mobile phones on silent and you have not respected my wishes. Is it possible to get the respect of others when you are not doing the same?” There was pregnant silence.
What is leadership training and development about? It is about choosing to live the life that others desire to follow. It is about being authentic and creating the desire in others to live in this authenticity. It is about embracing a life of values and these values being displayed in the smallest of your actions. Is this easy to do? Of course not! But living the life of a warrior is difficult but the life of a coward is decidedly easier. A life of mediocrity is simpler than a life of excellence. What are you choosing? What are you doing to stay on this path of continuous improvement?
Problem Solving Training, Communication Training and Team Building Training– these are buzz words in developing leaders in the training industry. But my point of view is that unless one decides to embark on a path of self-awareness and continuous development none of these trainings will have the desired effect.
Michelangelo who sculpted ‘David’ – a 17 foot robust statue sculpted out of one block of marble with only a chisel and a hammer – had this to say when he was asked how he was able to make such a perfect piece, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
As managers, you are the sculptors who have to see the David in each one of your team members. You have to see their inherent potential, which even they are not aware of and awaken it to be productive. How can you carry this colossal responsibility if you do not live your life authentically?
Hence, I would like to conclude this blog by hoping that you have seen the wisdom in making a decision to be the leader that your people would desire to emulate. Personal development is the focus of the Leadership Training programs that are conducted by MMM Training Solutions.