A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be a passenger in my friend’s Porsche 911 as he demonstrated how fast going from zero to 60 MPH in less than 3 seconds feels. And I will share with you that it was quite exhilarating.

In late 2020, I was reminded that I would be turning 59 years old this year. And then it dawned on me, I would be turning 60 in 2022. Simple math right. Where has the time gone — I mean sometimes it feels like I went from 0 to 59 years old in 3 seconds too. And then I remembered a famous quote by Michael Altshuler,

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

Michael Altshuler

When I realized that I had 60 weeks to go until I turned 60, I knew I could no longer be a passenger, I had to get into the cockpit and take control over what happens next. With that inspiration, I wrote out my “60 to 60 Success Plan for Life.” The plan was built around one primary question,

“How do I want to arrive to the party when I turn 60?”

I will share with you that as I developed my plan, I solicited feedback from family members, friends and advisers. And although my personal plan was a “60 weeks to 60 years old” plan, I had people ask me to help them with their “30 weeks to turning 30 years old” plan, “42 days to turning 42 years old,” and someone who wanted help with a “30, 60, 90-day success” plan that had nothing to do with reaching an age milestone, and everything to do with making changes in their life that would help them to succeed personally and professionally.

Here are the elements of my 60 to 60 plan that I shared with others. You will recognize activities, concepts, and attitudinal adjustments around the things that I either wanted to change and would commit to change, or new strategies that would help me execute against my plan and reach my desired goals…

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What do we tend to enjoy more, remembering our greatest hits, our “best of” moments, or our bloopers? It seems like most of the people I asked preferred to reflect on their greatest hits and most significant accomplishments. However, there were also many people who shared that they love to laugh, even when it means laughing at themselves. They completely enjoy their flashbacks of mistakes, gaffs, and harmless miscues of life.

We all have a replay button for our lives. It’s what we choose to rewind and replay, and what we want to repeat, or perhaps, avoid repeating in the future.

I think it is a fantastic idea to look back on past successes, especially as a way of reminding ourselves of the good things we have accomplished and what we are still capable of achieving. I also am a big believer of looking back in laughter. Those times where we innocently tried to say something and used the wrong words, made a silly analogy, or know that we uttered something outrageously wrong. Others laughed with us, and we still laugh at ourselves today…

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Before we completely turn the page and allow last week’s Thanksgiving holiday to pass us by, I wanted to take a moment to thank every one of you who have done your very best to truly focus on what you have been most grateful for this past year.

You may not think it matters, but I can assure you that your sense of gratitude and appreciation never goes unnoticed.

And as we roll into the new year, I firmly believe that it is our gratitude and appreciation for the three C’s that may still be ahead of us —

Challenges, Chaos, and Confusion —

That will make the difference. I know that these don’t sound like “Winning Words,” but they are, and let me explain and why I see them as game-changers.

If we had to list all the challenges or difficulties that we have witnessed or that we are experiencing personally, we would have a very lengthy list. Collectively the list would seem insurmountable. So why would I intimate that a challenge is something we should be grateful for? It’s because in every challenge we see someone who emerges and goes out of their way to help someone else. We see people sharing God’s love, pursuing God’s will, doing God’s work, and doing it for all of God’s people…

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One question that I seem to be getting more of these days is around motivation. Not only are people asking how to get motivated, but they are also asking how they can stay motivated.

People often say that motivation doesn’t really last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar

Ziglar certainly knew a lot about how to motivate us and more importantly how to keep us motivated. And he would also be the first one to remind us that motivation is temporary unless it is coupled with action. It is one thing to be motivated about setting a goal or getting inspired by the thought of a new project, and it is something completely different in taking the actions necessary to achieve our goals or complete our projects.

Sometimes we can use a motivated mindset as the spark that leads us to take the actions necessary for our productivity or success.

For some of us, this is how we are wired. When we are feeling good and life is better than good, finding sources of motivation is easy, our creativity is inspired, we are filled with hope, and we end up crushing our tasks and to-do lists. When we are feeling motivated, we may exercise a little longer and push a little harder.

When we are feeling motivated, we may make better choices in what we do, what we eat, and how we treat our bodies.

But what happens when we aren’t feeling so good, or when life isn’t going quite the way we want it to be going? What happens when we really don’t feel like exercising, going to work, or staying on our eating plan?

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… where hope begins.

Over the last 12 years, I have now written 600 published columns. Additionally, I have posted thousands of messages through social media and have been on podcasts, radio interviews, and have appeared as a keynote speaker numerous times here in the states as well as around the globe.

I continue to be humbled by these opportunities to connect with you.

So first, let me say thank you to all of you who send me emails and messages, I sincerely appreciate you all and love our exchanges. Happily, most of our exchanges are extremely positive, after all the column is called “Winning Words.” There is a percentage of our readers who love to challenge me on a thought or an idea that I had shared, and in most cases, it is a very healthy and engaging dialogue. And then there are a few people who try and provoke an argument, all I can say is that sometimes we just have a difference of opinion.

So here in column number 600, I wanted to answer a couple of questions, and sometimes concerns, that I have received from our community. I am often asked why I have not taken a stance or a position on a sensitive topic. Some even suggesting that my silence must clearly define how I really feel or intimating that I have always stayed right down the middle, not choosing sides so that I do not offend anyone. And a part of this is very true as my goal is never to offend anyone but to encourage everyone.

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There are certainly plenty of reasons for us to want 2020 to be a distant memory. The pandemic, the heartache of lives lost, the impact it had on our family and friends who suffered and recovered, and the economic burden and stress the pandemic created for so many individuals and businesses.

Layer on top of the pandemic the social unrest gripping our country, a very heated and contentious election year, one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record that left a wake of devastation, and hundreds of wildfires that burned out of control bringing more death and destruction.

It’s no wonder why many are hoping Jan. 1, 2021, gets here sooner rather than later.

There were some very real and horrific events that took place this year. The losses, hurt, damage, chaos, and confusion. Each one has been unnerving and unsettling, to say the least. And as with any event or season of life, the hope is that we will take something away from the experiences, even the pain. That we will learn from the failures and the mistakes that we made along the way. That we will not only learn, but that we will make the changes and adjustments that will bring lasting change, greater opportunities, a sense of calm, healing and hope, and a kinder society.

As I was taking a drive this past weekend, I heard Billy Joel’s song, “This is the Time.” As I reflected on the song lyrics, I thought, “Why is this the time to remember?”

Then my thinking shifted.

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There is a guiding principle that I am sure many of you are familiar with and may have put into practice in your daily communications. It’s the principle that Stephen Covey shared in his bestselling book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

This is a terrific concept that sounds awesome, and one that could easily add value to the conversations we are having and to the relationships we are building. If this is true, why isn’t this something that we practice more often?

Is it because we want to be the one doing most of the talking?

Is it because we are so convicted in our belief or position on a particular subject that we don’t want to give voice to a different way of thinking?

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Are you currently working with someone who you admire and respect as a leader? Have they been able to provide guidance to you and your organization as they navigate change and work hard to keep up with the rush and crush of challenges and opportunities? What traits stand out to you?

Over the course of my career, I have been blessed to work with great leadership. Some of the leaders were managers, chief executive officers, or business owners, all of who provided terrific insights and contributed wisdom that furthered my own leadership journey. Other leaders were part of business groups, mentoring, and coaching relationships and some were, and are, close friends.

Through my experiences and through these relationships, here’s one of the lessons that I learned and have shared with people who have been a part of the teams I have personally led. It’s something that was demonstrated to me by some of the most influential managers and leaders I had the privilege of working with. It’s the idea of providing people with information that they can put to use immediately to help solve a problem, increase performance, and improve productivity. Not information overload, or simply theory, but actionable guidance that slowly builds the strengths and capabilities of individuals over a sustained period of time as they practice and apply the guidance given.

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“You were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness,” — Zig Ziglar.

Imagine waking up every day, reminding ourselves of Zig’s quote above. How would it change our morning? How would it shape our tasks, our job, and the way we engage with others? And what would happen if we revisited the quote when we end our workday and enjoy our time with family and friends? And how about remembering the quote and repeating it to ourselves right before we go to bed, what would our state of mind be as we drift off to sleep?

Well, when I started incorporating this quote and the meaning behind it in my daily routine, it made all the difference in the world. I found myself being more creative and innovative. As I reviewed my projects for the day, I felt empowered and only saw myself as achieving success.

This quote and others that are similar in meaning have been around for decades. Some of us choose to lean on motivational quotes like Zig’s, and believe every word of it, drawing inspiration from the powerful words to fuel our day. Others may appreciate motivational quotes initially and remember a few of their favorites word for word. Sooner or later, that sensation of appreciation for the motivating words wears off over time, never going deep enough to become part of their belief system…

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Having always been a proponent of the leadership concept, slowing down to speed up, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.  I learned this concept early in my career as a young manager and professional trainer and facilitator of the Ken Blanchard “Situational Leadership” curriculum.  Having spent four amazing years traveling the globe facilitating leadership training for my organization, I had the privilege of meeting some inspiring leaders.

Regardless of the country or the culture of the location, we had meaningful discussions about the positive impact of taking time to develop our people and the tug of middle managers and C-Level leaders to spend time on coaching and training versus doing their day job; everyone left with the best of intentions to take more time to slow down.  Some being really very successful at the implementation of this concept and something I set out to master myself.

Working in a remote office for almost 10 years taught me a lot, so this ‘new normal’ is actually not so new for me.  Back then, I was challenged by the very leaders that sent me into our company to teach others about leadership. Their belief was that leadership could not be successful remotely.  So, I had to prove them wrong. A great leader is a great leader whether they work on-site or remotely. It’s not their physical presence that makes them great, it is simply their presence. And that presence can be achieved remotely.

Here’s a tip to be effective remotely as a leader, if you haven’t done so already, get in a routine and stick to it.  It helps a lot.  I was laser-focused on implementing innovative ways to stay connected to my team to coach, mentor, and train them.  For three years, my team and I were two time zones apart.  I was new as their leader, so I needed to find and use effective ways to stay connected and communicate consistently.  All calls were virtual so I could see their body language and the activity in the office when we talked through their challenges.  They didn’t love it at first, but it was so critical, and it really helped me to connect with them have a clear picture on what they were personally experiencing.  We also used shared technologies so I could have access to information when they were already at home spending time with their family while I wrapped up my workday.  The key here is having a routine and a cadence and sticking to it.

Over time, maybe like the rest of you, time to coach and develop others seemed to slip away and the crush of the 24/7 workweek got the best of me as the world progressed on virtual offices and virtual interactions at all times of day and night.  Looking back, we were literally working at all times of day and night.  In hindsight, when was I slowing down to speed up?  I wasn’t.  What that really meant was that my team wasn’t getting all of me as their leader.  Yes, we still got the job done (and then some…still so proud of the team) and we had 100% client retention, but at what expense?  Theirs.  Mine.

Today, on my journey of success with my current team and as I have discussions with clients on their talent strategies, I have continued along with developing new strategies on how to navigate the pace of the race.

Then, all of a sudden, the world changed.

For some of you, business may be picking up during this time, but for most, it is slowing down and maybe even tough decisions are having to be made on who is on the team and what the new normal will be for your team.  I’m simply astounded at the amount of information being published about ways to manage this and in my opinion, now is an amazing opportunity to get to know your team. With a strong encouragement to really get to know them.

The time is NOW to slow down to speed up. 

The reality is, as leaders, we have no idea what the new normal will look like or even when our respective industries will level out.  Time may now be less of a commodity in your day and the opportunity is ours to be able to reflect on what’s important for our team.  Trust me, that episode on Netflix can wait.  Spend some time one-on-one with each one of your team talking to them about what they would like their new normal to look like at the end of this.  We should also be reflecting on what’s most important for ourselves. What has been on the “list” of things you have always wished you could do, be, or have?  Enrolling in that course… starting that project… getting or giving the helping hand … that exciting next transition.

Times are tough right now.  Normal is not normal, but this normal is going to change again.  Your biggest loss could be not taking the time to slow down to speed up and coming out on the other side unchanged.  How are you going to slow down to speed up?  How are you going to bloom after this storm?  Do you need help with this change? I’d love to hear from you at kim.norton@tramazing.com.