Self-Improvement: It Is All About Your Personal Foundation

As a personal business coach, I have observed that your level of self-improvement will not exceed the strength of your personal foundation. What is your personal foundation?

An individual’s personal foundation is his or her structural basis that supports him or her in living an exceptional life. Just as a house must be built on a strong personal foundation to avoid collapsing under stress, so must your life. A house’s foundation is made up of earth, cement, and steel. Your personal foundation is also made up of three major elements. The are the What, the Who and the How.

Let’s look at the “What.” The “What” is self-improvement business coaching is the package that person presents to the world. It is “What” the world sees when it looks at us. This element is also composed of several sub parts as well. We can include such things as behavior, the public self, what we show others. The “What” can be related to the “body” part of the body, mind and spirit.

The ”Who” part of you is easily understood as the real you, the core of who you are in reality, not in presentation of the “What.” As a personal development business coach, I find that discovering the “Who” is the key to unlocking an individual’s self-improvement. The “Who” often drives the “What,” but it is not always consistent with it. The “Who” can also be identified with the “spirit” part of the body, mind and spirit analogy in the previous paragraph.

The “How,” the third component of personal foundation is the set of processes, methods, and values that drive our behavior–“How” we do the things we do, and “How” we are “Who” we are. The fuel for the “How” of us is the “Who,” which essentially yields -the “What.” If you put his into an equation it would look like this: “Who” + “How” = “What.” The “What” equates to the “mind” part of body, mind, and spirit.

The “What,” the “Who,” and the “How” are the components of personal foundation that I start with as a personal development business coach. When looking at your own self-improvement start with these three areas. Know your “What,” “Who,” and “How.” They are the keys to unlocking your future growth and personal development.

What Is Your Lid?

John Maxwell, in his book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, talks about the Law of the Lid. In short, the ceiling for your leadership ability will depend on the level of your personal development. All of the 21 Laws are interrelated. So a leadership experience may seem to lean more on one law than another but in truth, there are several laws at work at any one time.

In reflecting of the Law of the Lid and its relevance in my life I found my thoughts going back to when I was in Cub Scouts. I was eight or nine years old at the time. In my small town, we did not have a movie theater. The fund raiser for our Cub Scout pack was to sponsor a movie show in the high school gym. My hometown of Chappaqua, New York, which at the time had about 2,000 residents is quite hilly and the school district encompassed approximately nine square miles.

To sell tickets to the show, you had to go door to door between houses that could be up to a tenth of a mile or more apart from each other. Also, there were some elevation changes of up to 150 feet making the process of going door to door, even for a young boy, a rigorous physical challenge.

My mother and father were very supportive. That was good! I was excited about selling tickets but I had one problem. All my competition had bicycles. That was something that we could not afford. The good news was that if you sold the most tickets you won a brand new Schwinn 3 speed bike which at the time was the bike to have. Also, just for a historical context, this was not an era where parents drove their little Cub Scouts around to homes. As a kid you either walked or rode a bicycle.

Since I did not have a bike, I would have to walk door to door and it would take me much longer to reach people who, hopefully, had not already purchased tickets to the movie show. Also, my motivation to have a bike, and the Schwinn in particular, drove me to walk and walk and walk some more. On the weekends, I would start in the morning with a peanut butter sandwich my mother had packed and set off to see who I could sell tickets to.

This went on for several weekends. I walked as much as I could. I met many very nice people and in the process I got to know my hometown.

Then the big moment arrived. The movie was going to be shown at the high school gym and they would announce the top three finishers in ticket sales. When they called my name as the top ticket seller and the winner of the Schwinn bicycle I was stunned and elated. Also, I had doubled the ticket sales of the second and third place finishers, both of whom had bikes.

If I had put a lid on what I could accomplish because I did not have a bicycle, or thought that it wasn’t worth trying because it wasn’t fair that I had to walk, I never would have won the contest. Fortunately, at nine years old, I did not have the context to see that there could be a very real lid, no bicycle, on what I could accomplish. At nine, I did not understand the Law of the Lid. Yet, as I have gone through business and life, I am reminded that when I raise my lid more opportunity flows into my business and life. For greater success, raise your lid.

Preparation, Failure, Opportunity

The game was tight. The lead had gone back and forth. And, there was a lot on the line. This was the Men’s AAU Basketball championship game for the greater Denver area.

As the time wound down on the game clock our team had the final possession with less than ten seconds left. My team was down by one point. One of us would take the final shot. If it went in, we won. And if it didn’t, all those championship dreams that we had been harboring since the beginning of the tournament a couple of weeks before would be dashed.

I always loved basketball. I was not good enough in high school to make the varsity. Yet, in college, I had grown four inches and had kept playing and practicing. I kept dreaming that someday I would be good enough to play on a high level.

Now I was in graduate business school at the University of Denver and had become good enough to play on a very good AAU basketball team. We trained and worked out daily. The players in our league were either former college players or players who had played professionally at one time. The competition and skill levels were extremely high.

On our team all the starters had been Division 1 scholarship basketball players, the highest level of college basketball, with one exception, me. As we took our final timeout, we knew that one of us would be taking that final shot. Who would that be?

We didn’t know the answer to that question. We would in bounds the ball from underneath the basket and our center, if he had a layup he would take it, if not he would pass the ball out to one of the corners where myself and our other guard would be.

We got the ball to our center and it looked like he was going to be tied up and not get a shot off. With less than five seconds to go, he was able to pass the ball to the corner, my corner. I was over twenty feet away from the basket. I got the ball and started to take a jump shot. I am six feet two inches. Bearing down on me and jumping at me was a defender who was six feet six inches.

As I released the ball all I knew was that he hadn’t blocked it. I did not see the ball’s flight or see what happened after that. He came crashing into me with such force that it knocked me off my feet and had me sliding backwards into the stands.

Both of us ended up in a heap. I could hear the loud cheers of the crowd! Who were they cheering for? Which team had won? What had happened? Then our center and the rest of my teammates were surrounding me, picking me up and congratulating me. My shot, that I never saw, had gone in. We had won the game and the championship.

At the time, I did not realize the impact this moment had on me. I had played and worked at basketball for almost 20 years with a great deal more failure than success. Yet, all my preparation paid off in that moment of victory. There are many life lessons I took away from that game. I had always heard that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I certainly felt fortunate to make the winning shot, yet it was all my preparation that allowed me to take advantage of that opportunity.

There were more positive impacts over the years, that positively supported me in many areas. First, was the importance of having a great team, not just in terms of ability, but our chemistry where we were willing to blend our individual talents together to create something bigger than any one of us could accomplish on our own, a great team.

Second, was that failures are the necessary stepping stones to success. I came to understand that I am not judged by the number of times I failed. I was cut from more teams than I made. I am judged by my successes and those come from my ability to find a path up from failure and to keep on trying.

I have discovered that when I keep trying in spite of failure, and keep preparing, that I increase the odds of success when the right opportunity comes along. When you do the preparation, you too will find the opportunities to make your game winning shots.