How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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What to do when you don't know what to do 

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of many potential heroes is figuring out exactly what to do. Sometimes we hear the call to make a difference in the world loud and clear... but we wish it could have been a bit more specific. "Get moving!" says the compelling voice in our head. "The world needs you. Do something!" But what's missing from this exhortation is any indication of what that something is.

So then what? Do we wait for another divine transmission with perhaps a few more instructions? Do we begin an intentional quest for our life's ultimate purpose, engaging in study, contemplation, dialogue, and analysis? Do we ignore the call because we don't know what the appropriate action truly is? Or do we begin somewhere, anywhere, not knowing if it's right, and perhaps making a major mistake?

My personal orientation toward action often leads me to "pick up a broom and start sweeping," as I described in an earlier post. I have found that I can learn what the right direction is by choosing a path to take and beginning to walk down it. If it's the wrong path, I find out soon enough. Then I can choose a different one. This type of trial-and-error decision-making usually works better for me than standing at the crossroad trying to completely think things through.

But this works for me because I have a high tolerance for risk and don't place much value on caution. When I took Martin Seligman's Signature Strengths Survey, one of my top five strengths was "bravery and valor." My strength in "caution, prudence, and discretion," on the other hand, was ranked way down at #22 out of a total of 24. So it's no surprise that I'm more willing to leap into unknown territory than I am to carefully consider all my options. In fact, I'm actually better at leaping than at considering.

For me, the best answer to "what to do when you don't know what to do" is clearly to take action in a new direction, because that capitalizes on my strengths. In addition to bravery and valor, I also score high on curiosity, creativity, and love of learning. But mine is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If your strength is in caution and prudence, I would guess that a careful analysis might be a valuable next step. Or if your strength was in spirituality and faith, you might spend time in prayer or meditation. Or if it was in teamwork and loyalty, you might ask for guidance from others close to you.

If there is a single recipe that everyone could follow to determine what to do when you don't know what to do, perhaps it is this: 1) Know what your strengths are. 2) Find a way to use them that will help you move forward. 3) Repeat as necessary.

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How is your obituary coming along? 

The past two months have seen the passing of two significant people in my life. First, my coaching mentor Laura Whitworth died of lung cancer. Then my father passed away at the age of 91. The blessing and the curse of being a writer is that people expect you to come up with the right words for important occasions. I was asked to write obituaries for both Laura and my dad, and to speak at both memorial services.

It's a challenging task to sum up a person's life in a three-paragraph obituary or five-minute speech. What should you include? What do you leave out? What would the person you are honoring have wanted you to say?

Both Laura and my father had an impressive list of achievements to acknowledge. Laura co-founded three professional organizations and six businesses -- one of which became the largest coach training company in the world -- and co-authored a bestselling book. My father held five patents in electronics and automation, and published over 50 professional papers.

Even so, neither Laura nor my father felt as if they were done yet. Laura had far-reaching plans for her newest project, The Bigger Game. My dad was working on a book about the history of film and broadcast technology.

Immersed on preparing these life summaries, I couldn't help but wonder, what will be in my obituary? Because I notice that in both the obituaries I wrote, completed projects made the cut, but work in progress did not. If I were to die today, my obit would mention the two full-length books I've published. But all the blood, sweat, and tears I've put into the other books I haven't finished yet wouldn't even receive a mention.

In order to become a part of your personal legacy, the work in question must actually be done. Dreams, ideas, goals, and plans, no matter how visionary and grand, don't count in the end. When you are gone, what stays behind to make an impact on those who outlive you is what you have completed, not what you hoped to accomplish some day.

And so I ask, how is your obituary coming along? Which of your treasured dreams and plans have you already brought to life, and which are still waiting for you to act on them?


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