By August 27, 2010 14 Comments Read More →

Day 27 – Do Something Great

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“Big dreams create the magic that stirs men’s souls to greatness.” — Bill McCartney

Your Outcome:  Immerse yourself in something great.   Take your life to the next level. Do something great that matters for you or someone in your life.  Go above and beyond your daily call of duty.

Welcome to day 27 of 30 Days of Getting Results, based on my book Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 26, we learned how to solve problems with skill.    Today, we decide to do something great.

You Never Know What You’re Capable Of
You just never know what’s possible.  My first book was downloaded several hundred thousand times within the span of a few months.  It was unreal.  What was even more unreal though was that I didn’t know whether I could even pull it off. After all, I had never written a book before.

When I first joined the patterns & practices team at Microsoft, they knew I could write articles, but they questioned whether I could write a book.  When they asked me if I could, I said, “I don’t know but I guess I have to figure it out now don’t I — since it’s part of the job.” At that point, I decided that instead of focusing on writing a book, I would focus on solving significant problems.  I decided to write the ultimate playbook for building secure ASP.NET applications.  I decided I would give it my all, assemble a team of rock stars, and tackle the problem like it had never been tackled before.  I set my eyes on the prize and, as Yoda says, “There is Do… or do not.  There is no try.”   As my Mom always said, “where there’s a will there’s a way” and that’s how I created the very first “Blue Book” for Microsoft, several years ago.

The lesson  for me was that you just don’t know what you’re capable of, until you push past your limits.

From Ordinary to Extraordinary
Sometimes in life, you have to decide … at least one more time … to be The Little Engine that Could, even when you think you can’t.   When you decide to do something great, your life takes on new meaning.  You instantly chart a new course.  Your life goes from ordinary to extraordinary.  You decide that what you do will make a difference, that what you do will matter, and that will give what you do all that you’ve got.  And, If you’re going to go down, then you’re not going down without a fight.  But failure isn’t even an option.  It’s not even on your radar.  In your mind, you can see the prize … front and center … and larger than life.  It’s the path and you’re on it.  With all your might, and maybe even a little magic, you’ll move whatever mountain stands in your way.  It’s onward and upward.  It’s time to do something great.

3 Steps to Do Something Great
To do something great, it helps to have a recipe.  Feel free to depart from the recipe, but here is it as a starting point to help you prepare and launch the “something great” that you will do:

  1. Find Your Eye of the Tiger.  If you’ve seen Rocky, you know what I mean.  Your Eye of the Tiger is your fire in the belly.  It’s you at your finest and it’s you ready to take on the world.   The simplest way to find this “Eye of the Tiger” again is to remember a time in your life when you had your greatest victory.  Remember the feeling you had, when you were unstoppable?  Grab that feeling and hold on to that, and don’t let go.  If that’s not working, then blast your favorite all time song – you know, the one that always makes you drive too fast.  If you need help here, read my guest post on Finding Your Eye of the Tiger.
  2. Decide what great thing you will do.  Don’t swat at flies.  Get the dynamite out.  Pick something great.   This is your chance to say, “I’m going for it.”  This is your chance to fight with all your might and make it happen.  This is not a time to pick something mediocre. It’s time to knock the ball out of the park.  It’s a time to pick something fantastic.  Make it epic.  It’s Frodo getting rid of that stinking ring.  It’s Rocky getting back his “Eye of the Tiger.”  It’s making like a Dead Poet Society and seizing the day.  It’s Edward finding the joy in his life, Bucket List style.  It’s Rudy against the odds, fulfilling his dream.  It’s Danielson whipping out the Crank Technique with a final blow when he’s literally down on his last leg ;)  If you’re not crying, or you’re not furious, or you’re not elated, or you’re just not feeling it, then you haven’t found it.  It’s not about doing one more thing you can do.  It’s doing THE thing you MUST do – finding your calling, the one that’s here now, and answering the door.
  3. Make it a project. Call it a project.  Have a vision for it.  See the end in mind.  Give it a start and a finish.  In this case, make it a month.  Bound it.  Making it a month long project both gives you a high chance for success, but it also give you a good chunk of time to do something great.   Making it a project gives it a special place in your heart and a special place in your mind.  It’s a simple way to wake up your inner-giant and say, “Hey, this one really counts.”

This is you pushing and testing your limits.  This is you focused on doing the great thing in your life that you’ve had on hold.  This is you getting up to bat with skill on your side and the fire inside.  Best case scenario, you exceed your own expectations.  Worst case scenario, you moved the needle in your life.

Ideas of Great Things to Do
When you decide that to do, it has to be great for you.   It’s for you that it has to matter.  It’s your story.  It’s your chance.  That said, here are some examples of  various things that other people have done within the span of a month that changed the course of their lives.  Use it as a list to draw from or inspire you:

  1. Reshape your body.
  2. Find your fire.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Write a song.
  5. Make a video.
  6. Change somebody’s life.
  7. Overwhelm your greatest hurdle or breakthrough a barrier or a ceiling in your life.
  8. Change a habit or change the way you lead your life.
  9. Retool yourself for your current jungle of life.
  10. Get a new lease on life.
  11. Get your dream job.
  12. Make your dream job.
  13. Share your lessons learned with the world.
  14. Rekindle an old spark.
  15. Reconnect with an old hobby.
  16. Create the ultimate knowledge base on your passion.
  17. Learn a new skill.
  18. Finish off a pet project.
  19. Dust off an old dream or make your destiny happen.
  20. Turn the worst pain in your life, into your greatest opportunity.
  21. Be the father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, son, uncle or aunt, cousin or friend that you’ve wanted to be.

Why Make it a Project?
To do something great, make it a project.  Making something a project helps you think about it in a tangible way.  Give your great project a name.  This is your project so call it whatever you want.  I named one of my projects “J.D. 2.0”, based on my You 2.0 guide.  Giving your project a name, helps create a stronghold in your mind.  For a month, this project is your castle.

Do It For a Month
Make it a month long project.  Start at the start of the month.  End at the end of the month.  You can also do a second run, but for now, give yourself a month.  This isn’t a marathon and it’s not a “death march” or an “endless pursuit.”  Just for this month, you do put all your eggs in this one basket.  Concentrated effort amplifies your impact.  Because it’s just a month, you can prioritize it over other things.  Because it’s just a month, and not forever, you can give it your all.  By making it your theme for the month, it helps you focus and harness all of your discretionary energy, focus, and time.  This is your secret recipe for doing great things.

Do It Daily
To do something great, do it everyday.  Carve out a little time more time each day, to invest in your great thing. You don’t know when your breakthrough might happen.  Serendipity is a part of life and often a part of success … Tee up more possibilities in your life, a day at a time.  Each day is another chance.  Doing something every day, even just a little bit, gets easier as you go, and helps build momentum.   Time and again, I found that daily action, even baby steps, is how I consistently got over humps or created breakthroughs.

Your Mental Model
While the strategies and tactics to make things happen are important, the most important step starts in your mind.  It’s the mental pictures you hold, it’s the beliefs you have, and it’s the self-talk that you tell yourself the whole way through.  For at least this month, don’t focus on your success.  Focus on giving your best.  Don’t focus on the scoreboard, focus on the pitch.

Your Tools
You’re making things happen with skill now, so let me remind you of your tools:

  • Mindsets and metaphors.   You can switch your mindsets by switching hats.  Put on your explorer hat or your “solution” hat or your “thinker” hat or your “doer” hat.  Use metaphors that serve you.  The right metaphor can help you move mountains.  See Mindsets and Metaphors.
  • Agile Results.  Get the system on your side.  By using the three stories each day, week, and month, you’re connecting you’re wiring your mind, body, and emotions to achieve great things, as well as deal with the setbacks, and bounce back stronger and faster each time. See the One-Page Guide to Getting Started with Agile Results.
  • Stories and choices. By using stories and making mindful choices to drive your day, week, and month, you bring together everything you’ve got in an inspiration way to write your story forward and carve out meaningful results.
  • Time.  For once, time is really on your side.  Agile Results automatically uses time as a foundation for building momentum and getting results.   You automatically create a rhythm of results by pinning against time and riding the day, week, and month, like a wave or rolling snowball.
  • Action.  Taking action is what makes things happen.   Action is your playground and where you test your ideas against reality.  If you wanted to just think your way into something, then you miss the ride.  It’s fine to be a dreamer.  It’s fine to be a doer.  How about being a doer with dreams or a dreamer that does?
  • Reflection.   Take the time to reflect on your results.  With Agile Results this is automatically baked into Friday Reflection.  You can also design your day, to cap each day with some reflection time.  Learning and responding is how you get closer to your dreams.

The people that do great things, enjoy the journey, action and all, the ups and downs, and they enjoy the destination.   The secret here is to drive your action from who you want to be and the experiences you want to create.  Drive it from your life style.

Everybody has Flaws
Here is a lesson from one of my mentors on the power of doing great things — “There are no great people.  There are people that do great things.  Heroes fall.”  It’s the “feet of clay” scenario. People aren’t heroes, they do heroic things.  The point is, don’t miss the good because of the bad, and don’t get caught up in putting people on pedestals.  Don’t put yourself on a pedestal either.  Instead, focus on doing a great thing and giving it your best shot.

You Can’t Fail
Stephen Covey, Randy Pausche, and others remind us that nobody regrets the things they did.  They regret the things they didn’t do.   Don’t let fear run your life.  Especially fear of failure.  What if you try and you fail? …So what.   Guest what?  If you have to succeed, then you’re playing the game of life wrong.  Test your possibilities.  Grow from it.  Embrace the experience.  That’s what life is all about.  If you gave it your best shot, you .  You grew yourself a little more, or maybe a lot.  … but that you’ll give it your best shot.

How To Stay on Fire
Don’t depend on external validation too much – that’s the best way to kill your motivation on a daily basis.  Don’t hold your breath for your manager’s acknowledgment, or your spouse’s appreciation, or the audience’s applause.  It’s a wonderful by-product, but it can’t be your driver.  First and foremost, impress yourself first.  Remember to connect it to your values and your internal bar … your internal rewards … and then you “balance” with external rewards and appreciation.  That’s how to make great things or do great things and stay on fire.

If You Get Knocked Down, Get Up Again
Giving something your best shot is within your control.  The results are not.  The best you can do, is give the best you’ve got, test your dreams with skill, and roll with the punches.  And when you get knocked down, the single best thing you can do is get up again.  You never fail unless you give up.

Quotes on Greatness
Here are a few words of wisdom to add to your mental toolbox of life:

  1. “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” — Mohandas Gandhi
  2. “Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves – or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.” — Ayn Rand
  3. “Do not despise the bottom rungs in the ascent to greatness.” — Publilius Syrus
  4. “Do not trust people. They are capable of greatness.” — Stanislaw Lem
  5. “Every day, people settle for less than they deserve. They are only partially living or at best living a partial life. Every human being has the potential for greatness.” — Bo Bennett
  6. “Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed.” — Peter S. Beagle
  7. “Great men are rare, poets are rarer, but the great man who is a poet, transfiguring his greatness, is the rarest of all events.” — John Drinkwater
  8. “Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown.” — Charles de Gaulle
  9. “Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.” — Dorothy Height
  10. “Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength.” — Henry Ward Beecher
  11. “I always knew I was destined for greatness.” — Oprah Winfrey
  12. “If we cannot see the possibility of greatness, how can we dream it?” — Lee Strasberg
  13. “Illusions of grandeur are not the same as visions of greatness.” — Edwin Louis Cole
  14. “No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.” — Harry Gray
  15. “The greatest thing you can do in this world is to make the most possible out of the stuff you’ve been given. This is success, and there is no other.” — Orison Swett Marden

Today’s Assignment

  1. Find your “Eye of the Tiger.”  Find one old memory or one mental picture to hold in your mind that gives you your Eye of the Tiger.
  2. Pick something great to do next month.  Tee yourself up to start at the beginning of the month and end at the end of the month.  It will be your theme or focus for the month.  Make sure it’s great for you … even if “great for you”, means doing something that’s “great for somebody else.”  Put that fire in your belly to good use.  Above all, remember that great is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s all relative.
  3. Watch your favorite movie that always has a way of lighting your fire.

Share Your Stories
I like real stories from real people.  That’s what life is all about.

If you want to tell me about the great thing you’re going to do next momth, you can use the contact form on my blog or email me at “GettingResultsTeam” (at) “gmail.com”.  Better yet, tell me “why” you’re going to do it.  Tell me why it matter so much for you.  It’s not what we do in life that ends up so meaningful, it’s why we do it.  Nothing is more inspirational than somebody’s “why.”  If you want to know why I do what I do, read Why Do You Do What You Do?

I’ve really enjoyed the email folks have been sending me so far about their breakthroughs and their turnaround stories and even how for some people, just their ordinary days have become extraordinary.  I’m also watching the goodness spread.  I see friends inspiring other friends and it’s contagious.  As one friend put it to me,  their “pilot light is lit again!”  I see people lifting each other up, and that’s how we all stand on the shoulder’s of giants.

Get ready to make next month one of the most exciting chapter in the story of your life, as you continue to write your story forward.  It will be epic.

My Related Posts

Photo by Fly Navy.

14 Comments on "Day 27 – Do Something Great"

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  1. Lance says:

    JD,
    I really like the idea of making it a project! It feels like that give this greatness idea some definition…and that really works well for me!!

  2. vered says:

    This series of posts is amazing.

    Is it OK that I feel that I’m doing something great by building a great family? My family gives me so much satisfaction and pleasure.

    Oh, I guess it IS OK – it’s number 21!

  3. Sandra Lee says:

    This post is so inspiring it makes me suddenly want to do something extraordinary! I’ll have to reflect on this one because it wasn’t on my agenda! I appreciate the way you emphasize how it all begins in the mind. The examples of extraordinary possibilities are wonderful too.

  4. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. I love “The Little Engine that Could” .. they chugged and kept on chugging until they got to the end of their line and task within their time frame, with wonderful escaping moments in between.

    Following your 30 day plan .. we should certainly see a change for the upward motion in our lives .. persistence and consistency .. working towards the goal …it’s the MUST DO .. and this one really does count. I love the best case scenario, worst case scenario .. doing something moves us on, and it is our story (as you say).

    Then I had to laugh .. I saw your list .. ‘Reshape your body’ .. thank you = yes! sadly a little … Also love your “share your stories” .. I’m on my way over .. just need to sort the flat first and get my life back slightly on track in the next few days .. thanks for the thumbs up here – that we can all do great things .. and I need to be on the Little Engine that Could rails …

    Have a great weekend .. this is an inspiring post – thanks JD .. Hilary

  5. J.D., 30 Days of Getting Results has been a fantastic series. Your posts have been superlative. Yet today’s guidance is perhaps your best yet. Thank you for the inspiration.

  6. Dear J.D.,

    I just discovered your blog after your comment on my guest post on Virgin Blogger Notes. The power of cross commenting!

    I really love your blog and all the things you have suggested above. I am usually quite fired up but you have really got me going here.

    I love the idea of making it a project and making it something big.

    Time to find that eye of the tiger!

    Thanks for the inspiration – much appreciated.

  7. JD says:

    @ Lance — For years, the saying on our team was, “If you want something to happen, make it a project.” I didn’t realize at the time how significant it was. Later on, it was easy to look back and see that anything that was actually a project, actually happened … everything else was just fun conversations and dreams, but nothing more.

    @ Vered — Thank you. I want to equip folks with the tools for the ever-changing landscape … it’s a rough world out there, with a lot of things changing under our feet. I figure the best thing I can do is give everybody a personal results system they can count on.

    That’s exactly the beauty of doing something great … it just had to be great for you, and family is a perfect pick … lucky #21 ;)

    @ Sandra — It sounds like it served its purpose. There’s nothing like surprising yourself. I always knew how important the mind was, but now I truly see just how much it limits or enables what we can accomplish — it all starts with our mental models and beliefs. Disney had it right. Big dreams make big things happen.

    @ Hilary — It was one of my favorite stories. It’s how my mom taught me self-reliance and never give up. Whenever you think you have nothing left, you’ve still got something … and sometimes the most important thing is simply hope or persistence.

    I tried to make sure that each lesson is standalone, but overall it’s better together. I actually expected to do very tiny posts each day, but then I decided to take it deeper. I want anybody, anywhere, anytime to be able to draw from these lessons and find the ways to lead a better life and make their world better, a story at a time.

    The irony is that I’m using all the methods in Agile Results to actually deliver the posts each day. I’ve been timeboxing, using stories to drive and focus, using my best energy and power hours, etc. A few of my posts took longer than 20 minutes, but I thought it was important to really bring some points home.

    @ Jimmy — Thank you my friend. I’ve actually got my “great” project on deck and raring to start next month. Ironically, this series was my “great” project for this month (and I’ve balanced it with my “great” project at work.) The energy of one, fed the other and has an implifying effect.

    The surprise for me is always this … the more you do, the more you can do, and the easier it gets.

    I kept expecting something to disrupt me, but since we’re on day 28 … it looks like 30 days has met its match ;)

    @ Arvind — Well I’m glad you stopped by and thank you for you kind words. When you find your eye of the tiger, watch out — powerful things happen — it’s like 10X your best results.

  8. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. I too am glad that you went the extra mile and put some depth into these posts – and they are complete in their own right .. so often people just give you part of the story .. while giving us a complete book ‘Agile Results’which has been based on these 30 days of posts.

    I am pleased to hear that a few of them took longer than 20 minutes! I smiled as I read that .. but now commenting .. I’m thinking of course – JD is tidy, neat and planned and so having the material at his fingertips would make a lot of what he writes relatively easy .. as it’s there – in well categorised note files already. This applies to us all – work efficiently ..

    Thanks – I’ve enjoyed these .. Hilary

  9. alik levin says:

    I can remember when your first book came out I could not beleive it’s packed with such breadth and depth. And it was *actionable*! It gave me so many priceless answers back then … and today too.

    This post is very inspirational. I feel very much the same as you back then – I am now programming writer – I can program and I can write. But will it be to the standards I am expected? I guess I will need to find it out. But the main thing that bothers me the most is WHAT PROBLEMS I AM GOING TO SOLVE?! and that’s what I am going to focus now, then I will just write it.

  10. Allan says:

    JD – I love the picture you chose for this post. It means a lot to some people. Sort of like a secret handshake.

  11. J.D., I like this very much!
    **First and foremost, impress yourself first. Remember to connect it to your values and your internal bar … your internal rewards … and then you “balance” with external rewards and appreciation. That’s how to make great things or do great things and stay on fire.

    I just wrote a top 10 for Great things to do this month, and called it September’s Greatness. It gives me a plan that does align with what I feel is important to me at this time! Thanks! ~Jenn

  12. JD says:

    @ Allan — Thank you. Yeah, it is like a secret handshake ;)

    @ Jenn — Thank you. I’m a fan of starting with “why” and leading from the inside out.

  13. Yumi says:

    My “Doing Something Great” project is going to be reading and learning through M. Buckingham’s book on Strength this month. I will try to apply what I learned the rest of the year. I’m looking forward to sharing what I started doing with the inspirations from the book with you.

    I will measure where I am with my strength and make a note of what I’ve tried, changes I’ve noticed, and realizations/inspirations from the day. It should be fun and interesting :-)

    I have found several nicknames for my inner tigress, using images from goddesses from ancient time from all cultures. It helps to build different characters for specific strengths I need. When I am in my zone, I am being one with the force from the image of whichever goddess I need for the moment :-)

    • JD says:

      I look forward to your Ta-Da moment.

      The more time you spend in your strengths, the more time you’ll be in your flow.

      Tigress from Kung-Fu Panda comes to mind ;)

      The most powerful result that happens when you have clarity on your strengths is that you can find ways to draw from them, as well as to provide service to others, in work and life.

      It’s super-hero you in action.

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