If You Don’t Have Standards Someone Else Will Control Your Life

Last week I had a 1pm flight to Chicago and was going to arrive around 2:30pm, then I would take a leisurely town car ride into Champaign, IL to teach my class, Life Without Limits, the following day. I was ready for a long massage and a super-food packed dinner before going to bed early to be ready to inspire and teach. Well… it didn’t go exactly as planned.

Instead, after leaving Vermont at 1:00pm, then being re-routed back to Vermont an hour later due to a fuel leak, we then got on a 5:00pm flight to Chicago. So we waited. And waited. And waited. There were tornado warnings in Chicago and a ground stop at O’Hare. 8:30pm came and went. I made friends with the pilots. They informed me if we didn’t get the go-ahead and get wheels up by 10:15pm, we would be shit out of luck because the pilots would time out. 9:15pm rolled around. 9:30pm. And finally… we boarded! I landed in Chicago around midnight and jumped in a town car for a 2 hour drive to Champaign. We drove through some wicked thunderstorms and finally arrived around 2:30am. Head hit the pillow 15+ hours after arriving at the airport that morning.

lower standards3 hours later I was up and at the gym. Why? Because I have standards. I live my life by a set of standards and bar any major catastrophe or emergency (being delayed doesn’t count), I keep them. I made these commitments to myself years ago and I stick to them on the weekends, when I travel, and yes, even when my flight is delayed by 9 hours. I’m not just interested in living the biggest life possible. I am committed to living a life without limits.

What are the standards in your life?
Where do you draw the line?

Standards can apply to both your personal and professional life. For example, what are the standards for your employees? Are they clear on what they are expected to accomplish? Do you hold them accountable to your standards or do you allow them to slip because you either aren’t clear on your own standards or because you haven’t built a bench and are therefore held hostage by your current employees? (Side note: Build a bench! You should never have to compromise your standards or results of your company because you don’t have a pipeline of talent to bring into your world!). Do you have standards for you and your family? How many times do you tell your kids you love them each day? How many times do you work out each week? How many date nights do you have each week with your partner? How many vacations do you go on each year? What are your standards? And do you stick to them. Are you only interested in the happiness of your family? Or are you committed to living the best life possible for you and your family?

The biggest excuse I hear is that people don’t have time for their personal life or family. Work always trumps personal time. But time and time again, research has shown that vacation and personal time does not hinder your business, in fact, it helps it flourish and grow! Without time to reflect, relax, and think, you will be in a perpetual cycle of do, do, do and never be able to step back and start working ON your business, rather than IN it. Make time for yourself, and your friends and family. Put it in your calendar and stick to it. The most important appointments are the ones you keep with yourself. Can you be counted on to lead by example or do you flake out? What are your standards?

Conversely, some people are never-ending cheaters. Every standard they set for themselves, the cheat on. We all know that person who, ever month, sets a standard to work out every day for 30 minutes. And every month something comes up (bad weather, tired, work project, family obligation) and that person cheats on their own standard. Month after month, only excuses and no results. What sort of standards do you think this person has in their life? They have actually trained their brain to accept these excuses and accept mediocrity. But the beauty of life is, that no matter how far down the rabbit hole you get, you can always claw your way out.

interested vs committedTo be the master of your own destiny, you must practice self-mastery. If you don’t have standards in your life and you don’t stick to them, then who’s leading and controlling your life? It’s certainly not you! It’s whoever needs something from you at the moment. You’re like that discarded plastic bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty. Lots of movement (and perhaps beautiful), but going nowhere.

The first step is to define your standards. Who do you want to be? What do you want your life to look like? Set standards around that vision.

Next, put those standards into your calendar. If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real. Or put those standards into easy tracking tools for your company (sales reports, P&Ls, activity trackers, etc.). Review regularly.

Finally, continue to practice self-mastery in order to hold yourself and other accountable to these standards. Nothing is worst than a leader who doesn’t practice what he preaches OR a leader who does not hold his team accountable to the established standards. Nothing will make talent leave faster than a leader without balls.

There are no fast and hard rules about standards. The key is to determine what YOUR standards are (the standards that you need in order to fulfill your big why). And then commit to your standards and share them openly and often. Clarity is power.

What are your standards?  Are you committed or just interested? Share in the comments!
P.S. I am completely convinced this trip (and all of my other delays, cancellations, etc. with air travel) is the universe’s way of telling me it is time to get a private plane.




Coffee is for Closers and Other Things I Teach My Kids Everyday

Every morning when the kids get up (yup, sometimes at 3am), I get them out of bed and we read a sign by their beds,”Be Awesome,” and I have them say it aloud too. Then I’ll ask them, “Are you going to be awesome today?” It sets the tone for the day for them, and for me. It has created a routine for us all in the morning to start the day with positivity, gratitude, and it gets us into conversation about what we’re going to do today to be awesome!

With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, I wanted to pay a little homage to my amazing children, Sienna (4) and Asher (2), with another on the way! Being a Dad is an indescribable experience. I know that they are watching every move I make and listening to everything I say. To be a great Father, I must choose my words carefully and walk the walk. To be a great Father, I must allow them the freedom to discover who they are, and be their teacher, not their friend. Above all, to be a great Father, I must give love, show love, and be love in their eyes.

“[He] didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.”
– Clarence Budington Kelland

It is an honor to be Sienna, Asher, and Baby H’s Dad. I strive every day to teach them what it means to be a loving and giving individual and how to be an individual, their own unique brand of awesome.

Here are the 5 Things I Teach My Kids Everyday:

  1. Gratitude
    I’m not talking about cars, planes, and yachts here. I teach my kids to be grateful for their health, the wind on their face, laughing, and nature. After we read our “Be Awesome” sign, I ask them if they said good morning to nature. I have them look at their gratitude rocks and have them each share something that they are grateful for. I bring them outside and ask them to take some deep breaths and ask them how it feels. Every step of the way I consciously engage them and have them reflect on how they are feeling in the moment. With so much to know, to do, and to have, it is important to ground ourselves in the basic elements of life: gratitude and nature.
  2. Never Give Up
    When Sienna and Asher were just babies, I would push them in a jogger while I ran and I would constantly tell them to keep pushing, not to give up, to push through the resistance in life, all while we were racing on the bike path along the lake so they could feel the wind and viscerally feel what it’s like to push through and not give up. (Consequently, Sienna’s first words were “never give up.”) As they grow, there are plenty of opportunities to continue to teach this lesson, whether that’s a coloring project, a game of hide and seek, or a friend they want to invite over. Whatever the activity may be, make sure you take the opportunity to allow them to feel what it’s like to not give up. But, and here’s the kicker, YOU must have the patience to not give up on them as they are struggling with tying their shoe for the 347th time in a row and just do it for them. By not giving up and encouraging resilience, you can see this habit forming in their life and their language starts to reflect this attitude. Such a cool thing to watch!
  3. Be Brave and Have No Regrets
    breakthroughIn order to achieve a breakthrough,  you must go through the chemistry of transformation: Satiation (tired of a relationship, tired of a job, or having the same meal 5 times a day), Dissatisfaction (feeling of missing one of the 6 Human Needs – Certainty/Comfort, Uncertainty/Variety, Significance, Connection/Love, Growth, Contribution), Threshold (change becomes a MUST and causes you to have a moment of insight), Insight (that Aha moment when you know you are meant to do and give more, but it won’t last unless you jump through the opening), Opening (the place where you find your real self and have a breakthrough and will never go back to your former level of consciousness).

    Why did I just break down Tony’s Chemistry of Transformation? Because if there is anything I want my kids to learn, it’s to jump through the opening! No matter how scary or how uncommon the road, if they are passionate about it and willing to give their dreams their all – then jump! Life is to short to settle for mediocrity and live someone else’s life. I want them to know that it is okay to take risks in order to live a life with no regrets. And in order to do this, they must know themselves, trust their own minds, be brave, lead themselves and step up!

  4. Always Be Growing
    Success is hard and my kids will need to practice their emotional fitness every day in order to push through. And let me tell you a little secret – life is not fair. Shocker, right? You wouldn’t really know though since our society believes every kid should get a trophy just for showing up. Well, just showing up is just not going to cut it. Coffee is for closers. Sometimes my kids are going to win, and sometimes they are going to lose, and that’s okay. I want my children to know that they should follow their dreams and goals no matter what and to trust themselves and trust that the dots will connect when they look back. But in the meantime, keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep growing. On their journey they will find a tremendous amount of failure, but that doesn’t mean they are a failure, it just means that they are growing spiritually. I teach my kids to get right back up after they fall down. If they are able to overcome their failures, then they are growing. The largest “failures” or resistance in life brings about the greatest amount of change for you and those around you. These moments of resistance are gifts that shape who we become on our spiritual journey in this world.
  5. Your Health is #1
    My kids know how important health is to me and I involve them in as many of my activities as possible. When they were babies, I ran with them in the jogger. As they are getting older, they do yoga with me and my wife, snowboard, swim, go to the market with us and help us cook healthy meals. In a world that is changing faster than we can comprehend and where we will be able to have virtually anything at a touch of a button, my children need to understand that without their health, none of these other things matter. If you don’t put your health as your #1 priority, it will slip away and you will regret not being able to live life to the fullest. Most people take their health for granted until they experience a health crisis. Like oxygen, we take our health for granted until we are drowning, and then at that moment, nothing else matters except that next breath. I never want my children to get to that point (I was there when I was 16 and I don’t wish that on anyone). I’m front loading my kids as much as possible by teaching them how to live an active and healthy lifestyle now to fortify them against all the challenges and demands in the future.

Everything I teach my kids can be boiled down to one simple lesson – self mastery. Self mastery is overcoming that voice inside your head that says, “No.” No, you don’t have to work hard for that trophy. No, you don’t have to share and be kind because you’re having a bad day. No, you can keep sleeping and be late for school. If my kids can learn to overcome this voice at a young age, and say no to the things that aren’t important to their dreams, then they will have a jump start on success. This self-mastery will leak into every aspect of their lives and allow them to live the biggest life they can imagine. And that’s all I want for them – to achieve everything in life they want.

Life is about truly living every moment as an experience, not getting stuck in your head. Feeling each experience that life provides you with the depth of your being is how to live life. I want my children to understand that life doesn’t give us things, life allows us to experience things. Life is but a journey of spiritual growth. Growth means teaching others. Teaching our kids, our parents, our co-workers, and friends. Life is all about sharing and growing together. Enjoy the journey.

Herg Life Live! Upcoming Classes in Illinois and Arizona

Join Adam on Thursday June 23 in Champaign, IL as he teaches Life Without Limits. Life Without Limits is an energetic, hard-hitting one-day class that will challenge your thinking, help you find answers to the big questions, and walk you through the most important steps in creating your personal growth plan.

Click here to reserve your spot at Life Without Limits in Illinois.

Life Without Limits Flyer - IL June 23, 2016

Adam will also be teaching Life Without Limits on July 13 in Phoenix, AZ. More information coming soon!

Contact hallie@adamhergenrother.com for more information or to book a class with Adam in your area.


Routine or Rut? You Must Disrupt Yourself in Order to Grow

Herg Life launched just over five months ago, so I wanted to remind you all about why I started this blog in the first place. You’ve heard my musings on mindset, my thoughts on thinking big, and my lessons on leadership. I think you’ve all gotten a feel for my Herg Life.

But Herg Life is much bigger than just me. Herg Life is a call to action to live a life without limits. Herg Life means stepping outside of your comfort zone – whether that means skydiving, speaking up at your next company meeting, running a mile, or telling someone you love them. Herg Life means being the best version of yourself so that you have more to give to others. Herg Life means asking the tough questions so that you are constantly stretching yourself and growing to discover the answer.

Remember, Herg Life is about getting outside of your comfort zone. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

So let me ask you… what have you done lately to get outside your comfort zone?

Are you coasting? Are you settling for mediocrity? Or are you breaking through your limiting beliefs and getting uncomfortable in order to the biggest life you can imagine?

The truth is we are all creatures of habits – good and bad. And these habits create routines. Very comfortable routines. And while I’m a big proponent of creating habits (check out my daily schedule), sometimes these routines can lead to ruts. The trick is to disrupt yourself and your routine often enough so you continue to grow. I’m not talking about huge changes here, just minor tweaks so that you are not simply going through the motions of life, but being purposeful and present in each moment.

unicornsConsider these small changes to make sure you’re stretching yourself and getting (even a little) uncomfortable.

  • Take the scenic route to work or at least a different route albeit not scenic (you can’t all live in Vermont)
  • Try reading something totally outside your typical genre (try Goethe instead of Grisham)
  • Switch up your work-out routine
  • Get up 30 minutes earlier
  • Take the stairs
  • Say “yes” to any invitation you receive for the next week
  • Offer to lead your next company meeting
  • Post a video on Snapchat
  • Go to dinner alone (keep your cell phone in your pocket)

Earlier this week I completely changed up my work out routine and exercises in order to snap out of funk. It’s not like I had stopped working out, but I wasn’t working out with as much focus, intensity, or energy. I needed a new vision and a new goal. So, I talked to my fitness coach and he created a new plan to go along with one of my favorite activities – mountain biking. Just this small change created such renewed energy and reignited my excitement about working out. Side note – I couldn’t walk the next day, which is when you know you really got outside of your comfort zone and pushed yourself!

It doesn’t always have to be about skydiving or swimming with sharks. Whatever it takes to get you outside your comfort zone, just do it! Remember, action creates emotion and once you’ve set yourself in motion, you will be unstoppable!

Give up never!

Visionaries or Villains? Which Leadership Style will Change the World?

I’m a little obsessed with Elon Musk at the moment and it got me thinking about visionaries and their leadership philosophies. Individuals like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos are disrupting industries, changing the world as we know it today, and are shaping what it will look like in the future. Yet you’ve all heard the stories about them. Brilliant thought leaders. Visionaries. Industry giants. Complete assholes.

Yesterday, Vox Technology published an article about Elon Musk’s belief that we are most likely participants in an advanced civilization’s video game. Perhaps these outlandish ideas and distorted realities are what allow these leaders to disconnect from humanity. (And then again, perhaps Musk is right.) Either way, these guys have built incredible companies but are missing (in my opinion) a pretty critical element to leadership – human connection. Their total apathy for their employees is legendary. Does the end (Amazon, iPhones, Tesla, iTunes, Mars colonization) really justify the means?

Let’s look at Steve Jobs. Perhaps the most tyrannical leaders in recent history (though Elon Musk might be wearing that badge now). Jobs fired employees without warning (in some cases publicly), short changed Steve Wozniak on a large bonus, constantly berated and harshly criticized his team members and partners, and generally went around acting like a complete jerk to anyone he came in contact with (employees, the general public, the President). But he got results. And he transformed multiple industries.

And Jeff Bezos? At Amazon, he has created Amabots – employees who work 80+ hours a week, sometimes working for days straight, who fear taking vacations or personal time because they will be placed on a “performance improvement plan”, who can frequently be found crying at their desks, and who are encouraged to send anonymous complaints and critiques about co-workers and managers. Read the Amazon expose here. But he gets results. And he has changed the way we shop online.

Elon Musk is my current favorite. He is ridiculously brilliant and actually makes me feel insignificant as a human being when I look at everything he’s done (I know, I know, comparison is the thief of joy). You may have heard this story: Musk’s long-time assistant who basically devoted her life to him asked for a raise. Musk suggested she take a 3 week vacation and if her job was that difficult/the value she provided was really invaluable, he would consider her proposal. He fired her while she was gone. In his biography, the author talks about Musk viewing his employees like ammunition, use them as much as you can and when they are completed exhausted and you have exhausted their worth, discard them like shells. But he gets results. Musk wants a colony on Mars and I don’t doubt that he will achieve that.

But let us not forget that there are usually three sides to every story – my side, your side, and the truth, and the examples above are only part of the story. Many employees admit to the tyrannical work environment, but also say it changed the trajectory of their career or challenged them to reach beyond what they thought possible. And what some of these stories brush over is that these leaders were the hardest working of them all, which is probably why they demanded so much of their staff. Sure, Musk might ask you to work 20 hours, but he would work 23 that day. They are all so fanatical and intense in their drive to change the world that they expect everyone else to feel the same way and if their team couldn’t hack it, it just slowed them down. On to the next person. Yes, these leaders are so committed to changing the world that they forget the human element. Relationships, personal lives, even money all take a back seat to the pursuit of change and creating a better world for man kind. But we need these individuals, right?

Do they think so big that they can’t see the impact they have on those around them? Are they so committed to their goal and vision that they will do whatever it takes to accomplish it, including pushing people to their breaking point? Is there a middle ground? A place where extraordinary growth and innovation can occur, while still taking into considering the human element?

Leaders like Jobs, Musk, and Bezos have a place in our world, and their methods, while controversial, are effective. But I believe there is a middle ground between head-in-the-clouds visionary and diabolical villain. So how do you push your employees to peak performance and productivity with love? How do you inspire people to tackle impossible goals while encouraging them to care for themselves and their families? Can you change the world without an iron fist?

Look, I’m not about to call a meeting where we hold hands and share feelings; but neither do I believe in public humiliation and driving people to their breaking point for sport. I think that we must set our standards high and then clearly define them. Let your standards be the bad guy. Metrics, numbers, standards – they are all essential to an organization’s growth. They provide a common language that everyone clearly understands. For example, which objective is more clear:

  1. Create a new customer engagement campaign.
  2. Create a new customer engagement campaign that generates 100 referrals in the next 60 days.

When the project is complete, all you need to ask is, “Did we hit 100 referrals?” The answer is either yes or no. The numbers will tell the real story. And you are able to hold your employees to these standards without any stories, excuses, or emotions getting in the way. Whatever your standard is in your life or business – you have to be okay with the outcome. People will either meet their goals or they won’t, but their inability to meet company goals/objectives should never limit your life and the growth of your business. Okay, I know that may sound a bit cold. But that’s the point. The standards/goals/metrics are doing the heavy lifting here. This goes for yearly goals, performance reviews, profit margins, sales volume, etc. Clearly define the target and deadline and allow your employees the freedom to execute. In that regard, I am very much in agreement with Jobs, Musk, and Bezos. It is always about the results and there is always a way to get it done. Excuses are not welcome in my world.

But where I think these guys have got it wrong is that there is no real WIN for these team members. Income aside (and it’s hard to say if the incomes were even in line with 80+ hour work weeks), these employees knew they were expendable and were sacrificing their health and personal lives to further the agenda of these behemoths. I believe that people are the most important part of an organization. If you don’t have people – the right people – who are motivated, engaged, challenged, and fulfilled by you and your organization, then what do you have?  Being a part of something big (i.e. Apple) will only carry you so far if your health is deteriorating, your marriage is falling apart, and you’re sleeping under your desk. I’m not really a huge proponent of office perks like free food, movie screenings, massage therapists on staff, etc. But I do believe in big wins like profit share, paid training and education, and pouring into employees every day to show them how to live the life they want while working within your organization.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy balance between pushing for big results and huge growth  while caring for employees and maintaining that human connection. I don’t always get it right. (I’m pretty sure I’ve only made a few people cry along the way.) But I make a conscious effort every day to spread the vision of my organization and teach people how to achieve personal growth through business success, all while holding them [brutally] accountable to the standards. Right or wrong, this is how I roll.

I’m not trying to vilify these leaders here. I like the outcomes and results in terms of the impact on humanity that people like Elon Musk have created. And I will note that when Jobs reclaimed his position as CEO in 1997, he was a much better leader. He realized he could not succeed alone. Jobs was, and Musk is, an amazing teacher to those around them. These leaders all have a knack for surrounding themselves with the highest level talent on earth. They knew they needed people, they just didn’t care how that relationship was cultivated or managed. I respect the hell out of these guys, however, I would never want to be them. I love my work and my companies, but I believe in counter balancing. Hitting it really hard at the office for a few months, then unplugging and hitting it hard on vacation. Or giving everything I have during a 6 hour, intensely focused work day, and then going home for dinner with the family, or hiking, or mountain biking. I think that the best life and the best leaders are ones who are constantly working on improving themselves and their vision, so that they can give more to others.

Bottom line: You do not have to be an asshole to make an impact on the world. Create and communicate your values and standards, challenge and push people to achieve these goals, hold them accountable to the results, while helping them grow and teaching them how to live their best life – a life without limits.

The man, Zig Zigler, sums it up perfectly,

“You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business.”

While the dictatorship style leadership is not for me, I appreciate everything those leaders have accomplished. I just believe there is another way.

What do you think? What style of leadership best serves an organization? Can extraordinary growth and innovation occur only when the human element is disregarded? Leave your thoughts in the comments. I’m looking forward to the discussion!