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.




  1. Renato Wakim

    Great and thoughtful article, Adam. It’d be great to get to know you in person one of these days. I’m in the BTV are, we’re connected on Linkedin. Send me a note when you find a spot to grab a cup of coffee or equivalent, I’m sure we could exchange good knowledge.

  2. Pingback: Standards + Models + Coach = Success | Herg Life

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