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THE SENSEI LEADER CHALLENGE––No ice buckets, hot chips or YouTube posts…

This may be the least painful challenge you ever accept––though I’m not making any promises in that regard!

I will promise that you won’t have to douse yourself with ice water, do a thousand push-ups or burn out your digestive system with devil pepper chips! It doesn’t cost a dime and you won’t have to embarrass yourself on YouTube. In fact––nobody even needs to know you’re doing it.

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PART ONE: To accept THE SENSEI LEADER CHALLENGE all you have to do is commit to one day of self-reflection.

Simple. Not necessarily easy!

First lets look at the obstacles––and over the years I’ve heard them all!

#1 I just don’t have the time…

Shut up! Seriously!

There is nothing more important to your personal and professional development, to say nothing about your mental health, than to take some time for self-reflection.

#2 There are just too many other priorities right now…

Then your priorities are messed up. See above.

#3 I just don’t get that many days off this time of year…

Don’t do it on a day off! This is NOT a day off! It’s a vital part of optimizing your performance as as a leader and on the job. Plus, I’ve found that people focus better and place more value on the exercise when they carve time into their work schedule to do it.

#4 I just don’t see the return…

And that’s likely part of the problem––whatever problem you might be facing! Your productivity and effectiveness correlate directly with clarity and perspective. You’ve got to have a clear vision of what you’re doing, what you’re going through now and where you’re heading in the future.

There is no direct ROI on a day of reflection. It’s a necessary exercise to give you the perspective and clarity to operate effectively and efficiently to produce a meaningful ROI in whatever task or function you undertake.

#5 I feel as if taking time for myself is being selfish…

The least selfish thing you can do for others is to improve yourself. When you do, you become a more valuable resource to everyone around you, especially the people who trust in you as a leader.

This list can go on and on. If you think you can stump me, go ahead and email me an excuse. I’ll send you a quick and blunt reply––no lollipops, puppy dogs and rainbows from me!

What to do…

Plan your day––OK, at least a half day. (A full day is much better.) Follow these steps:

#1 Find a quiet place…

Anyplace that’s free from distractions and interruptions. I do mine with a good walk in the woods. Other people find a quiet room. I’ve had people go hide out in cabins or on a secluded beach. Whatever works.

But shut off the damn phone! Do NOT check your email! Remove yourself from the ordinary noise that engulfs our lives these days.

#2 Make a SHORT list of important questions to contemplate…

And be sure to include these two…

• Who am I?

• Who do I serve?

Add whatever other questions you feel will help you get a clear perspective, but be sure to ask yourself these two.

I won’t help you with “Who am I?” I’ll just say that some people start by thinking this is an incredibly stupid question. Others wonder what the point of it is.

Experience has taught me that this is one of the most powerful questions a leader can ask––and should on a regular basis. Once they’ve been through this exercise, many people have told me we should ask this question more than once a year. I agree––but let’s start here.

I’ll help a little with “Who do I serve?” You need faces on this one. Think about all the people who count on your leadership. Think about the people you indirectly influence, inspire or empower. Think about the people you most directly inspire, empower and guide.

And yes, these faces change from time to time.

#3 Carve your day of reflection into your schedule––in ink––now.

Do not let anything short of major medical emergencies, natural disasters or the end of the world displace this appointment. And in the case of any but the later––carve it in ink again.

If the medical emergency is yours––you can still most likely keep your appointment. The first time I did this I was laid up with a shattered leg. Of course I could have just kept watching my Rope Opera marathon, but I had already made this commitment to myself––

And it changed my life.

I do take time for self-reflection more than once a year and often spontaneously, but my annual day has become a discipline. I do not let anything keep me from this mission. From my reflection exercise I’ve found entirely new groups of people to serve. Most of my book projects started with these days. I’ve completely re-tooled the way I do business and even found the inspiration to launch a new career––the one I’m on now!

I’ve also identified numerous areas where I was ineffective; where I was wasting my time and energy. I made decisions to cut ties with people I was no longer serving well, and those who were simply exploiting me. I thought about my mistakes, sins and errors and discovered ways to make amends, forgive others and myself and move past seemingly insurmountable obstructions.

All from a day of refection.

I know from experience how powerful this simple exercise is. I’ve had many, many people tell me how valuable the exercise has been to them.

Share this post with someone else and challenge them as well.

This is not an exercise in viral messaging––I don’t even check to see how many people read these things. I just know its one of the most important and valuable things I could possibly share and I do so enthusiastically.


Will you accept THE CHALLENGE? Stay tuned for PART TWO––or click here for the full CHALLENGE…


There is absolutely no obligation or pressure to share your experience with a YouTube video or any other public display. Having said that…

Leadership is sharing! A leaders shares.

Your experiences, observations and commitments to growth and development may help others who are struggling for ideas.

Please share your insights, ideas and reflections in our comments. Feel free to post anonymously if you'd like.

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