A Strategist’s Secret: Find Beauty Every Day

A habit of seeking out strength and beauty every day can make you a better strategic leader.

This is going to appear to be a soft article…after all, I’m writing on finding beauty.

But, I can assure you that the concept here applies to the hardest core, barest knuckled aspects of business as much as it applies to stopping and smelling the figurative roses.

The gist is this:  Through a combination of hurry and training, we get locked into the “things we do” every day.  We become so focused (or, I might say, unfocused) on problems–the ugliness and weakness–that we forget to appreciate the things of beauty and strength right in our midst.

You and I can be better leaders if we stop and acknowledge the strengths and beauty around us.

What a thing of beauty really is…

What I’m writing on today is a positive appreciation for winning practices and attitudes that are right under our noses. We actually don’t often have the discipline to look for the things of beauty that are right in front of us; and all too often that’s because we’ve been rewarded by others for finding ugly.

Finding ugly.

You know, like finding what other people are doing wrong…Finding out what’s broken…Searching out weaknesses and soft spots–All those things that good problem solvers finders do.

Oops.  You saw that correctly.

Problem finders often focus on the ugly.

Problem solvers tend to look for the sublime.

You know why?  Because our strengths tend to be what we use to overcome our weaknesses.

Strengths are possibilities.  Weaknesses are limitations.

Building a winning strategy in business and life by focusing only on what is broken or weak is, near as I can tell, impossible. Sure, strategic plans can start with break fixes, but if they end there, they will miss the upside.

Trust me.

Beauty is in your strengths.

But, what does it mean to find beauty?

Finding beauty means having a willingness to step back and appreciate the real capabilities that you, the people around you, and your organization actually have right now.

It might be the way that your organization processes material…

or serves customers…

or designs product…

or, and this is a good one, respects one another.

Evaluating capabilities–strengths and not merely weaknesses–is a critical step for any strategist.

Add to that the fact that positive framing of capabilities and situations is likewise a real strategic leadership strength; and you will find that a focus on beautiful strengths is a healthy thing for your relationships as a leader, family member, and friend.

Why this is hard

Too often, and for too many good reasons, we get distracted from finding the beauty of strong capabilities around us.

The good reasons?  Well, more often than not, we have a problem to solve.

While you are focused on achieving that bonus or making it to the next stopping point in your career, or–maddeningly–just following orders, you might be missing the beautiful things around you.

The talent you have.

The talent people around you have vs. what is available in the market.

The glory of a job you did well today.

You know… the little things.

I’ll give a great example of how distraction can rule our lives and remove us from recognizing beauty around us.  Some of you may have seen this before; but if not, I encourage you to watch it.

In this video, famed virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell decides to play in a D.C. subway station, just to see if anyone notices… Have a look. It’s well worth a couple minutes of your time.

I’m betting that more than a handful of the people who walked through that subway station were not only aficionados of classical violin, but were probably so much so that they could tell you how excited they would be to go to the symphony hall to see such a performer as Joshua Bell.

And, they each had the opportunity not only to see Bell, but to have an almost personal performance by him.  That’s something that many people would pay a lot of money for.

But they aren’t looking for the thing of beauty that is right in front of them.

It’s a remarkable and somewhat sad commentary on the pace of our lives that a virtuoso gets nearly zero reactions from everyone powering their way through the train station toward their next goal.

The same distractions apply to you while you lead your life…

Chances are you have strengths right in front of you that aren’t being used.

Chances are you’ve let “popular” notions of what talent or capability looks like (in the worst case–prejudiced or preconceived notions) cloud your vision of what strong capabilities are right in front of you.

Chances are, you’ve gotten yourself into a hurry.

A parting shot

I’ll leave you with a little bit of humor.

If you have never seen it, I encourage you to watch the “Double Rainbow” video here.

Now, There’s a guy who found a thing of beauty in his life.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have to get that excited.  Still…

…Go find your double rainbow today.

Find a thing of beauty today.  Find a strength to build on.  It might get you somewhere that a focus on ugly won’t.

That’s a core secret of an effective strategist.

I’d love to have you share your reactions and comments…

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