How do you know when dreams are just a dream?

I received the following message yesterday from an old friend and thought it would be great to share this conversation with you, as well.

So I’ve read your posts, looked at your website, and watched your sample videos. If you had to pick a starting point for someone who has a dream, but has spent most of their life being “against” themselves, what would you tell them? How do you know if it really IS just a dream?

L – thanks for the message – great to hear from you.  You inspired today’s post.

I use the term Dream -AND it hit me after seeing your message that I don’t like how unattainable it sounds… will it just be a figment of my imagination?


So – I’m changing my phrasing to: Dream big! and then set it up as a “Burled Arch Destiny”!


For those that have read my ‘Iditarod Leadership’ book or followed the Iditarod – you know the term ‘Burled Arch’ – as it is the finish line and the term ‘Destiny’ that comes from the same word as Destination.  Destiny is not ‘Fate’ (whatever happens to me – that’s my Destiny) – no – Destiny is a decided beforehand Destination that I am determined to reach!

With ‘Burled Arch Destiny” – all we need is the map, the skill and the will to get there!

Maps are creatable – Skill is grow-able…. only one question left – do you have the WILL?

So what I would tell people is this: “Dream Big!  AND then learn the steps that it is going to take to get you there.”

  Where are you now along this trail?
  Why do you want this Destiny?
  What will you need to Learn?
  What skills will you need to develop?
  What role will others play in helping you reach this Burled Arch?
  What are measurable steps along the way?
  What is the NEXT step?

If you can understand and take the next step and continue that process (WILL) – nothing can stop you from reaching your “Burled Arch Destiny”!

It’s not going to be perfect – anything worth doing – is worth doing UGLY!   Ugly is how we start and it leads us to continuous improvement!

(remember how bad we all were when we first started learning to play sports as little kids?  Eventually – if the WILL persists, the skill improves and you make JV and then on to Varsity! It takes talent – but as my mentor John Maxwell says, “Talent is NEVER enough!”)

Finally, what do we do with all of the self-defeating voices in our head?

  Fight them with everything you have!
  What the roots drink – the fruits think!
  Celebrate small victories and progress ‘Checkpoints’ like crazy!

Saturate yourself in “Can do – positivity!”  Find a voice – someone that lifts you up – and listen to their positive beliefs.  I listen (almost daily) to speakers that are highly positive and motivational – why?  because I need it too!

Read, listen, watch – anything you can to make sure your tank stays full of the belief in possibilities!

Next – Celebrate any progress – ANY progress toward your Burled Arch Destiny – you learn a new skill, take a new class, spend 30 minutes in dreaming and mapping! – whatever it is mark down and celebrate the wins!  This is the fuel needed to keep it up!  Why keep running if you think you’re not going anywhere?  Mark your progress – celebrate the smallest progress!

Lastly – find an encouraging friend, accountability partner or coach…  when you start to doubt (which we all do!), when you want to quit – you’ll need them to cheer you on!

Keep Dreaming – Keep moving – Keep growing – Keep doing!  The Burled Arch Destiny is attainable!

Creating Intentional Organizational Culture

In the last Blog, I talked more about discovering your present culture and although there are a number of formal ways (Organizational Surveys, Discovery Initiatives, hiring great consultants like me) we talked about the informal (survey of eyes and ears).  

Today, I would like to take a few minutes and discuss next steps..  How do you tweak, shift, shape, remake, or even re-engineer the present culture into a desired culture.


As with most things in business (or life) we need to define our Burled Arch.  Without consideration to our present location – our first step is to dream – to envision where we want to go and what we want the team to feel like – again, broken into the three components of – Language, Beliefs, and Behaviors.

From a blank canvas, start to get a picture of desired daily life in your organization… 

What mindset do you want your organization approaching their day with?  What about HOW they approach their interactions with each other?  Or our clients?  Their mindset toward problems or adversity? 

What if you think (or feel) that you are not fully ready to carve a brand new, fresh trail of desired Culture?

 – Get others in the organization involved

 – Search for companies with great cultures and find one that feels right for you

 – Use others as a template

I am a firm believer that there is very little ‘new under the sun.’  Modeling your desired culture after another is a great way to start, while adding your unique perspective to it.

Finally, on the creation of vision, make sure that the new vision is a good fit for the organization or that it is a vision that can be (somewhat) easily adopted and implemented.  If the vision is too much of a radical shift – there may need to be some smaller vision shifts created to work the organization up to it.


R.A.C.E. is my powerful and effective model  for Change Management.  The implementation phase of Culture shift must be broken into the components of making sure everyone is:

R – Ready to change (Line out with great clarity what the shift means in people and process, in Language, Beliefs and Behaviors)

A – Action is developing the internal marketing campaign FIRST!  We must take the action steps necessary to get our team on board! Use a phased-in approach while leveraging the Lead  and Swing Dogs for Team adoption.

C – Use Checkpoints to monitor progress and make mid-course corrections.

E – Evolve the Vision AND the process.

Cultural awareness is critical to having an Organization that operates with intentionality.  Cultural change, like most change, is not an easy undertaking.  However, with some strategy and a great process, you CAN shift your culture to something fantastic!

Most leaders are given the direction and told to ‘Mush’ the team in that direction

Most of us have control over our personal vision – our personal “Burled Arch”. However, very few of us have control over the Organization’s “Burled Arch”. For the vast majority of leaders, you are handed a destination, given the direction and told to ‘Mush’ the team in that direction. Operationally, you may have some flexibility on How it gets done but for the most part mid-level leaders are limited.

I don’t have time on the Friday blog to unpack all of the positions on the team, but let me introduce them to you and let’s round table what that might look like in your organization – or your ‘Sled Team’.

In most organizations, there are sled teams within sled teams within sled teams. You are the musher of your team – and you play a role in the team that is organizationally tiered above you. In Dog Sled Teams, there are four positions apart from the musher. The first position is ‘Lead Dog’, followed by ‘Swing Dog’, ‘Team Dogs’, and, lastly, ‘Wheel Dogs’.

Lead Dogs sniff out the trail, show the way and set the pace. Swing dogs are partners with the Lead Dogs. They help with the leadership of the team, but more specifically, they influence the rest of the team to follow the lead dogs’ lead. Team Dogs provide the power, the energy, and do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ (i.e. they make the widgets). Wheel Dogs provide additional power and help steer the sled. They are a strong force and they play a vital role in steadying the sled.

Within your organization, what is the role you most naturally play? Are you one of the first to lead out, find the direction, and start pulling in that direction? Then you’re playing the role of ‘Lead Dog’.

Do you take the lead and energy from the Lead Dogs and use your influence to get the rest of the team on board? Are you the ‘motivator’ of the group? Then you’re playing the role of ‘Swing Dog’.

Are those things too stressful? Does your strength lie in getting things done? When the team hands you something are you the ‘go-to’, get it done player? Then you’re playing the role of ‘Team Dog’.

Lastly, are you a steadying force? Do you provide much needed, solid council to your musher that helps them turn the sled and direct the team? Are you there and ready with the wisdom of someone who has been on the team a while and has the knowledge and understanding from being ‘long in the tooth’? That’s the role of the ‘Wheel Dog’.

Do you play more than one of these roles?

In our sessions we spend time and unpack all of these at a deeper level and teach people how to maximize their roles and increase their organizational value, but for today, can you own one of those positions? When it comes to organizational vision and your role within the team, you must find some way to add value to the over-arching mission – the organizational ‘Burled Arch’.

Wrap up for the week..

Are you ready to leave the lodge? Great achievements rarely take place in the Lazy Boy.

Musher’s carry the 3 gallon pot – for the ‘clear water’ of IDITAROD. Have you taken the time to dream about your ‘Burled Arch’? Have you filled your pot with all of your hopes and dream?

Musher’s carry the components for fire. If you haven’t taken the time to think about your ‘Fire components’ of Oxygen (passions / desires / skillset), Fuel (growth / learning / personal Kaizen), and Heat (line it out, write it down) set that time aside today or this weekend.

HAB 22 – Break the dream down into checkpoints, know the ABC’s of the dream and the A before Q components of what are my next 5 checkpoints or steps.

Lastly, what role do I play in my organizations vision and moving the team forward as a player, as well as a musher.

Thanks for being a part of the journey this week!

How do you run 1100 miles?

The Iditarod Dog Sled race covers 1100 miles of some of the roughest terrain around. Simply put – to an outsider or rookie, there is now way they can fully appreciate what it takes to reach the ‘Burled Arch’.

As you turned up the heat on your personal and professional vision, does it seem like a daunting task? Does it seem unlikely that you could achieve the dream?

In the Iditarod, there are 26 checkpoints from beginning to end and each checkpoint varies in distance from one to the other. For argument sake, let’s just call each about 45 miles each. Instead of the overwhelming task of running 1100 miles – mentally, it breaks down into 20 something training runs of 40 – 50 miles each. Again, this may vary depending on the roughness of the terrain and the conditions on the trail but you get the point.

Going from the ‘A’ to the ‘B’ in the HAB 22 model is just as intentional of a step as going from ‘A’ to ‘B’ in ABC. In order to accomplish a vision, our first step was to ‘H’- have one, next to ‘A’ refine the vision through ABC, now we transition to the ‘B 22’ – Break it down and Broadcast it.

We still use the ABC methodology – or sometimes what I call A before Q methodology. If you could break your dream down into components or training runs, what would that look like? You might say something like, “I want to run my own division.” What does a great division leader look like? What knowledge do they need? What knowledge do I possess, right now? What is my growth plan that will allow me to achieve my dream? What is the time frame I hope to accomplish this in? What is a reasonable time frame? Where do I need to place myself to be able to see what I need to see and experience what I need to experience?

If you could break the achievement of your dream down into 22 different steps to go from where you are now – to living the life or profession of your dreams – your ‘Burled Arch’, what are those 22 steps or ‘Checkpoints’?

The process for a good musher – and a good leader is to concern yourself with the next few steps in the process. To look much further than that is good for long term thinking but it can lock you up mentally and emotionally to take in too much. How do you eat an Elephant? How do you run 1100 miles?

I’m not concerned, at this moment, in reaching my ‘Burled Arch’. My job is to complete the next 1 to 5 checkpoints (steps) in the process that leads to the fulfillment of my journey. If I complete the 22 checkpoints lined out to achieve my dream – then I will have reached my ‘Burled Arch’. It’s as simple as that. ** Please notice that I said as simple as that – not as easy as that! **

Nothing worthwhile – nothing of incredible stature is ever easy – nor should it be!

If you do what others have done – then you can have what others have!

If you’re not willing to pay the price and run the checkpoints – that’s for the blog about staying in the lodge!

Challenge on the trail for today: Break down the trail to the ‘Burled Arch’ into checkpoints and training runs.

Run with purpose!

Refining the vision by fire…

Boiling the vision down to a usable clarity calls for refinement by fire. Again, from yesterday’s blog, mushers take a pot that can hold 3 gallons and the items needed to build a fire. The task,for today, is to take the components and mix them together to ignite the fire.

I have a system that I call HAB 22 when it comes to vision, refinement, and execution.

The H in HAB 22 stands for “Have” a vision.

It starts with the dreaming and possibilities thinking portion that we talked about for the first two days of this week.

Next we turn to gaining clarity and definition. This blends the H in with the A. The ‘A’ for me stands for ABC’s. In other words, we must get down to the basics of vision, refinement and execution AND much like a remedial school setting – we must write it down!

The components of fire – or the ABC’s of fire are Oxygen, Fuel, and Heat. The components of vision are similar Oxygen relates to those things that give you air. What are your desires? What are your passions? What do you enjoy? What have you dreamed about? What are you good at? All of these are going to give air to the REAL possibilities in the vision.

Fuel is growth. To be great at leadership and vision, you need to be thirsty. Just as thirsty as the mushers and Husky’s on the trail. Thirst for knowledge, thirst for wisdom, and thirst for best practices! Learning and growing are the fuel for the fire. Learning about yourself refines the vision down to what is more in your particular sweet spot – where is vision success more natural. Learning about your desired arena leads you to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME). To have so much knowledge in you that it spills out of you – is a much better position than having to run to wiki for the answers at every turn!

Finally, for today, we have Heat. You have to turn up the Heat on your dreams by writing them down. I’m not saying that just because you write your dreams and goals on a sheet of paper that they will come to pass – but I can tell you the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” is true when it comes to personal and professional achievement.

Once they are written we can turn up the heat and look at them in a more systematic – How do we accomplish these dreams / goals – this is done in the last section.

For the trail today, spend some time writing and refining – it will pay huge dividends!

What is your Oxygen (passion)? Are you fueling up (growing)? Have you turned up the heat on your dreams (Write it down)?