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You can’t see the label on the jelly jar when you’re inside the jam.

 

Life is the jam.  Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes a little sticky, and oftentimes messy.  It might even go good with some crunchy peanut butter, but yes, life is the jam.  And you, my friend, are inside that jam every day, living your life. Through the ups and, it can be tough to see who we really are, how the world sees us, and where we belong.

 

This book is about seeing, knowing, and honoring who you are.  It is about aligning yourself to a set of standards, ACES, which is an acronym I created that stands for Attitude, Connection, Empowerment, and Strength. In a world where the deck may be stacked against you, I believe we can rearrange the cards we are dealt, stack the deck in our favor, and live a more abundant life.

 

How?

 

Through focus and intentional actions aligned to the ACES Pillars of Success.

 

Let’s get back to the jam. How many of you are so busy looking for inspiration from outside that you forget the greatness inside of you?  Perhaps you study other people, looking to others for motivation, inspiration, or even permission to do what you want in life. Maybe you are giving, serving, moving so much you don’t take time to think about what, or who, is serving you.

 

It's no secret the world is going through a tough time right now.  Between the pandemic and political unrest, it's easy to feel like you're running on empty. And you're not alone - burnout is becoming increasingly common.  Job burnout was officially recognized by the World Health Organization in 2019 and is described as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that's not adequately managed.  (https://www.msnbc.com/know-your-value/dr-fernstrom-are-you-risk-job-burnout-n1039376).

 

The job aggregator site Indeed conducted a survey of 1,500 US workers to determine the level of burnout experienced by differing groups of people (various ages, experience levels, and industry sectors).  In comparing the ’21 data versus pre-pandemic levels, over half (52%) of respondents experienced burnout in '21, up from 43% pre-pandemic.(https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/04/05/indeed-study-shows-that-worker-burnout-is-at-frighteningly-high-levels-here-is-what-you-need-to-do-now/?sh=3281891b23bb). If left unchecked, burnout can lead to physical and emotional health risks, including fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger, and more.

 

What do we do about it?

 

Our culture values productivity above all else, and success is often defined by how much stuff we can accumulate. We work long hours chasing the almighty dollar, and our free time is spent scrolling through social media comparing our lives to others. Where does it end? For starters, we need to redefine what success means.

Something my Grandpa said to me at an early age has guided my life in this area: “I can make a success of my life as I see it, or as the world sees it. Success as I see it is the only worthwhile goal to pursue.”

This quote has helped me navigate the highs and lows during more than 25 years in corporate America and led to the ACES pillars, too. I endured burned-out lows early in my career (2001) when I took a six-month leave of absence from work and spent two weeks in a psychiatric ward. I soared on the highs of leading teams who surpassed a billion dollars in sales, earning President’s Club multiple times, and in 2020, launching my coaching company Team ACES, and earning coaching certifications with Gallup, International Coaching Federation, and Center for Credentialing and Education. Knowing who you are and pursuing success on your terms is the way to a more fulfilling life.

But it was this text from a friend, Sarah, that led to the book you’re reading today:

 

“It is always great to see you.  Everytime, you motivate and inspire me.  You have a true gift.  One day, we will be watching your YouTube videos."

The seed was planted in me that I could do what I thought I wanted to do … inspire others to reach their full potential.  Confirmation from a good friend opened my eyes to the possibility right in front of me.  What made this time different?  I received praise in the past, been onstage for speeches, keynotes and had rallied teams and charged up individuals.

The timing was right.

 

It was a warm mid-summer August afternoon in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 2018 and the end of a week-long leadership conference I attended with Sarah and twenty other colleagues.  I shared my experience, lessons learned/best practices, and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I challenged my own assumptions, listened to others, and came away in a much better state.

 

The vision board exercise sealed the deal.

 

It was the final session of the conference.  I have always been a dreamer, but kept my dreams inside and rarely slowed down to articulate what I wanted.  Like playtime at school, twenty of my fellow colleagues and I were shoulder to shoulder in front of a large conference room table with magazines, articles, scissors, poster boards, glue and the magic of our imaginations running wild.

 

As I filled my vision board, I explored the question of “what if?” What if I could do what I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be?  Who would I be?  Who am I today?  The pictures and ideas flowed and my vision appeared.  In the center of my vision board was “bring hope to millions.”  To the left of that, two young children building what looked like a science experiment with blocks.  In the bottom corner was the word ACE, the first inkling of my idea for the coaching company I would go on to launch two years later.

The session closed with a YouTube video from Robin Sharma on leadership and how anyone can be a leader regardless of their title. Willingness to serve is what makes a leader, not a title. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9IEeHqsTDs) I took notes feverishly.  I didn’t know Robin, but I resonated deeply with his words and I also couldn’t help but notice that we sort of looked alike in a bald brown-skinned sort of way.

The conference ended and I headed to the airport, reflecting on my vision board and Robin’s video.  As the plane was set to depart, my phone beeped with the text from the Sarah mentioned above.  I thought about that text, the vision board, and the leader video the whole flight home.  The future was absolutely in my control, and my vision and path ahead crystalized.

 

Five days later, on the morning of August 15, 2018, I woke up with an energy I never experienced before.  I jumped out of bed, got dressed, and headed out to the nature trail behind my house, a trail I hadn’t walked or explored once during the five years I owned my house.  From the birds singing their beautiful early morning songs, to the sun peeking over the towering trees and burning the dew off the grass, there was a calming effect present.  Other than the birds chirping, it felt like the world was asleep and this morning was made just for me.

 

I took a look at my watch, it read 7:15 AM and I snapped a picture of my watch, took a selfie, and made a decision.  From now on, every day beyond that day would be different.  I looked at the quote of the day on my phone that read “Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant.  There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks” by Johann Gottfried Von Herder https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/425990-without-inspiration-the-best-powers-of-the-mind-remain-dormant.

Different in what way?

 

Each day would be more intentional, with steps that would take me closer to my goal, which aligned with the message Sarah sent me. My full potential was to inspire others to reach theirs. I formed Team ACES two years later and I'm well on my way to fulfilling the dream on my vision board to “bring hope to millions.” All it took was a vision, a timely text from a friend, and the faith to take consistent action to bring that idea into reality.

 

We all have a label on the outside of our “jelly jar” and by the end of this book, my hope is the label that you will proudly claim ownership of is that of an ACE.

But what is an ACE? And why do you want to be one?

In Chapter One we will explore the ACES concept, its origin, and how to apply the ACES Pillars of Success to your life. In subsequent chapters, we will further delve into the ACES pillars through personal stories, interviews, and research to help you fully understand how these principles can be life changing to you.  You will learn from other ACES across a broad range of industries and careers:  from corporate CEOs and high ranking military officers, to educators, entrepreneurs, engineers and musicians.

This book is for the corporate executive who is looking to get more meaning out of life.  For the early career professional who wants to understand how to make a mark in the world. For those looking to make a career change, company change, or switch industries but don’t know where to start. Maybe that’s you. If you know there is more out there for you but you can’t seem to muster up the courage, or discipline, to go after what you want consistently, this book can guide you.

Through an easy to understand framework along with exercises and action steps, this book will teach you how to be an ACE in business and life.

 

Are you ready to stack your deck?  Let’s go!

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