What does it take to succeed? What is the secret to success? I am about to take you on an adventure of how I crossed mountains to reach a destination that was irresistible to myself, as well as those closest to me. Going through this experience was no walk in the park. It took grit, determination, and persistence to reach success. Have you ever had an experience where you would do whatever it took to reach your goal? Was it tough? Did you feel like you wanted to give up and go back to how things were in the comfort of your own personal bubble? What I found out was that anything worth accomplishing is always uphill. In fact, the story I am about to tell you was literally, uphill. This is a story of how I reached the top of The Great Sand Dunes.
As Madi, James, and myself started our journey, we hauled our sand sleds in hand through the sinking sand of the dunes with our eyes on the prize of reaching the top of what we thought to be a never-ending destination. For those of you that do not know, Madi is my beautiful partner in crime that I have had the pleasure of being with for just over a year, and James is my brother that usually instigates the wild adventures in the Bowden family. As we rolled over the dunes, we began to breath heavy, gasping for air, drenched in sweat. Luckily, we had sleds that could speed up the journey by swiftly taking us down the backside of the dunes. After a few hours, we finally reached a high point and could see the highest peak just a few dunes away. We had to get there! Now, we were not skilled enough to safely get to the bottom of a dune, especially since we had been hiking up the steep, relentless dunes that would sink you back a step for every two steps that you would move forward. We decided to practice. At the end of my first trial run, I reached the bottom of a small dune successfully without any downfalls. In fact, James and Madi thought I did so well that they encouraged me to go on the steep backside of one the tallest dunes in the park. I said to myself, “All right, I got this.” I seemed to go down that small dune just fine, how hard could it be to go down the other side where there was no sign of others going down?
I decided to commit. I was going to be the brave soul to take the leap of faith and start my own trail. As I began down the slope, my pace exponentially increased. Faster, faster, I kept on accelerating. Approaching midway, I spotted a patch of vegetation that I thought would counteract the ever-increasing speed consistently pushing me to my fate. As I approached at terminal velocity, I found out that this was not what I had expected. It was a ramp! I hit the ramp, flying like a bird trying to build its wings. However, those wings never came out. As I was in the air, I blacked out. A few moments later, thud… I hit the ground. I instantly yelled, “I broke my arm!” Madi came rushing down to check and see if I was okay. After lying there motionless, I began to move my arm. I realized it was not broken, but most certainly dislocated. Luckily, my shoulder fell back into place a few moments after my landing. Madi arrived, I asked “Did you get that on video?” Of course, the one time we did not take pictures or video I had to go through my near-death experience. James came down shortly after, this time he made sure to not go down the same way I did, and further down the incline. James had reached us, we came together, and decided where to go from there. I was battered, bruised, and aching with pain. We could see our end goal in sight, but how could we move on after an incident like that? I decided we needed to finish what we started. We pressed on!
After an exhaustive, treacherous, adrenaline filled experience we finally made it to our goal, we made it to the top of The Great Sand Dunes! Reaching the top was no easy task. At times we wanted to quit and head back to the car in the comfort of what we knew was familiar, but instead, we persisted. We never gave up! We kept pushing to reach what we came to accomplish. Was it hard? Yes. Did we ever feel like giving up while we had setbacks along the way? Yes. We refused to give in. We pushed on and persisted to reach our goals. What experiences have you gone through that tested your limits? What would happen if you continued to persistently move forward in accomplishing your goals? What could you achieve? There will be times where you feel like giving up, times where you feel like settling for less. But remember this, everything worthwhile is uphill. Keep going, persist, and have faith in yourself!
Do you remember a time where your true self started to become revealed? Was there a time where you felt like this is what you were meant to live for? In the most unexpected of circumstances, I had someone believe in me that changed the trajectory of my life forever. At the time, did I realize it? No. Did I know this was a passion of mine? No. What happened that day sparked something that had been placed inside me only to slowly reveal itself and show its true meaning. At this moment of discovery, I was halfway across the country away from all my family and most of my friends. It was the summer of 2012, the summer that I acted upon something I never thought I would do. I became a book salesman.
Knocking door-to-door to sell books to families may not be the most highly desired summer job, especially when you get the door slammed in your face, cussed at, and have a local drive you off and tell you to go back where you came from. The life of a book salesman has its highs and lows, there is no doubt about that. I will tell you that it was the largest emotional roller coaster of my life. There were days where I had my highest sales of the summer and sold all the books I could have possibly imagined. Then there were days where I completely gave up from the endless amounts of rejection. I felt hopeless, like no one cared about me or what I had to offer them. As the summer had passed, I had come across a particular house. This house had four large pillars and a massive entry way that would wow anyone that approached it. I knocked on the door…….no answer. Moments later I heard a shout from the balcony above. A man told me to hold on and that he would be down in a minute. I waited until he opened the door. He said he was in a rush, but he was interested in what I had to offer. He told me to come to his pizza place later in the week to tell him about the educational books I was selling, that way his whole family could be there. The only issue was that the company I was working for trained us not to worry about a customer that would not buy the moment you arrived at their door. However, there was something different about this guy. I decided to take the risk. I met him at his pizza place.
A few days later I arrived at his restaurant with a warm welcoming from him and his family. He had offered me a full pizza and drink on the house. We finally reached the table. It was time to get down to business. After I gave him my pitch, he told me his story. This was a man that came over from Greece with nothing but the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. He had a dream to start a pizza restaurant in the United States to provide for his family, to give them a life where they would not have to worry about the stress of not having money. He and his family had lived above his restaurant to make ends meet at the start. As the business grew, the weight of scraping by had lifted. He no longer had to worry about the stress of feeding his family or paying the bills to keep the lights on. At the end of his story, he told me something I will never forget, “Carl, you will be successful! Nobody your age is willing to do what you are doing this summer. Nobody will work as hard as you.” My heart dropped as I was filled with the fact that someone believed in me. He believed in me so much that he was willing to contribute whatever it took to invest in his son’s education. That belief in me was the ignition to what I had been searching for, what I had been longing for. I had discovered leadership.
By the positive example that this man gave me, I realized that believing in people is one of the greatest gifts you can give. His story was a story that shook me to my core, a story that would forever change me. His belief in me gave me the opportunity to believe in others. He gave a piece of his life in hope that he could change mine. This was the point where I found out what leadership was all about: giving your life in service to others to help them become who they were meant to be, to reach their full potential. There are times where we least expect positive change, but when those times come, we can make a difference in our life, and in the lives of others. What will you do to lead the people in your life? What change do you want to make? Serve others and never give up on your dream! Do what it takes, discover your greatness, and be who you were meant to be!
What happened to the leadership that would positively inspire someone to do great things? Where have our influential leaders gone that seek to serve our country? Leadership in America has become one of our nation’s largest crisis’s, however, this can change. There are many phenomenal leaders in the United States that seek to serve their people through authenticity, positivity, empathy, humility, love, inspiration, and integrity. These are just a few of the qualities found in a leader, but the list goes on. The great thing about America is that we have the freedom to choose. We have the choice in electing these qualities in our leaders whether they be on the local, state, or federal government level. How would you feel if you followed a leader that possessed these qualities? How would this change the state of our nation? With the inauguration coming up next week, leaders must be focused on exemplifying great leadership in our people. Our leaders must focus on living a positive example for others to model. In addition, the people must also live these positive values. Today I will give you three must have qualities that the leaders and people of our nation need to possess for a positive path forward in leading our country. 1) Our leaders need to display humility, 2) our government needs to embrace authenticity, and 3) our nation needs to show love by always serving our people and inspiring them to become who they were meant to be.
In the words from the author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states, “This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less”. We must display our humbleness and admit to our mistakes and shortcomings while becoming vulnerable. Growing up I was scared to admit I was wrong, I thought if I held my ground I would be respected. However, I found the opposite to be true. When we display humility, we start connecting with others. We begin to build trust and break down our walls to help others relate to us. Humility gives us the power to lead others by getting off our balcony of authority and allows us to meet our people on the ground floor to walk with them in their growth.
Once we acquire the attribute of humility, we then start living a more authentic lifestyle by showing our true actions, thoughts, and emotions. Think of one of your closest friends, what made you connect with them? What made you gravitate to who they are? You might be thinking this person is 100% their true self. Maybe you thought they displayed integrity by always following through with what they said they would do. I have made it my goal to live my most authentic life by keeping my word and following through on my actions. At times it is hard, and I admit to my mistakes, but it is always about fighting to improve on the honesty within yourself to live a more authentic, real life. Imagine if our governmental leaders made this a priority. Think of all the great things that would come from the behaviors that they modeled.
Lastly, our nation needs the act of love more than any other time in recent history. In today’s world you will see people quickly expressing what comes to their minds on social media, but when it comes to in-person interactions (ignoring the fact that we are in a global pandemic) people suddenly lose all their courage. It reminds me of the dog that barks behind the fence, but once you open the gate, suddenly, they become silent. Pushing our thoughts and opinions about how the world should work is not love. Love is about listening, seeking to understand the other person’s point of view, and continually serving others before ourselves. Choose today to understand, learn, serve, and love those around you!
The great thing about change is that it starts with us. You and every other leader out there can make the decision today to be a positive influence on others. What if our leaders chose a path of integrity and followed through with their commitments? What if we did not see political parties and instead chose to see the qualities found in the individuals leading us? If you want to change society, start with its people. Have humility, be authentic, and love others!
With hope in action,
The year 2020 is a year we will never forget. I feel like I can speak for many of us in saying that we are all ready to move on from 2020 and start 2021 with a fresh start. This past year has delivered some of the most heartbreaking news we have had to endure, and it kept on coming at us with one piece of bad information to another. It started with the wildfires that burnt over 20% or 12.6 million hectares (31.1 million acres) of forests in Australia, then we all were hit with COVID-19 that dramatically altered the way we live our day to day lives with social distancing. This continued with the largest decline in our economy since The Great Depression, and to top it all off we experienced one of the nation’s most extreme civil rights movements that has occurred in the history of The United States of America. This does not mean the next year has to continue like this. With crisis happening all around us we can create an opportunity to make positive change. We can help create opportunities by taking the first step in meeting our goals in what we want to accomplish. During this past year, I was hit with some of the most detrimental news, I was let go from my job. Hearing this news, I created an opportunity that I have been waiting for my entire life. Here is what I did…….
Reflecting on this past year, anyone can find the tragedies and losses that has come with the year 2020. However, there is always beauty in life’s thorns. Of course, we want to recognize our losses, but we also want to recognize the gains and blessings that have happened because of those losses. Maybe you put more of an effort to stay in contact virtually with your family and friends, or perhaps you started improving yourself and made the decision to act on what you have been putting off for so long. Whatever happened this past year, reflect on the good and recognize what made you a better version of yourself. For me, I was hit with the loss of my job due to a restructuring of the organization. At the time, this was a huge blow to my confidence, self-worth, and belonging. Reflecting on my time in my previous position I can say I made a positive impact on many lives by the work I had the privilege of doing. I also realized that this was not because of me that I lost my job, it was because of the needs of the organization and the goals to be met. Due to this change, I was presented with one of my biggest opportunities to date; I made the decision to continue my education with a Master of Business Administration and start my own business to help serve others in their goals through Exemplify. Because of the incredible loss with everything 2020 had brought me, it gave me the opportunity to live my passion for leadership, giving others the opportunity to start living their passion as well. I could have given up after hearing the news. I could have settled for something that was not going to meet my goals but provide a steady paycheck. I made the decision to finally take hold of my destiny and start living the life I was meant to live.
There is great opportunity in some of the biggest crises you will face in life. What will you choose to do when that crisis comes? How will you respond? Will you start leading yourself to become the best you can be? What goal do you want to set for yourself this upcoming year that will give you your greatest return? I know times are tough, but do not let that get you down. Rise up, live to your potential, and create the opportunity you were meant for!
Yours in success,
What we cannot see is often what hinders us the most. Have you ever been told by someone close to you that you act a certain way, but fail to see it? What have people told you that caught you by surprise? How did it make you feel when you heard this news? I will let you in on a few truths that lie within each one of us. First, we all have blind spots that conceal our awareness. Second, you can shift your perspective to help become aware of who you are; and last, you can use your blind spots to build relationships with others.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a blind spot as it relates to human behavior is defined as: “An area in which one fails to exercise judgment or discrimination.” This means that there are different frames of view within our conscious mind that we fail to see. Coming from an outside perspective, others can see these blind spots when the one expressing the blind spot is left unaware of their behavior. The blind spots that we currently possess, we are not aware of. It takes an awakening from another person or unfamiliar situation to help uncover our awareness of a particular behavior. We all possess blind spots; however, it is only a matter of uncovering them through awareness that will help us understand who we are and how we operate.
Blind spots can hinder us, or they can help us. Becoming aware of the types of behavior that we do automatically gives us the ability to have the choice of changing our behavior. If we have developed an unwanted behavior, this gives us the opportunity to shift our perspective to develop the behavior we want to see in our lives. If we have developed a positive quality in our behavior this can help us serve our strengths in who we are. Most of the time we think we know exactly who we are, but when we present ourselves in unfamiliar situations, our blind spots start to uncover themselves. Becoming aware of our strengths or weaknesses in our behavior gives us the opportunity to choose to shift our perspective to create the outcome we want. What do you choose?
After discovering our blind spots, we can now help others by changing our behavior to positively impact our surroundings. Awareness of our blind spots whether positive or negative can help us build relationships with the people we surround ourselves with. If we become aware of a negative behavior, we can now change that behavior to prevent future problems. Becoming aware of a positive behavior can help us to live in our strengths and propel us to reach our full potential. Whatever behavior you discover as a blind spot, now gives you the ability to make a positive impact on your environment. This process of self-discovery now gives you the gift of living the positive, authentic example you choose to create. What have you done to discover your blind spots? What example do you want to live by? Take the time today to help discover your true, authentic self. This is your time to start leading your life, your business, and your community! Live to your strengths and use your blind spots to start serving others.
Are you a leader? Do you think you have the ability to lead? If you struggled to answer yes to these questions, I have news for you…everyone has the opportunity to be a leader! Leadership does not require a title, position, or a distinguished degree; rather it requires taking on a challenge to fulfill a common goal with the support of others. It is the ability to make a substantial amount of influence among a common purpose. Leadership is living the example that you want to set out for others. What challenge do you have? How can you make a positive influence in your life, your business, or your community? Be the leader that you know you can be and be the change that you seek to make is this world!
When I was growing up as a child I was surrounded by the positive influence of my parents while living a life out on the farm, hunting with my family, and spending time in the outdoors. It was not until after college that I realized my passion for leadership started with my family. My dad would always lead the large convoy of people out for the big hunt on opening weekend of pheasant season, while my mom would lead and support our family through difficult times. My parents had exemplified leadership throughout my entire youth even though my siblings and I might not have even realized it. Being surrounded by their positive influence, I have developed the passion of providing leadership for others to create a positive, authentic life that seeks to serve others to do the same. This led me to pursue my education in leadership to help fulfill my cause. I believe the lack of leadership in our society is one of greatest challenges we face today. Because of this, I seek to make lasting change through my community, the organizations I involve myself with, and the world to help others through life. Discovering my challenge and continually fighting for my leadership cause is my goal for helping to lead the change that I want to see in this world.
What do you believe is a life worth living? What cause do you want to help change to impact those around you? In the words of one of the great leaders and authors in our history, Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” You are a leader that is waiting to be unleashed. Find your challenge and be the positive influence for the legacy you intend to leave. Go out there and lead your charge by living the example that will transform your world!
Lead your charge,
How many people do you know today that you can say are 100 percent truly living out their authentic self? How often do you find this in the people you come across? In today’s world it is hard to find genuine, authentic people that display integrity and line up their actions with their words. In our world we try to hold up a perfect outside reputation of ourselves instead of investing in the inside character that we most desperately need. Think of a time where you thought you did a good job of representing your true self to someone? How did that make you feel when you expressed your true thoughts and beliefs?
In my past and especially in college I had always been pressured to do what society was telling me to do. I would be told I needed to make a lot of money, be athletic, be tough, or get into a career that made me look like I was successful just like every other man out there. I began to reflect on what it meant to be successful and found that the more I focused on what society wanted me to be, the less happy I became. I was being forced to be someone that I am not and to do the things that would look good in society’s eyes instead of my own. I had to be valued by my peers instead of being valued by myself. This realization of not conforming to society and standing up for my beliefs, interests, and purpose has given me clarity and strength to fulfill my potential as the person I was meant to become. Why do we struggle to be our authentic self? Why do we have to conform to what others think we should believe when it leads to our own self destruction? We seem to always seek to be a part of something bigger than ourselves to feel like we belong. Instead of trying to be a part of the crowd, what if we all stood out of the crowd to let our purpose positively impact our communities by living out our true, authentic self?
The idea of “knowing thyself” has brought peace, security, and purpose to my life and I have made it my mission to help others find that same belief within them. Whether you are looking for understanding and clarity in business, your community, or in your own personal life, I want to help you look for the answers that are waiting to be revealed from within you. I am excited to help you and others on their journey for making it a goal to live out your life authentically, making a difference by the person you have been waiting to discover.
Humility has become a long-lost value in our world today. We have neglected the act of having humility and admitting our faults. What has happened to the state of our nation? Where has the act of opening up about our mistakes gone? Why has this occurred and what changes can we make to do about it? My intention is to help you uncover the act of having humility and connecting with those that you value the most.
When we think of humility we may think of failure, mistakes, or being vulnerable. All these feelings can initially be uncomfortable, and we tend to stray away from them as much as possible to hang on to our pride and sense of self-worth. We think that maintaining our reputation and holding a perfect image of ourselves will help gain trust and respect from those around us. However, practicing humility can have the exact opposite effects on us. When we practice humility, we gain the ability to connect with others by exposing our vulnerabilities for others to learn from our mistakes, failures, and short comings. We build trust and security in those we lead. Think of a time when you have seen someone exemplify humility? How did you connect with that person? Did you respect that person?
In the past, I found it difficult to look at things through multiple perspectives. I believed that my way of thinking was the only way of thinking and after reflecting on it, it seemed that I had developed a perfect image of how the world should work. Overtime, I was rudely awakened by the fact that my way of thinking is not the only way. I was not always the one that had the right sense of mind in a particular discussion whether it be politics, religion, or how to lead others. I eventually grew closer to the idea of adopting an open mind and learning from multiple perspectives, taking a step back and truly analyzing the situation from all different viewpoints. I found that when I can look at ideas from different viewpoints, my learning exponentially increases and my ability to connect with others and build healthy relationships solidifies in trust and security.
When was the last time you exemplified humility? How did it impact you? What made you own up to your mistake and take responsibility for your actions? It is hard to have security within ourselves when we are always comparing ourselves to others. In the words of Steven Furtick “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Be your true self! Live a life of integrity and give life to others through having humility.
When looking to a leader for guidance, what gives you life? What traits do you see in that person that are worth looking up to? How does this person exemplify their leadership and what kind of change are they making in their lives and in their communities? These are all questions that we can ask in what we want to see in our leaders and in ourselves.
Growing up in the small town of Salina, KS I had many great examples to look up to. My father would lead our family in establishing values of responsibility, courage, hard work, and being on time. My mother would instill values of care, love, and service to others. Whether my siblings knew it or not, we were actively adopting those traits by our parents’ example. It is amazing how much we glean from the actions of the people we surround ourselves with. We develop ways of thinking that may be completely opposite of someone living across the street, across the town, or even across the country. Our surroundings or our “inner circle”, the closest people we surround ourselves with, have a major impact on the values that we create in the lives that we live. Maybe you have been living off bad examples or maybe you have been living off good examples. Being surrounded by good and bad examples has a large effect on our lives, but it is not the only thing that determines our destiny. Yes, our surroundings, our experiences, and our circumstances can determine who we are or what trajectory we go down in life, but we also have the ability to create our own destiny. All we have to do is design the life we want to live.
I do not know what you have been through or what made you who you are today. I do know that you can make choices in your life that will get you where you have always dreamed of. What goals do you have for yourself? What direction are you currently heading towards? What example do you want to live out for others for them to be positively influenced by the life you live? In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.” You are capable, you have the courage, and you have all the knowledge you need within you. Go out there and get it! Be the example that you want others to follow to live a more positive, impactful, and authentic life!
Lead your life,
Carl currently resides in Wichita, KS where he coaches and consults businesses, community groups, and individuals with Exemplify.