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Start Your Journey by Clearly Defining What Your Sh*t Is [Day 2 – 28 Days to GYST]

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This is Day 2 of 28 Days to Getting Your Sh*t Together. Yesterday I talked about preparation and commitment. Without these two things in place, the remaining 27 days will have little impact, so get on it!. Today, the ridiculously smart Les McKeown starts us off by going deep. Get out that pen and paper I talked about yesterday.

Start Your Journey by Clearly Defining What Your Sh*t Is

By: Les McKeown | @lesmckeown

When my friend Sarah asked if I’d contribute to a series called “28 Days to Get Your Shit Together”, two things occurred to me: (1) Gee, thanks Sarah, now I’m going to be forever google-paired with an article that has the word ‘shit’ in it a lot, and (2) with an all-embracing subject like that, where do you begin?

Having now given this a mind-aching amount of thought, it seems to me that the logical place to begin is with a statement of the bleeding obvious:

You will best start this journey by clearly defining what your shit is, because only when you have laser-like clarity on what it is, can you begin to get it together.

And so, to that end, let me reluctantly step outside my comfort zone and share with you how I came to know what my shit is:

When I was a spotty adolescent growing up in Belfast, I was fortunate to find myself adopted by a mentor. As I nudged my way toward adulthood, I’d frequently turn up on Jim’s doorstep with some anguished problem, only to find everything settling into perspective after we chatted. Jim’s mantra was “If it isn’t fatal, it’s merely inconvenient”, and hearing him say it calmed me down, focused me, more times than I can recall. It was his church-elder way of telling me to get my shit together.

With Jim’s help I stumbled through to my mid-twenties, until one October Saturday night when a gunman stepped up behind my sister while she was locking a church door, and shot her in the neck. Karen lay on the wet ground for a while until someone found her and got her to a hospital, where she lay in a coma, her spinal cord snapped. Three weeks later she died without recovering consciousness. In a barn-door sized wrinkle of cosmic irony, my first child – my now-27-year-old daughter – was born just hours later, on the same day Karen died.

My sister, barely 21, was gone – the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. As her older brother I’d failed in the only thing an older brother is good for: to be there for your annoying little pill of a kid sister on the one occasion she genuinely needed help.

Some time later, I realized that I was no longer visiting with Jim. I no longer needed to hear him say “If it isn’t fatal, it’s merely inconvenient” – I knew it, in as deep a place as I could know anything. In her passing, Karen had given me a terrible gift, which I carry to this day: I know what my shit is.

From that time on (except for a mid-life mini-wobble in my mid-thirties), I’ve been clear about what matters to me, and what doesn’t. I know when I’m veering out of my own tracks; when I’m compromising to accommodate other people’s shit instead of my own; when I’m ‘settling’ instead of delivering my very best. I know when I’ve let myself down. I know when I’m avoiding the hard stuff. I know when I’m kidding myself.

You may have experienced something equally transformative in your life, in which case you’ll know what I mean when I say that while (obviously) this isn’t the best or easiest way to define your shit, it is achingly, permanently, effective.

For the rest, I’m sharing this with you because as the first of a series called “28 Days to Get Your Shit Together”, the statement I started with is the most precious thing I have to give you: Start this journey by very clearly defining your shit, because it’s only when you have laser-like clarity on what it is that you can begin to get it together.

And if you’re not sure what your shit is yet, ask yourself this: with what would you fill the empty vacuum of an unimagined, and unimaginable, loss? That’s your shit.

For me, it is something joyously prosaic: I help people be great leaders and build great businesses. What I do isn’t rocket science (quite), and it isn’t heart surgery (nobody will die on the operating table if I get something wrong), but I love it. Every minute of it. I often forget about birthdays and anniversaries, I’m recklessly cavalier about my health and well being, and I can’t be trusted with even the simplest of domestic arrangements, but I know what my shit is, and I’m not only good at it, I’m compelled to be good at it.

What’s your shit? Humor me – write it down, in one sentence, as I did in the paragraph above. Then over the next 27 days, don’t allow yourself to read what the other great contributors to this series write in a vacuum. Instead, first remind yourself what your shit is, then read the posts. Then act.

Les McKeown is president and CEO of Predictable Success, the leading advisor on accelerated business growth. He is the author of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller “Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization On the Growth Track – and Keeping It There.”

P.S. If you aren’t already signed up and don’t want to miss out on  28 Days to Getting Your Sh*t Together, please sign up here. (Yesterday, I gave away Les’s book, Predictable Success, to someone on the email list!)

**** Because several groups are using the #28Days hashtag during February, we are swtiching to #GYST to keep things clean and simple! ****

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