Nine Minute Moments


In my last blog, I shared the painful struggle of being fired over 20 years ago. As a result, I began a 20+ year journey of learning to choose well, lead well, and finish well.

Being fired all those years ago was an incredibly painful experience. I lost confidence in my abilities, felt like a total failure, and simply wanted to crawl into a dark cave and lick my wounds. I seriously thought about giving up my YMCA career and starting all over in a new field. I had to make a choice. While on the surface the choice was between two career options, in reality it was a choice to either pull out of the self-criticizing death spiral I was in or let failure win. When you’re in the never ending cycle of defeating thoughts, it’s pure choice to replace those negative thoughts with ones that start to speak truth to your soul about who you are and Whose you are. Choose truth.

Last month, a former colleague and friend asked me to attend his retirement celebration. I put it on my calendar, but when the day arrived I started to hear excuses building in my head:

  • It would take 40 minutes to get downtown.
  • Parking would be atrocious.
  • I had so much to do, that not going would make my day much easier.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I had wrestled with a very similar issue a couple of years ago and wrote about it. Yet here I was faced with the same choice. I had choose to remember the lesson I’d learned then – relationships trump to do lists. Choose relationship.

Dan Webster is the founder of Authentic Leadership ( and a mentor. He has a phrase he uses – nine-minute moments. If you add up all the seconds that first-string NFL players are actually blocking, tackling, throwing, etc,  the total live action in a game is 9-12 minutes. Yet they prepare physically, mentally, and strategically over 80 hours for that one contest in order to raise their potential to make a difference in the football game.

I relate that to our choices. Each and every day we make little choices that don’t seem to have much impact. We choose what meeting to attend, when to speak up, what we listen to, when to confront and when to avoid. The right small choices prepare us for our nine-minute moments. Those times are when relationships hang in the balance, when truth is challenged, when your gut is clenching and your heart pounding because you know making the difficult but right choice has huge consequences – personally and professionally.

What nine-minute moments are you facing? Choose well.

The Price of Making a Hard Call

I am so proud of our granddaughter for making a hard call.  She was working for a day care agency, caring for infants.  The agency was cutting corners to a point where she believed there were safety issues.  An infestation of ants went untreated and she kept finding them in the diaper cabinet.  Rugs in the facility had shredded backing, putting the infants at risk of choking.  Her repeated requests to deal with these issues went unanswered.  Finally one day, an infant playing on a rug, put a piece of the rug backing in her mouth and choked.  Our granddaughter responded immediately and the baby was OK.  But the daycare agency asked her to sign a report that lied about the incident.  She refused and said she would stay late if she had to and let the parent know the truth about what happened.  That took courage.   For the following week, she was harassed by her supervisor – making her work environment difficult – and so she quit.

Today she joins thousands of other young people on the job market – but she takes with her the knowledge that she stood up for what was right and kept her integrity.   She joins the ranks of integrity fanatics.

The Seduction of Power

The John Edwards trial has produced some interesting testimony, none more so than Andrew Young, the ex-aide who said the lure of power caused him to claim he was the father of Edward’s baby with his mistress.    “Being friends with the most powerful person on earth – there are benefits to that”.    Pride and power are seductive.  They are beasts you think you can ride, but they suddenly turn  devour you.   Young made a choice to lie, to assist in a cover up – all in the hopes of gaining influence and power from a man who might be President.

If he had stopped in the moment and asked the question – what are the consequences of this choice? – he might not have agreed to the cover up.  A well played game of “what if” can keep you from succumbing to the lure of lust, greed, or power.  Just imagine what would happen if you got caught.  What would you have to say to your family?  What would the headline in tomorrow’s paper be?  Had Andrew Young played ‘what if’ when he was asked to play a part in the cover up , he might have imagined the headline “Edwards Ex-Aide Says Power was Motivation.”  Write the headline that might appear if your choice to purse power got the better of you.  What would happen to your family, your business, and your friendships?  Would you be in prison?  Financially ruined?   A well-thought through session of “what if” can make real the potential consequences of falling prey to a lack of integrity.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”   Even more thought provoking, the Bible says: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)  That came true for both John Edwards and Andrew Young.

Power, character, and integrity are a rare combination.  Which ones can you claim?

Soul Insanity

One of my favorite thought leaders is Dan Webster.  Dan was at the forefront of leadership authenticity – long before Lencioni or Maxwell got in the game.  Two of his thoughts have resonated with me over the last 12 years and they keep popping back up in my mind just when I need them.  In this blog, I’ll address the first one.

“The absence of quiet in a man or woman’s life slowly leads to a state of soul insanity.”

 That one sentence is filled with such truth.  On the days when I skip my morning quiet time, the day just doesn’t go as well.  It’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over, and gradually I’m becoming better about not letting something take its place.  When I fail to slow down, I lose touch with who I am and I lose the ability to resonate with others.  As a result, I lose my ability to influence – to lead.

Research has shown that when we are under stress we default to a leadership style that is dissonant – resulting in a lack of trust, burn out, anger and frustration among those we lead.  Slowing down – keeping our soul sanity – helps us be resonant leaders who are known for collaboration, trust, empathy and the ethical use of power. 

 If we want to lead others, we must first lead ourselves.  It’s a matter of integrity.

Who is telling the truth – Landis or Armstrong?

Floyd Landis vs. Lance Armstrong. In the recent Wall Street Journal story, the two had drastically different claims about Armstrong’s participation in doping for the Tour de France.  It’s a case of Solomon proportions. Solomon was the king of great wisdom who had to determine which of two mothers a baby actually belonged to.  Both claimed the child.  Solomon’s wisdom quickly determined who was lying

 When you hear two conflicting stories, how do you know which side to believe?  Using the core principles in the book  The Dichotomy of Power: Using Power with Intelligence and Integrity, here are some suggestions for the next time you’re faced with two very different versions of a situation.

 Avoid jumping to conclusions based on initial information.  Now is the time to think critically through the claims using these tools:

1) Analyze the arguments on both sides.

2)What observed, provable evidence exists for the claims?

3) Are there two or more eye witnesses?

3) Merge that evidence with the integrity and character of each person.

       a)    Do they have a record of speaking the truth?  A record of  reliability?

       b)    Is bitterness, anger, or hate underlying the comments of either person?

       c)    Is pride present?  Humility?  Pride and lies often go together.

I don’t know who is telling the truth.   What I do know is that time will tell – for a lie is short lived, but truth endures.