Do YOU ever get stuck in rut? You know…when you feel you are on auto pilot at work and at home? I think we all have moments like that and it is important to recognize them and find ways to motivate yourself forward.

Over the years I realize that I have 4 go-to ways that consistently refocus me…re-energize me….and get me back on track!

1. Embrace a change of scene

2. Read an Inspiring Book

3. Listen to Upbeat – Motivating Music

4. Focus less on yourself and more on others

Cue the psychedelic back in time music to a work trip that I didn’t necessarily want to go on and I was in a bit of a funk…

I reluctantly booked the trip for the conference because I had too much going on to be spending a week out of the office right now.  Even though I knew a change of scene was probably in order I found myself denying it and making up excuses for all the reasons I couldn’t go.  So… I just had to remind myself that “the way I was working wasn’t working” so find a way to get the most out of it.

Recognizing that I would need some support for the long trip and days ahead…I ordered a book that my former executive coach from London had recommended to me. It is called “Inside the Leader’s Mind” by Liz Mellon and highlights how leaders have the capability to think differently. I made the commitment to myself that by the time I landed back at home I would finish the book.

I also recognize that if I had to choose one thing that I believe “feeds my soul”, grounds me and keeps me motivated – I would have to say that it is music. Listening to music (all kinds of music) can help me to think differently about things, change my mood, bring me up when I am down, gives me the courage to go on, or humbles me. I also need to confess that I become obsessive over a song and need to “wear it out” by playing it over and over again. They are all different genres and they often go with a time in my life or an event. For example, my trip to India was ‘Fields of Gold’ by Sting – I played it over and over again the afternoon we drove to the Taj Mahal.

For this particular trip, my daughter was playing “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band in the days before I left. I can’t explain how these songs get stuck in my head, but that was the chosen one for this trip and I found myself humming, and needing to “wear it out”.

As part of the conference activities, we played the Poipu Bay Golf Course ( I know you feel sorry for me), and some of the guys said it is comparable to Pebble Beach. I have to admit that it was one of the most beautiful courses I have played (because I am not necessarily a good golfer). The 16th hole was the women’s longest drive and I stepped up, sang a little “Chicken Fried” and crushed it – long and straight up the middle. As it turns out – this was enough to win women’s longest drive on that hole and I got a $100 Amex card. It felt cool.

So that Friday…I boarded the plane, book in hand, “Chicken Fried” on the iPhone and ready for the 6 hour ride home.  I ended up sitting next to a young soldier who was headed back to Tennessee on vacation. We chatted a bit before takeoff but we quickly settled into other things (I in my book and he into a movie).

As I devoured the book…what I really appreciated was that leadership isn’t so much about specific behaviors it is about how leaders have the ability to think about things differently.

The Five ways she highlights are:

1. Leaders are able to operate without a safety net. They ultimately know they are on their own – making decisions and stepping out in front leaving everything on the line

2. Leaders are comfortable in discomfort.

3. Leaders have a solid core – the book talks about the leader’s soul.

4. Leaders take the approach that this is “their watch” That they are in charge of ensuring that there is success on their watch and that they leave a place in better shape than they found it.

5. Leaders are the Enterprise. They embrace the values of the organization and they feel they live it every day.

I have to say that # 3 on the list – The chapter on “Solid Core” really resonated with me. It talked about “Your inner compass”, “Do you have an internal sense of the right thing to do?”, “Are you authentic?”, “Do you show Humility?” These traits are really important and are very meaningful to me. The other line that stuck with me was “You’ve made it – you have nothing left to prove – now be generous with what you have learnt”.

As we were landing and I had listened to Chicken Fried for the millionth time I honed in on a line that I had NOT been paying that much attention to:

“I thank God for my life And for the stars and stripes may freedom forever fly let it ring….Salute the ones who died the ones that give their lives so we don’t have to sacrifice all the things we love”

I took off my headphones asked the young soldier next to me how long he was going home for. He said he was headed back for 10 days – he was getting married. It was supposed to be a surprise to everyone but the information got out. They were doing it now so the paper work could get through the system in the next couple of months. They were going to have a more traditional wedding later in the year just before he got deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months. He was a sniper and was preparing to head into the eye of the storm. He said that when he joined the army he decided that he may as well be in the middle of the action – he was about to get what he asked for. He was young, humble, hardworking and full of hope/excitement of what was ahead of him.

Once I heard his story, I told him about how I had been in Hawaii for meetings and how I had played golf the day before. I told him about how I had hit the longest drive and won a prize. (Now…you may think this story is about me…but it isn’t.) I reached into my purse and gave him the $100 gift card and told him that it was my wedding gift to him and his lovely bride. He was stunned and said he couldn’t accept it. I told him “of course you can – it was found money and it was my pleasure to kick off his wedding week with good karma”. He was unbelievably grateful and I was grateful for “Chicken Fried”, the ability to hit the ball long and straight, and for having the sense to do the right thing.

Life is about stringing together all little things into something that can make a difference – one person at a time.

I had a new sense of purpose after that trip and went back to work reenergized. The funk and rut had cleared!

So the answer to the question…” What Makes Leaders Think Differently?”….I would argue that a change of scene…a good book….a song that inspires you and focusing less on you and more on others is a good start.

Leadership questions of the week for YOU:

· Why are we always so reluctant to embrace a change of scene when we know that it will ultimately do us good?

· What song or songs motivate you? Is it the music itself, the lyrics or a combination?

· What book have you read lately that inspired you or pulled you out of a rut?

· What is YOUR story of focusing less on you and more on others and did that help pull you out of a funk?

· Do you believe that leaders do think differently and if so which of the five ways above mean the most to you?

· If you had to describe the one or two ways that you have changed or improved in your leadership thinking in the past year what would they be?

Thanks for reading and remember….YOU make a difference!

Be sure to continue the conversation by liking, commenting or sharing this post. You can also follow me on twitter @marciedwhite.


  • Marcia (Marcie) White

    YOU make a Difference

    Marcie is currently the Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Americas Relationship Director for HP Financial Services (HPEFS). Every day, Marcie strives to bring passion. purpose, high energy and a "get 'er done" attitude to all that she does. A life long learner with 25+ years experience in various industry verticals related to Information Technology and Consulting. Marcie applies her genuine desire to get to know others, her innovative marketing approaches as well as her technical, analytical and engineering qualifications to all aspects of her career.   Marcie holds a Bachelor of Science degree and certificate of Applied Science from Acadia University as well as a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering degree from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Jonathan and two daughters Katie (24) and Emily (20).   In her spare time she enjoys writing a blog sharing stories from her leadership journey with each submission challenging the reader with “Leadership Questions of the Week” and the concept that YOU make a difference! (