Life Beyond an EPIC Fail

by Onyeka Nchege on February 16, 2015

American Football on the field with yard line and green grassIt’s 2:10 PM on a Saturday and my son Kalu and I are in the barbershop getting a haircut. Our barbershop, like most others, is the place where everyone is an expert on everything. And yes I mean everything – doesn’t matter what the topic is – politics, education, current and world affairs…..no topic is off limits as there is always an expert present on any topic at the barbershop. It’s the only place where self proclaimed experts congregate and debate the day’s hottest topics/subjects. There is no place like it in America.

And this particular Saturday was the one immediately after the Super Bowl, which meant the opinions of every ESPN analyst, sports commentator and NFL coach and player were to be questioned, corrected and scrutinized with a level of passion and authority that would frighten the skittish. You see, the barbershop is the only place, outside of a professional locker room, where game film is analyzed as if we were all suiting up to play the following week.

On this day, as we settled in for our passionate and authoritative sports commentary, just barely a week from the last ditched debacle of the Seattle Seahawks that cost them the most important game of their season, I knew my son and I were in for a treat. There were varying opinions buzzing around the room on every action we all witnessed that evening while watching the game, but the general consensus from all was the Seahawks made a huge mistake executing a pass play instead of a run play. In that one mistake, the Seahawks reduced their winning season to a 20 second heartbreak.

As I often do, especially in the presence of my children, I steered the discussion to one of learning and leadership. I have had my share of failures (everyone encounters failure at some point in their life – it is proof you are striving) and I continue to learn from my failures. I challenged everyone to think about the lessons we could draw from those last few seconds of that game. In addition, I shared 3 leadership principles that resonated with me immediately following the Seahawks tomahawk.

Surmounting a setback often means a MODification in leadership strategy.

    1. Mirror Mirror – My first thought was that the Seahawks coach (Pete Carroll) has to look at himself in the mirror and admit his play call was wrong, essentially, he has to acknowledge his mistake. It is often the toughest pill to swallow, but admission is the first step in correcting the mistake, regardless if the decision appeared to be a great one at the time when you made it. This speaks to feedback, which is the catalyst for change. It begins with truths, facts and understanding – especially ones you tell yourself.

    2. Own IT – As a leader, the first person we have to hold accountable for mistakes that occur under our leadership is ourselves. Admitting the mistake is indeed the toughest pill to swallow, but another pill that chokes down behind it is acknowledging your mistake to your team. It is a known reality that all leaders make mistakes, but the difference between those that continue to lead and those that are removed from leadership roles is practicing the needed courage to own and move past mistakes. This speaks to ownership and just as you claim your successes, you must also claim your failures.

    3. Drive Forward – Living in the past prevents us from moving forward. Reflection of past mistakes and successes provides us with a positive path forward, however continually reliving the past and playing “what if” scenarios can cause stagnation. At some point you have to put the past where it belongs so that you and your team can move forward. The Seahawks may have reduced their winning season to a 20 second mistake, but they, and us alike, have a new day tomorrow. This speaks to adaptability – having the vision to see what is behind and using that to fuel forward progress.

Along with the other experts in the barbershop that day, I’m still irritated by Coach Carroll’s last play call, and through our discussions we have each convinced ourselves that we would not have made that same mistake. But more importantly we each understand that the nature of success’ pursuit is each reward has some risk associated with it; with any big win there may also be big losses. This year’s Super Bowl taught me that whether we are rookies or veterans, we always need to be open to learning. Mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities, and owning our mistakes allows us to make MODifications in our leadership strategies.

Take Action: When faced with a learning moment, decide today to admit error, own it out loud, and push forward on to bigger and better.

Leadership on the Go…It’s O.N.



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When the Brook Runs Dry

by Onyeka Nchege on February 4, 2015

Logs lie athwart a  brook in winter forestDuring a mentoring retreat in Boone, NC last weekend, one of our assignments was to indulge in some quiet time alone. During my time, I chose to walk outside to enjoy the freshly fallen snow and reflect on how good God has been to me. While walking I saw a brook that had been frozen over with the onset of winter, and it made me wonder where all the living things that called that brook their “home” went when the snow came and the brook dried up. I correlated this to those times in my life when I feel I have nothing new to offer; those times when I feel like “my brook has run dry”.

As I thought more about the fact that there was no longer life in the brook with the arrival of winter, I realized this period is not one of death but a much needed period of dormancy. In order for life to return to this brook, the area must have a period of rest and recovery. And just as rest and recovery are needed for the return of life to that brook, they are also essential to returning life to each of us. My mentoring retreat allowed me one of the many moments I need to rest and recover.

This period of dormancy is brought to an end with the entry of spring, or the beginning of new life. Our time on earth can be measured as a series of our experiences; therefore, new life can be facilitated by engaging in new experiences. Education and networking are excellent ways to begin experiences.

These new experiences allow for new relationships and ideas, both of which stimulate growth.

The beginning of new life is followed by summer, or the period of continuous growth. In this period we need to be perpetual learners where we are building on our new experiences. This is the period where full life has returned to the flowing brook.

Our conclusion to the full cycle ends with autumn, or the period of accrual. In nature, this is the period when life prepares for dormancy, because it senses soon the brook will run dry. All the new experiences to which we have given life and growth will need to be harvested and accrued. It is during this period that we quantify the lessons our experiences have taught us.

Seeing that brook taught me that rest and recovery are needed for life to continue. This is an area that most of us just do NOT make a priority in our quest to get to the next season in our lives. The simple truth is we only allow ourselves to run dry when we do not open ourselves up to new experiences.

Without new experiences we cannot experience growth, and without growth we cannot learn.

Take Action: Decide today to look at your dry time differently – take the time for proper rest and recovery.

Leadership on the GO…It’s O.N.



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The Intrinsic Value of HOPE

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Recently my family and I spent the day at the hospital as my mother went through a surgical process. We waited patiently in the general family waiting lounge with several other families (they had loved ones going through similar surgical procedures) for any news of the progress . As my family and I sat in […]

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Reflection Time – It’s ON

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For the last three years I have been blessed to share my experiences and understandings with those who take the time to read my blog. I am honored and thankful to all of YOU who not only take the time to read what I have to say, but to those who also leave comments and […]

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HERE and NOW Matters Most

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As a new year approaches, we often begin looking forward to a potential fresh start. Why potential you might ask? Are we not supposed to speak positive always? The answer is simple…it’s potential because you don’t know that you will have a fresh start. We all want that and look forward to what the new […]

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