Wake-Up Call

Wide Awake Leadership begins with an image of a Rorschach test and a short introduction of how that test continues to be used and interpreted. Rorschach’s test works as a metaphor for my project in many ways. We go most of our lives trying to reduce the facts of the world to black and white. There are “good” and “bad” characters. There is the “right” and “wrong” religious, political, and philosophical belief system. Events in our lives are opportunities for “joy” or “grief.”  Such one-dimensional thinking can be reassuring and easy. For business leaders and entrepreneurs, it can also be problematic. Most of the things that happen to us aren’t good or bad. But, our responses to those events largely fall into two types: productive or unproductive.

All of us encounter a wide variety of events over the course of our lives. What do we do when stuff happens? This book is based upon a fierce insistence that we can determine the impact of events in our lives and ensure that those events lead us to a better place eventually. Our response to the things that happen to us makes us who we are. Wake-up calls can be tragic and sudden. They can come in the form of both terrible loss and tremendous gain. They can sneak up on you quietly and slowly, such that you don’t even notice something altogether major has happened to your universe. And, each of us faces these moments with a unique individual history and life-story. But, there are common trends and themes that I’ve observed from my X years as a consultant and entrepreneur.   This book breaks up the major “Wake-Up Calls” for entrepreneurs and leaders into seven major categories I’ve found to be common among leaders of all sorts and industries. In so doing, I illuminate – by means of modern and personal examples, scientific research, and the arguments of other sociologists, psychologists, and business writers and leaders – how to respond to the Rorschach events of our lives.  A brief description of each chapter will illuminate a bit more of what I mean: 


Chapter 1: Ah- Ha! The Wake up Call of Insight – Most entrepreneurs and leaders have had a great idea about a new strategy or product. And, most have also had those ideas in inconvenient places or at a time when no computer or paper was near. What steps should leaders take to ensure that their “insights” are productive and lead to greater success? What tricks can readers employ to maximize the value of their insights? What must they do to turn great ideas into greatness?   


Chapter 2: Eureka: The Wake-Up Call of Success – It is an ironic fact that perhaps the most dangerous experience for leaders and motivated people is success. Nothing in this world leads to complacency and long-term decline, than success. This chapter looks at famous athletes and actors who’ve reached “success” and seen it all fall apart. It highlights the “Success Plateau” and the ways readers can keep climbing rather than resting at “relative” success. 


Chapter 3: Cha-Ching! The Wake-Up Call of Money – In some ways an extension of the preceding chapter, this one delves specifically into the science of how money affects our brains in inter-personal situations.  We look at those who’ve encountered tremendous wealth quickly. (Preview: It usually isn’t pretty!) I think give some advice for dealing with newfound material success, arguing that readers need to make their worlds bigger and smaller to keep money from changing the core of who we are. 

Chapter 4: Uh-Oh. The Wake-Up Call of Failure – This chapter tracks famous examples of failure, and pays particular heed to those individuals that have failed spectacularly and come out on the other side better for it. Readers will find out about the different “Types of Failure.” (Effort, Ambition, Time or Talent, Relationships, etc.)  Not all failure is created the same, and so responses to those various types must be tailored to the type. This chapter will help readers do just that!


Chapter 5: Oh No. The Wake-Up Call of Loss – Every one will face losses of various types in their career. The loss of a loved one, the loss of youth, the loss of vision, and more.  This chapter deals with a personal loss, a well-publicized athlete that lost a year in the prime of his career, and some other fictional stories of loss.  We talk about grieving and mourning well, and how to develop resilience from loss that will make us better leaders and co-workers.


Chapter 6: Yikes! The Wake-Up Call of Change – The business world is rife with stories of companies / cultures that failed to respond to major shifts in their respective markets or industries. Rare is the company that sustains success over major shifts.  (Jim Collins book Good to Great illustrates that even the best of authors have trouble seeing which companies will last. Collins highlights Fannie Mae and Circuit City as “great,” a fact that seems almost silly today.)  This chapter addresses, in several ways, the common responses to change in the workplace. It then gives some tips for helping break others out of those typical responses, as well as the ways in which leaders can build a climate that welcomes and anticipates change as an opportunity.


Chapter 7: Oh Yea. The Wake-Up Call of Faith – This concluding chapter covers a common problem in the life of a leader, that moment when He / She realizes that her actions are incongruent with the philosophy / beliefs He / She purportedly holds dear. What should leaders do to ensure that they don’t fall prey to a personal “Knowing – Doing Gap?” Moreover, what should those same leaders do to make sure that – when things aren’t working – those beliefs are open to “conversion?”  


Readers might not have experienced every one of those wake-up calls, but every one of them will have had some. Almost everyone has experienced success, newfound monetary gains, insights, tremendous change, and loss.  Almost always, our difficulties are less with the events that surround them at work or home, but in our interpretations to those problems.  This book aims to compare the various ways that people interpret and respond to common events. Can we approach the same sorts of problems in wildly unique ways, and with similarly different results?  Aren’t some approaches to problems much better in particular settings than others? Can we practice Wide-Awake Leadership by preparing for inevitable events, and by responding to them, as productively as possible?  This book argues yes.