Thoughts On Leadership: The Four Agreements

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Texas, prepping for the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention, which will take place March 10-12 in Las Vegas. (Learn more at www.bhhsevents.com.)

For Sales Convention each year, the team selects a theme and this year we’ve chosen ALL IN. The concept of ALL IN is particularly meaningful, not only from the perspective of the wide-ranging technology, resources, marketing and education the brand provides but also from the perspective of a leadership philosophy that starts and ends with you. To be ALL IN means to commit fully to your own success, knowing that you and you alone are responsible for your happiness, prosperity and your positive perception of the world around you.

In the past two weeks, I’ve listened—twice—to The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz. (If you haven’t yet read or listened to The Four Agreements, I recommend downloading it or visiting your local bookstore and purchasing it today. Over the years, I’ve listened to it at least five times.)

In the book, Ruiz outlines the knowledge and practices of an ancient society known as the Toltec, who were scientists, students and artists living centuries ago in Teotihuacan, just outside of Mexico City.

Ruiz describes the Toltec body of knowledge as a “way of life, distinguished by the ready accessibility of happiness and love.” In other words, following the guidance of the Toltec allows you to be ALL IN, taking back the freedom to let yourself be free.

This might sound too theoretical or spiritual to be an actionable leadership philosophy, but the Four Agreements are directly applicable to all aspects of a leader’s personal and professional life. Here are my key takeaways after a recent twice-over digestion of the author’s impactful ideas:

The First Agreement – Be Impeccable with Your Word. This agreement, as Ruiz writes, is “very, very powerful.” Any words spoken allow the speaker the ability to create, like a magician, something from nothing. People can harm or help others, wage war or spread fear just through the awesome might of their words. “The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life,” Ruiz writes. He explains how the word “impeccable” itself is loaded with meaning. In Latin, pecatus means “sin” and im means “without.” To be impeccable with your word is to use the word without sin. “You take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself,” Ruiz says. He also notes we should understand the weighty magic our words contain, brandish them wisely and know that the words others use derive from their singular version of what they believe to be true. Someone can say, “You aren’t good at writing.” We can choose to believe this as truth or, we can take the phrase as just a collection of sound, uttered from the misinterpretations and misgivings that have formed in that person’s mind.

The Second Agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally. “Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me,’” Ruiz writes. He says all people live within their own mind and perceptions, shaped by their own thoughts and dreams. He says: “When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.” He likens hurtful opinions or gossip to poison and says when people deliver this poison and we take it personally, their poison becomes ours. If we understand that all opinions are manifestations of someone else’s reality, truth and beliefs—and they have nothing to do with ours—then we are given the gift of immunity to the poison. Nothing and no one can derail your happiness because it is solely determined by you.

The Third Agreement – Don’t Make Assumptions. Ruiz writes: “Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.” In any relationship—business, personal, familial—we assume someone else knows exactly what we are thinking. But, as Ruiz explains, no person is inside our minds and no person has the exact same belief system or dreams that we have. We assume everyone sees and experiences life just like we do, yet no one experiences it like us. This means even the tiniest assumption can cause unhappiness and suffering in a relationship. Ask questions, communicate clearly and cleanly, and assume nothing.

The Fourth Agreement – Always Do Your Best. Of course, our “best” is relative but as we instill the habits of the Four Agreements into our lives, Ruiz says this “best” will become even better. “If you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself,” he writes. “Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community to everything.”

So, what’s the message? To be ALL IN as a leader really means to commit to making the necessary changes in your mindset, lifestyle and life that will lead to greater happiness and fulfillment. To be ALL IN is to understand that every word you speak carries intense meaning. It means realizing that others’ opinions should have no bearing on your own perception of yourself and the world around you. To be ALL IN is to assume nothing and question everything in order to better understand the people and particulars of your life. Finally, to be ALL IN is doing your best, however you define it, and knowing that when you’re ALL IN, you can never lose because just making the conscious decision to give it your all means you’ve already won.

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