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Cleaning Out The Clutter

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The New Year is still fresh and 2008 feels a bit like a new suit that doesn't quite fit.

Each New Year offers me the chance to clean out the clutter and try on something new.

I've spent two weeks tossing out stale files, sorting through old books, forgotten papers, and have nearly burned out my office shredder. It feels terrific, and I am always surprised that I kept so much, so long. And, Mike, my personal trainer, is actually making me sit in the stretch 20 seconds and push myself longer. All of this tossing and sweating leads me to a transition of leaner thinking, sore new muscles, and the principle that less is more.

On the updraft of freeing ourselves of what we already know, what we no longer need, we can find the mentors, the partners, the pals, we need to keep us on the path. In fact, without the barrier of our "stuff" they show up unannounced.

That's when we need them, because the theory of personal reinvention becomes very real when we are pushed into the full invitation of a new year.

Over the past year, I spent a good deal of time with the CEO of a publicly traded, high-tech company who was being nudged from his role of Founder/CEO to a non-executive role by his board. The board felt the company had hit a speed bump with their high-profile brand and it was time to find a new CEO with exceptional marketing and alliance building experience. We shaped the transition process with the board, helped identify potential candidates, and after months of knowing what lay ahead, the CEO had to accept the reality and really hear the tough message that it was time to move on.

His resistance was clear, and his pride was hurt by the board's decision. He kept saying, "How could they?" The more we talked it was clear that he couldn't imagine a new life outside the company he created a decade before. The prospect of reinventing himself was daunting. We used the transition roadmap to help him design a transition, a sort of personal re-branding from technology wizard to guru-mentor for new innovators, which became the launch pad he needed. With an outcome that used his remarkable technology experience, he moved from being stuck in the neutral zone of uncertainty, to a process of personal reinvention. Months later he has begun his own "idea incubator" and he reports getting "juice" from his time with budding entrepreneurs and inventors.

To get some of that same clarity without a push from someone else, here's some questions to ask yourself as you live and lead into this year:

Do I know what to do?

Do I know how to do it?

Do I know why to do it?

Do I have the resources to do it?

Do I really want to do it?