05/02/2013 03:16 pm ET Updated Jul 02, 2013

Want Greatness? Be a Warrior, Not a Worrier

"Many people don't push because they don't want to feel pain or failure."

There is a fundamental approach to life for those with a warrior mentality: Don't get conditioned to accepting the status quo and do consistently seek the next level. I spent some time recently speaking with Dawn Nadeau, a business warrior of the first degree. Dawn is a team member for Women Moving Millions, an international community of philanthropists who seek to instill "a thread that runs through projects for women to inspire giving at the million-dollar level." She was part of the original Fast Company team, served as a director at Fortune, and was a vice president at Goldman Sachs. She knows a little about how to take herself -- and the people around her -- to the next level.

Lisa: How do you consistently do that -- take yourself and those around you to the next level?
Dawn: I push myself athletically and intellectually. They seem to feed off each other. I then apply this to creativity and philanthropy. I believe there are always places and moments to look at the status quo and push it. I go to the limits and then push just a little more. Fast Company did that intellectually -- we pushed the limits of the conversation. The same thing with Women Moving Millions: We push beyond where you are so you can achieve a new level of comfort and expand the entire conversation.

Lisa: How do we get past our own limits?
Dawn: Through the understanding that this does not come without pain or failure. Many people don't push because they don't want to feel pain or failure, and they focus on that instead of seeing what's possible. Women Moving Millions is pushing collectively. If your limit is more than mine, it opens me up to possibility. If my limit is one idea, then you can easily match me. But if I come with more than one idea and an attitude of possibility, the conversation explodes. You only need one or two people in a room with this mentality to show others what's possible.

Lisa: My husband is an athlete. When I ask him how he gets through incredible athletic feats, his answer is simple: "You've got to want it." What are your mechanisms for getting through the daunting moments that come with going beyond your current limits? Dawn: There are a few musts:
  • Find an emotional identification to take you past the fear of pain. In the context of work, pain can mean being wrong, which is truly one of the things people fear -- sending a note with an idea and getting rejected, for example. That type of pain leads to people wanting to make people happy, which leads to something incremental instead of something bold. At Women Moving Millions, we ask: How can you be bold and make a broader gesture? What is your emotional identification with your broader gesture? Donating $1 million is one thing; donating $1 million to stop sex trafficking is another.
  • Be honest with yourself. You have to be really honest about what your motivations are. Not everyone wants to do good in the world. Some people want the title and the door. That's okay. If you are not going to be on the front line of change and that's all you want, then just make sure you do no harm. People who really want to push the limits are willing to go through the pain. Define pain for yourself. Determine whether the pain is emotional, intellectual, or physical. Break it down into small pieces. Then it's not so scary. Understand why you're resisting.
  • Be honest with others. For people to put bold thinking forward, authenticity, honesty, and transparency have to come from the top. This is what allows ideas to bubble up. Fiefdoms and territorial behaviors come from fear. It starts at the top and trickles down. Successful entrepreneurs are those who have a vision about passionate change and are honest about the vision so that people can get behind it. Organizations like Women Moving Millions make bold changes by mobilizing and encouraging people to think differently and push past their conditioned states.
  • Reward honesty. Look at how you are rewarding people. Are you getting the results that you want? Are you being honest or encouraging others to be honest about the pros and cons of what you want.
  • Stay positive. Saying negative things shuts people down and prevents them from being bold. It constricts creativity. So become aware of your feedback, even with yourself.

Thank you, Dawn.

Taking yourself beyond your limits to reach new heights goes hand in hand with knowing your boundaries, having a vision and being honest about whether you're getting there. Leading yourself to new heights is an act of greatness. And it spawns bold, courageous actions (like giving a million dollars to a noble cause). What would inspire you to push for greatness?

For more by Lisa Arie, click here.

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