The One Question to Ask Yourself Every Morning


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Original Post by Marissa Levin, CEO of Successful Culture and EO Baltimore member

I had the opportunity this week to learn from one of my most inspirational mentors who happens to also be a great speaker: Warren S. Rustand, a lifelong entrepreneur and former NBA player.

Warren is the CEO of Providence Service Corporation (NASDAQ; PSC) a $1.2 Billion social services and Logistics Management Company. He was previously Managing Director of SC Capital Partners an investment banking group.

Warren was Chairman and CEO of Rural Metro Corporation, a $600 million, publicly traded emergency services company.

He also served as Chairman and CEO of TLC Vision, the world’s largest Lasik eye surgery company. He has served as Chairman/CEO of 6 other companies.

He has served as a member of the Board of Directors for over 50 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations. The range of these organizations is from multibillion dollar public companies, to midsize, early stage, and startups. As CEO he has taken two companies public, one of which is the largest in its industry and the other is the second largest in its industry.

In 1973 Warren was selected as a White House Fellow through a nationally competitive process. He served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce and led the first ever Executive Level Trade Mission to the Soviet Union. He joined the staff of Vice President Ford on the day he was sworn-in. In August of 1974 when the Vice President became President, Warren was asked to serve as Appointments Secretary and Cabinet Secretary to the President.

According to Rustand, the potential for a life of greatness lies within each of us, but we must be committed to five specific principles. Before I get to those, let’s talk about the concept of greatness.

Greatness is  a CHOICE. It is not a function of circumstance. It is a matter of conscious choice and discipline.

To perform at a level of greatness, we need to commit to a higher level of energy, time, and effort than most.

To quote Gandhi, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.”

If you dream, you have to plan. If you believe, you have to act.

Complacency and acceptance of the status quo is the death of greatness. Think about all of the great people that have crossed your path, either personally or indirectly. Think of those that inspire you on a personal level, as well as those that have changed the world.

These are the people that are always trying to improve. These are the people committed to greatness. It is their commitment to greatness, and their decision to never settle for mediocrity that makes them so.

Embrace the possibility of your personal greatness… never underestimate your power to move to a higher level and change your life.

Following are Warren’s five principles of personal greatness that have allowed him to pursue a higher level of achievement in all aspects of his life.

  1. Commit to Personal Discipline.
    We must put our mind in the position to compete with everyone else. When you correct your mind, everything else falls into place.

All that we are is the totality of what we have thought. We are what we think. best-views-hardest-climb-090616-2b309363f2a61427a58f97c227e70d67

  1. Live With Purpose.
    Warren begins every morning by asking himself, “What is my purpose today… Why am I alive?”

Think about how powerful this question is. Think about how intentional you can be in all of your decisions and actions throughout your day if everything you do is aligned with the answer to that question.

We must proceed through life with clarity of purpose. This brings us to Warren’s third principle:

  1. Act With Intent.
    Intent in all aspects of our lives – personal and professional – is everything. When we align our intention and our attentionwe achieve our desired outcomes.

What are your intentions for your life? It makes no sense to leave outcomes to chance. All must be pre-meditated. If there is an outcome we desire, we must plan and execute against the plan.

  1. Make Conscious Choices.
    Stephen Covey talks about three great moments of discovery – the points in time when a person discovers who they are at the core of their being:
    – When we identify our core beliefs and values
    – When we make a commitment to those values
    – When we behave according to those values

Defining our ethics, values, and beliefs are decisions that we make once. Once we have defined them, all of our decisions flow from them.

  1. Answering the Call to Serve.
    Warren’s final principle is our obligation to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Greatness is an equal-opportunity quest. Regardless of vocation, we can all commit to greatness. We can all commit to helping others, to building up our communities, and the people within them.

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“If you have not helped someone else today, if you have not served others today, then you must constitute that as a bad day.”

Warren also gave great advice for living a happy life.

“Do you want to be happy? Never compare up. Never compare yourself to those that have more. Instead compare yourselves to those who have less. Then you will live from a place of gratitude.”

Your Call to Action:

Commit to one change to bring you closer to greatness.

  • Sign up for a volunteer effort.
  • Make one small shift in your health habits.
  • Read one book about a leader that inspires you.
  • Write down 5 ideas about your higher purpose.

Own Your Journey. 

This article was originally posted on the Successful Culture blog and has been reprinted here with the author’s permission.

** Warren Rustand is also a Founding Board Member of 

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Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc.

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