Filling the Void

Certain things seem to just resonate with you – movies, books, personalities, people, brands, etc. Your favorite anything is not objectively better than anything else.  They simply speak to a void in your life that you may or may not even know exists.

For me, my favorite book is “Daring Greatly”.  I didn’t know it until much later, but it spoke to the void of connection I felt from a childhood. During which I felt disconnected from my parents. This was mainly due to feeling a lack of affection and playful attention. It’s no coincidence that today connection is one of my core values influencing how I approach life and make decisions.

The negative side of this is that this is how we attract just about anything into our lives.  We’re subconsciously on the lookout for things to fill our voids. Men and women often seek qualities in their mates that they either didn’t have growing up or that they’ve lost since leaving home.

For instance, take the new temp who smiles at all your jokes has similar interests and who seems to smile a little brighter at you (or so your mind would have you believe) is merely speaking to the void in your existing relationship.

The sustainable, but more difficult way is to remedy this situation is to either examine the void so you can shift your perspective or discuss the void with your significant other.  

What’s at its core? Is it legit or just based on ego? What limiting belief is supporting your perception of that void?  Find 3 things that disconfirm that limiting belief. Find 3 things that affirm a new positive belief.

Practice disconfirming the old and affirming the new until the perspective is shifting.  Meaning the void that needs to be filled is no longer an issue.

Palettes of Self-Expression

The body is for most the premier palette of self-expression because for most it is the self.  Most people do all they can do to make sure the bodies they exist in is well kept, smells good, looks presentable, etc.  They decorate it with tattoos, adorn it with jewelry, or style its hair. Many philosophers have argued that we (our true self) are not, in fact, our bodies.  We merely exist inside of them. Think about it, if your arm fell off tomorrow, would you cease being you.  

Given that we inhabit a shell called the body which most choose to make sure looks neat and presentable.  Would that not make our homes and the spaces that we inhabit further extensions of us? If so, then why do so many take so little thought to their living environment? Sure there might be posters on the wall, or drapes on the windows. However, the floor is littered with dirty clothes with dirty walls throughout. When was the last time the carpet was vacuumed or the floor mopped? Let’s not even go to the bathroom sink/tub/mirror.

The spaces in which we inhabit should be seen as expressions of who we are, just like our bodies.

Could you imagine if someone walked around with dirty skin, an armful of dirty clothes,? What if their mane looked and smell like it hadn’t been washed in months? Yet, the spaces we inhabit aren’t afforded the same level of decorum as the bodies in which we inhabit. If they’re both shells that contain who we are, then they’re all palettes for our self-expression. They both should reflect who we are.  The sad truth is, they already do.

When Self-Help Actually Helps

“If success is my duty, why the hell am I not acting like it?  Does this type of gun-ho motivation only have to come to me in the morning?  Where the hell is it in the evening?” This is how I’ve been feeling lately.

I’d go out on a sturdy limb and assert that many, especially those well-versed in the arts of self-help, have felt this way. “Shouldn’t things be better by now? Why isn’t it getting better after all this time.

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”

Unknown Navy Seal

Self-help training, done well, will bring you back to one fact: If things are going to be able to change, it all starts by changing yourself. Identify the limiting beliefs, change your perspective about it by identifying three reasons why that belief is false, then determine what the empowering belief will be.

This is where self-help really helps. When you get into those times of self-loathing and doubt you can reach back to that rope that’s been secured by repeated practice. You can then take action pull yourself out and kick the fears and doubts in the teeth and keep on moving.

Reading People: the 6th Sense

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Probably the most powerful skill that one can develop is that of reading people.  For with it you can do so much. Whether you want to influence or persuade. Or whether you want to empathize with and connect.  It all starts with reading the subtle tells that people give off.

Therefore, this skill is ESSENTIAL for people leadership!  It allows managers to have the all important feedback loop for their communication.  When used properly, this skill connects people as the employee feels seen and heard without having to raise their hand and speak.

Emotional Intelligence helps you read past the masks people apply over their emotions.

Lately, I’ve been on the receiving end of this powerful skill.  It’s a little alarming yet comforting to know that people care enough to notice you and are compassionate enough to offer a supportive ear.  

According to Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature, we’re all on a narcissism spectrum.  To improve in this area, I highly suggest first shifting your mindset by tuning down the narcissism. Pay more attention to other people. Look them in the eye.

Until you’re able to pick up on queues, simply ask: “How do you feel about that?” “What’s on your mind?” You must then be prepared to lay down your defensiveness and humbly listen. I’d also recommend books like NLP For Dummies, Emotional Intelligence Mastery and Influence.

Here’s to developing your 6th sense.

Caught Up In Our Feelings at Work

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Feelings and emotions get a bad rap, especially in the workplace.  Many managers tacitly expect employees to set them aside and just do your job. You can hear it in the person who belittles emotions, says someone is too emotional.  Or the manager is content to only deal in the realm of logic.  This tends to lead to disengagement and frustration. People don’t feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. Leaders must be willing to embrace the difficult path of engaging with emotion.

Origins of Armoring Up

From the time we entered this world we expressed our emotions as a means to survive.  Our childhoods can be described as one big emotional minefield. In an attempt to protect themselves from unpredictable emotional explosions (from our parents, siblings, friends or situations) children develop a protective armor called the ego.   

This armor (ego) envelops our psyche like James Cameron’s avatars. So much so that we identify with it.  We assume that the critical voice in our head is our own when in fact it belongs to the ego. Inside the armored casing are the insecurities, fears, and doubts of a childhood version of ourselves that we seek to protect.  In Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature, he maintains that a child who was not emotionally attuned will grow into an adult incapable of handling their emotions let alone the emotions of others.  

Avoiding the Discomfort

The inability to handle emotions becomes problematic when it comes to management.  Emotions are to the Employee-Manager relationship as water is to a river. The problem occurs when managers would rather walk over an imaginary bridge called logic to avoid the turbulent waters below.  

When another human is dependent on another as the authority figure for their survival, it is important that all lines of communication be utilized to help them achieve their goals.  Not just the ones that are convenient or comfortable for the manager. Leaders must recognize that feelings, and their resulting emotions, play a significant role in employee perception and engagement.

Soft Skills are Vital

Whenever we assume a position of authority, it must be done with a great deal of humility.  One that is able to put their ego and check and say “Look self, I don’t know everything.  There are a lot of areas I need to improve in to be more and more effective. I am willing to endure the discomfort that always accompanies growth.”

Click the image to learn more

To be truly effective as a manager of people, it also requires empathy.  In her book “Dare to Lead”, Dr. Brene Brown beautifully describes empathy as seeing someone in a ditch. Then having the courage to get down in that ditch with them knowing that you can get back out. It’s about acknowledging and reflecting those feelings back to that individual.  It isn’t just shouting down from the edge of the ditch “I’m so sorry for you -or- That sucks.”  

Keys to Brave Leadership

Brown goes on to provide 7 points to B.R.A.V.I.N.G. the inevitable emotions that arise at work.

B = Boundaries – respecting yours and having my own

R = Reliability  – being both reliable and authentic (real)

A = Accountability – I own my mistake, apologise, and make amends

V = Vault  – what I share with you, you will hold in confidence (and I do the same with you!); no gossiping; respect confidentiality

I = Integrity – choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s fun, easy or fast; practising my values, not only just professing my values

N = Non-judgement & reciprocity  – offering and asking for help. Not thinking less of myself for needing help, otherwise I’ll judge others for asking me for help

G = Generosity – believing the best in the other even when they disappoint me (vs. being a victim)

Emotions are part and parcel of human existence. No longer can employees be expected to negate their inherent feelings because the manager is ignorant of, incapable of or unwilling to effectively deal with them.  Leaders must get comfortable with the discomfort of delving into the murky waters of difficult emotions. They must avoid taking the easy path of ignoring emotions. This is how they will develop the trust needed to foster courageous and safe work cultures.

Morning Routines: Your key to building confidence

Morning routines make the difference

About a month after saving “8 things every person should do before 8 am” by Benjamin P. Hardy in my Pocket library, I finally listened to it this past Saturday. The title really should’ve been ‘Developing the confidence to change your life’ as that truly is what morning routines provide. The thick introduction was about the anxiety that fuels the innate human resistance to change.

Developing the confidence needed to succeed through morning routines.

In life, there’s no way you’re going to be able to control every situation. Striving to is a recipe for perpetual hopelessness and never-ending anxiety. Instead, focus on managing your reactions and response to those situations.

This article puts the morning routine in a new light. Morning routines hit two chords: personal responsibility and self-discipline. Both are vital to managing your reactions and responses to life’s situations. Conquer the morning, conquer your day.

What holds many back from getting the most out of life aren’t the seemingly automatic excuses. At the root of all excuses to goal achievement is FEAR. Morning routines attack the fear the only way you can – through consistent effort.

The size of your goals are nothing compared to the sustained effort of a morning routine.

Picture yourself in a forest and that your dream is a giant sequoia that has to be chopped down. Most give up before ever taking on such a massive undertaking. Seemingly not realizing that there’s no ax in the world that can strike 1000 blows at once – it takes a sustained and deliberate effort. Your morning routine is a way to wield that ax each and every day. with each swing, a flywheel of momentum takes over and generates the confidence needed to overcome complacency and the inevitable failures.

This article wasn’t what I expected, but just what I needed at the moment. I’d been wrestling with how anxiety inhibits fear. I always think that God has a funny way of bringing you just what you need at the exact time that you’re ready for it.

Favorite Quote: “The only way to change is to stop explaining your life by your past and to start explaining your life based on your future.”

How to actually achieve a New You this New Year

When I hear the familiar refrain “I don’t do resolutions. They never work.” I feel bad for that person. Through no fault of their own, they’d been burned having previously bought into the New Year’s Resolutions. If they were attempting to keep resolutions without tieing it to a specific goal, choosing a new identity, and making room for new habits then they didn’t stand a chance.

Tell me your PROBLEMS

It all starts with identifying and analyzing the PROBLEM. Think about your struggles, your aggravations, your aspirations, your bad habits, your performance gaps. Before you go making goals for every irritation, assess it’s change potential. Is there something:

  • harmful you’re doing that you should Eliminate?
  • that’s working that you should Keep?
  • about the problem that you just need to Accept?
  • you can Create to make the problem better?

From the Create and potentially the Eliminate section is where you’ll find potential goals.

What are your GOALS

Picture yourself in a department store. Your problem is the realization that you need to get on a higher floor. The GOAL is defining what reaching that “next level” looks like. Goals should be slightly out of reach. Your goal is not a task. For instance, taking the SAT is not a goal. Score 1300 on the SAT by Aug 2019 is a goal. Going to the gym 3x a week is not a goal (it’s a resolution). Lose 25 lbs by May 31st is a goal. Goals reflect the specific measurable results that signals that you’ve solved your initial problem.

Goals are measurable indications that you’ve reached the next level.

What do you RESOLVE to do about it

With your goals identified, you must decide, commit, resolve to perform certain actions to get you to your goal. Back in the department store, resolutions are the escalator that will get you from your current level to that next level. Oh by the way, the escalator is going down instead of up. This is what most who say resolutions don’t work for them fail to realize – resolutions are new habits and habit change is HHAAAAARRRDDD. There are several things to consider when changing habits which I explain in Rethinking Resolutions. You first chose the identity of the person who’s at that next level, understand what motivates you and adjusting your environment to make the habit change easier.

None of these are in fact resolutions…3 require dates be to decent goals.

The other key is understanding that resolutions ARE NOT one time tasks. They are daily/weekly commitments. There is a regular cadence to them that enable them to become habits. For example, going to the gym 3x a week is a resolution. Signing up for a gym membership is a task. Studying 1 hour a day for the GMAT is a resolution. Signing up for or taking the GMAT is a task.

The bottom line is that to get better, you’re going to have to do better. When you do better, you will eventually be better. Being better begins with understanding your Problem, formulating your Goals and committing to your Resolutions. All three are needed to produce the need habit change necessary to bring about that New You this New Year.

Rethinking Resolutions

Nowadays it seems like the only folks who still love New Year’s Resolutions are fitness centers. Many fall into the following camps: I’ve tried many times and they just don’t work or I don’t believe in resolutions or better yet I choose to set goals instead of pointless resolutions.

This is a problem because much like every day is a new beginning, the New Year is a time when we can begin again on a grand scale. It’s a fitting milestone where we look back and assess where we’ve been so we can chart our new course for the new year and beyond.

This apathy toward resolutions perpetuates a general malaise of inaction, unaccountability, and unfulfillment. What if I told you that resolutions aren’t the problem, rather it’s have we’ve been taught to perceive them?  Here are 5 steps to take to rethink resolutions.

Realize resolutions involve habits

Much of our daily decisions are habitual. Habits that we generally pay little attention to. Checking the phone when you wake up, our shower routine, the route we take to work, checking the phone while walking to/from meetings, and on and on and on. Since habits can be either positive or negative, it behooves us to pause and become more aware of the habits that aren’t serving us. This can be done by taking a week to perform a time audit. This will reveal just where and how you’re spending your time along with some possibly eye-opening negative habits. You can only improve a negative habit by replacing it with a positive habit. Simply put, a resolution is you saying “I am deciding to develop [insert positive habit here].”
[Book recommendation: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg]

Resolutions aren’t goals. They are decisions to replace bad habits with good ones.

Choose Your Identity

A resolution is NOT a goal. A resolution is a decision to be the kind of person you want to become. It’s deciding each day to do the kind of things that that person would do. If you want to lose 70 lbs, your identity could be a healthy person who eats the right things. If you want to get your MBA, your identity could be a person who says no to nightly Netflix.  This is powerful because you make most of these habitual decisions unconsciously. This technique uses the tremendous force of cognitive dissonance.  By helping adjust those subconscious decisions to align with the identity you’ve chosen. Thus giving you a powerful ally in the face of the inevitable temptations.
[Book recommendation: Atomic Habits by James Clear]

Focus on what you can control

When you punch in the destination (goal) into your GPS, no one expects to be teleported to their destination (at least not yet). To get there involves doing some actual work on your part (driving). Your main focus should only be on resolving to follow those steps and do the things that that type of person would do. Focus on the process involved in achieving that goal, not the goal itself. If when following that GPS, you were to take the wrong turn, what you do? Exactly! Sounds silly to think that you wouldn’t turn around or take the alternate route that still gets you to your destination, doesn’t it. Manage your expectations in this regard by removing the need to be perfect from Jan 1st to Dec 31st.

Recognize your motivations

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius says “To thine own self be true.” Couple that with Socrates saying, “Know thyself.” To ensure you’re not fighting a losing battle, you must be sure to understand how you respond to outer and inner expectations and act accordingly. You might need to do either of the following:

  • make sure that you’re accountable to other people (gym partner, walking club, etc). 
  • ask and answer the question “Why do I want this goal?”
  • understand if the identity corresponding to the goal is the identity you seek (or was it just someone else’s)

This can be the difference between frustration and fulfillment.
[Book recommendation: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin]

If you motivated by outer accountability, you may need to involve a partner in your resolution.

Make it easier on yourself

Our environment has the biggest impact on our habits. If you’re trying to lose weight and the pantry is stocked with processed sugary foods, you’re going to have a problem. If you’re trying to get that degree and the remotes and game controllers out on the couch, you’re going to have a problem. Attaining a goal by following through on a resolution is difficult in an of itself. Why make it harder by leaving landmines in your path? Help your future self out by doing what you can to make your environment conducive to your resolutions.
[Book recommendation: Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith]

Resolutions are not goals, they are not easy at first. They are however commitments you’re making to your future self, they do require work on your part and they are essential to attaining your goals. Remember, you’re not aiming for perfection, just a daily practice of deciding to be the type of person that performs that type of activity. By focusing on the process of becoming and not the outcome/goal, you will get much closer to and even attain many more goals.

“Don’t Innovate, Imitate”

The other day I saw an excerpt from an innovation conference that read “don’t innovate, imitate”.  Instantly my Spidey sense went up when I heard “don’t innovate”. There is either a lack of understanding of what innovation is or someone wanting to be contrary knowing that that would make their message more memorable.  The statement simply lacks the context that innovation happens on a spectrum.

Innovation spectrum

Innovation exists on a spectrum with novelty on side and familiarity on the other.  I believe true innovation comes by combining the proven with the novel.   Take some of the more notable breakthrough innovations in recent history.

  • Taxis + Ridesharing = Uber
  • Hotels + Couchsurfing = AirBnB
  • Cars + Electricity = Telsa

In order for something to catch on and become a true innovation, there needs to be a frame of reference.  A point from which the customer can understand and relate to what it is and what problem it can solve. Without this frame of reference, you have things like the Segway or Microsoft’s tablet. Yeah, the iPad wasn’t the first tablet.

[Read also:  Forget Innovating, Make It Effortless (Oh really?)]

Tasty Innovation

Let’s look at world famous Ben & Jerry’s” ice cream brand.  In their labs, they come up with a whole assortment of new flavors. Then they travel the world in search of unique flavor trends. These are combined with new ones to make up to 200 unique flavors.

Finally, they survey their users with two simple questions:
(1) how likely are you to buy?
(determines how familiar it is which closely tracks its commercial viability.)
(2) how unique is it?
(determines its novelty which differentiates it from other flavors.)

Innovate your ice creamThe true winners tend to have just the right combination of familiarity and novelty.

Be Benchmarked

The “imitate” portion suggests a general discomfort with the inherent uncertainty of innovation.   Granted, there is no uncertainty when imitating others. There is also no benefit in the market.

This is not to advocate an all or nothing approach.  In some areas, you must steal shamelessly. Take Walmart founder Sam Walton who built his fledgling store on the insights gleaned from other grocers around the country.

However, to be innovative there should be some areas in which you are willing to separate yourself from the pack.  Every once in a while you must be willing to be the one that’s benchmarked.

Like most things in life, innovation truly exists on a spectrum.  One that goes from the familiar to the novel.  Existing on either end spell disaster for your business.  However,  if you’re brave enough to go from imitation to inspiration, by improving upon the existing with some novelty, you can arrive at something beautiful – innovation.



“Forget Innovating, Make It Effortless”

The other day I saw an excerpt from an innovation conference that read “forget delighting the customer, make things effortless”.  Oh, really?

The Goal of innovation

Innovation is using creativity to produce a delightful experience for which the customer will gladly pay.  There is no innovation without a delightful experience.  Don’t believe me? Just ask the inventor of Segway.

The goal of any business is and always will be delighting the customer. Full Stop.  This initial statement seems as if there’s a confusion or confounding of the goal with the strategy.

Strategies for innovation

One way to do that is by making things effortless. You can also make things more personalized.  You can also add more value (features). This is where the confounding comes in as the statement suggests that delighting the customer only happens when you make things feature laden.  Which isn’t always the case at all.

In his 2011 Forbes magazine article “Is Delighting The Customer Profitable?” Steve Denning said:

The trick in delighting customers is focus: aim for the simplest possible thing that will delight buyers. Don‘t load products down with features that most people won‘t use and that make the product hard to operate.

The Effortless Apple

Apple has done the best over the past decade of delighting the by making things effortless.  That was their strategy to delight the pants off their customers. In the words of the Gladiator standing in the arena, iPhone raised high in the air with his Apple watch on his wrist, “Are you not delighted?” By removing the keyboard and other buttons they’ve executed their effortless strategy perfectly and achieved their goal of customer delight. Don’t believe me, have you walked past an Apple Store lately?

"Are You Not Delighted?" - Steve Jobs

To sum it all up, that statement would be stated as: To delight the customer, one way is to focus on making things effortless.

One is the goal, the other is the strategy. Don’t confuse the two.