My new column with Ivy Exec – Don’t fall victim to the “White Tennis Shoes Syndrome” in your productivity!
My latest Ivy Exec Article – How To Turn Your Career Around After A Setback
My latest Ivy Exec article – How To Say No At Work (And Still Maintain Positive Relationships)
If you were asked “what is a habit that many successful people share”, what would your response be? Perhaps grit? Tenacity? Persistence? The ability to clearly define a goal and execute a plan to make it happen? Maybe leadership ability?
All of these traits are important, and they are often shared by successful people, but there is another habit that is equally powerfully, although sometimes overlooked, and it is also often present when you inquire into the factors that influence many successful people’s lives:
Many successful people practice some form of daily mindfulness or meditation.
Here is a (short) list of successful people who have publicly stated, in print, that they practice some form of daily meditation or mindfulness:
Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records, Sir Paul McCartney, Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA, Rick Rubin, Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group, Kobe Bryant, Hugh Jackman, David Lynch, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp, Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems, Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project, Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, Michael Jordan, Moby, Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc., Lebron James, Howard Stern, Russell Brand, Clint Eastwood, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Derek Jeter, Panda Express Founder Andrew Cherng, Former Monsanto CEO Bob Shapiro, Bill George, Professor Harvard Business School, Legal Sea Foods CEO Roger Berkowitz, Green Mountain Coffee Roaster Founder Robert Stiller, Phil Jackson.
There are undoubtedly many, many other examples.
Meditation has many positive benefits. It calms your nerves, helps bring clarity and focus into your life, and teaches you to be present in your engagements (which undoubtedly increases your level of performance). It helps you to detach, to release stress and anxiety, to think clearly, and it increases your creativity.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, including neuroscientist Richard Davidson have conduced studies showing that meditation increases neuroplasticity – which is the brain’s ability to adapt, structurally and functionally. It also increases the grey matter in your brain which slows the aging process. It can help you have better sleep, and also decrease your blood pressure, and it has even be shown to be effective in managing pain.
I can attest to many of these, having firmly entrenched a daily habit of meditation and mindfulness practice in my own life. I am such a believer in it that I will meditate daily for the rest of my life.
Through meditating I have experienced the following benefits:
- A greater ability to focus on a specific task (without feeling compelled to check email, or social media) until the task is completed;
- An ability to “detach” from my emotions of what I want out of an action, and instead just be present to the moment of what is happening. This allows me to perform better in what I am doing;
- An ability to do things (like public speaking) without fear, because I am completely present to the moment without attachment to outcome;
- An ability to control my own anxiety, my breathing, and my internal state, when I encounter things that are outside of my control (which happens every day);
- A greater appreciation for life in general;
- A greater sense of gratitude for the little things in life.
Some people are reticent to start a meditation practice because they (incorrectly) associate it with a religious or dogmatic tradition that is part of their belief structure. This is an unfortunate mistake as mediation or mindfulness as a practice, although it can be associated with religious tradition, doesn’t have to be. This incorrect association causes many people to miss out on the many positive benefits of meditation in their life. For a great book on a “non-religious” perspective on mindfulness and meditation practice read Sam Harris’ Waking Up.
All people, of all believe structures, and religious or non-religous inclinations, can benefit from a daily practice of mindfulness. Here is a very simple way to get started. Take ten minutes in the morning, before you start your day. Comfortably seat yourself in an upright position (you don’t have to use lotus pose either, this is also a common misconception, a comfortable chair will do just fine).
Take several deep breaths, in through your nose, and out through your mouth, as you centre yourself and get comfortable in your surroundings. After you are comfortable gently close your eyes. Then, as your breath moves into a steady flow, scan and observe your body, notice the pressure points, and “observe how you are feeling” without trying to change anything. Then move to a focus on your breath. Observe the rising and falling sensation, again without trying to change anything. Then count your breaths up to ten and repeat, until the ten minutes are over.
This is just a simple technique to start your practice. There are many, many others. Over time, you can adapt your practice, make it longer, bring in other techniques from other traditions and teachers. There are also really good apps, such as Headspace, which can guide you in your practice as well. There are really no “rules”. But start today, and in a very short amount of time you will come to embrace the incredible benefits that having a daily meditation habit bring.
Building a large professional network is actually quite easy. Here is the simple way to do it. My latest Ivy Exec article explains how:
My latest article with Ivy Exec
Excited to reveal the cover for my new book – Embark: Navigating The Perilous Path Of Career Reinvention. The book will be available in e-book on October 1 (formal announcement to come).
My first book (Unsuited) was about school, and how it (in my opinion) doesn’t teach the lessons necessary for life fulfillment, and how I had to learn these on my own. Over the last 18 months of marketing that book I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people who agree with my thoughts on school, and now find themselves in a career they don’t like, and wonder how to “reinvent themselves”? This book is my answer.
Embark: Navigating The Perilous Path Of Career Reinvention (to be released October 1, 2015)
Many (if not most) people encounter the need for “reinvention” at some point in their life. It is very rare to meet someone who doesn’t have to reinvent themselves in some way. People arrive at the “need for reinvention” for many reasons:
• Leaving a bad career to create one that feels more empowering and is more authentic;
• Losing a job that you loved to unforeseen circumstances;
• Shifting from being an “employee” to becoming an “entrepreneur”;
• Starting a new business after your last business failed, and battling the wave of self-doubt and external criticism that inevitably follows;
• Starting anew after a difficult (and potentially painful) relationship ends;
• Moving forward after pain or loss;
There are many other potential reasons. None of which are easy to deal with. Through the author’s experience of completely reinventing himself from an employee to an entrepreneur, from a lawyer to a writer and speaker, and from someone who was depressed and disempowered in his career to someone who now has hope for the future and is excitedly building an authentic life, this book will chart a course for your own empowering reinvention.
It will help you to develop a useful mindset, and overcome any limiting beliefs you may have about your ability to reinvent yourself. It will help you analyze whether your current state is a “real career crisis” or simply a speed bump in the normal course of life. It will help you navigate the perilous reinvention process and give you specific steps to enjoy the process, and it will also give you a framework to ensure that your change sticks, and that you can create an intrinsic sense of well being in your career going forward.
Have you ever gone to a networking meeting, a business luncheon, or a professional “get together”, only to leave feeling like you’ve wasted a couple hours of your life, and that you have no new meaningful relationships? Perhaps you are going about “networking” in the wrong way. My latest Ivy Exec article:
My latest article with Ivy Exec. Have you ever read Epictetus? You should. He might be able to transform your life and career.
Last night I did a seminar for a group of about 40 entrepreneurs at the Calgary Public Library, as part of their “Small Business Tuesdays” seminar series. The topic that I taught on was “The Psychology of Business Success”.
Here is a summary of the principles that I discussed, together with book recommendations for each principle. Enjoy!
First Consideration: What is your motivation in your business? Why are you creating this business? Why should anyone care? Why do you care? Does the successful accomplishment of your vision align with the life that you want to live? Is there congruence in your internal values and goals with what your business will ultimately look like (ie. are you building a business that will eventually be incongruent with what you really want in life, or is your vision aligned (life and business)?
11 Empowering Mindsets (And Book Recommendations)
1. Are you running your business as an investor or as a manager (the employee versus the entrepreneur paradigm)?
Book Recommendation: The E-Myth
2. Do you understand and are you applying the “lean methodology” of build, measure and learn? Are you ok with experiencing some failure (ie. learning) even if some people might think the worse of you (in the short term)?
Book Recommendation: The Lean Startup
3. Do you have focus and clarity, and do you know how to say NO?
Book Recommendation: Start With Why
4. What is your G(rit) Point Average? Do you have grit? How much?
Book Recommendation: Endurance
5. Are the “rules” really the rules? What story do you have inside your head that is preventing you from success?
Book Recommendation: Delivering Happiness
6. Do you have an entitlement mindset? Do you make excuses? These mindsets must be eliminated for you to succeed.
Book Recommendation: No Excuses
7. Habits and systems are way more important, in the long run, than motivation
Book Recommendation: The Compound Effect
8. How does your business create value for others?
Book Recommendation: The Go Giver
9. The sweet spot is “outside” of your comfort zone. Are you actively pursuing the “places that scare you”?
Book Recommendation: The Fear Project
10. Why you need to master the art of “self-validation” and “self-leadership” in order to succeed as an entrepreneur.
11. Can you see it in your mind before it becomes real?
Book Recommendation: As A Man Thinketh
My latest Ivy Exec column – The Pendulum Of Career Fulfillment
Here is the recording of my entire keynote from the Calgary Public Library’s “Empower Your Career” conference on April 25th, 2015
Do you ever struggle with locking in habits that stick? I’ve been really interested in habits and the science of habit formation for years, and have researched a lot on this subject. I think a person’s life (and the results they get) is really just a reflection of their habits. Here is an article that I just published with Ivy Exec about a strategy I use to make sure my habits stick:
My latest Ivy Exec Column – Seven Systems To Multiply Your Sales Efforts
Heat up your prospecting activities with these strategies. My latest Ivy Exec article:
Are you fulfilled in your career? Are you able to do the work that “makes you come alive”?
Career empowerment is something that is critically important to me – because I know what it feels like to be disempowered, to be depressed, and discouraged in a career, and I know how it feels to be engaged, fulfilled, alive and excited as well, and there are experiences that I’ve learned that I want to share with you, because I know that they can add value to you.
I started my career as a discouraged lawyer. Very quickly after securing my law degree, and working for a large corporate law firm, I knew that law wasn’t right for me. I knew that I wouldn’t be fulfilled through it, and that I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know what else to do. I struggled with this question for many months, and finally, I looked inward and asked a simple question:
What do people who enjoy their careers have in common?
This question lead me on an incredible path of research, self-discovery and experimentation that culminated in my writing a book – Unsuited: How We Can Reject Conventional Career Advice And Find Empowerment.
From my book I started speaking publicly on the subject – particularly about how the “conventional school system” wasn’t setting up students to be empowered (or fulfilled) in their careers. I was fortunate to be invited to speak at TEDx in Kelowna on the subject in 2014. Here my is TEDx talk:
I have since developed this talk into both an hour keynote and a three hour workshop, and have been able to deliver it in many capacities including at the following locations:
For an understanding of what my workshop is like (and the content involved) here is the keynote that I gave for the Calgary Public Library’s “Empower Your Career” workshop on April 25, 2015:
I would love for the chance to come to your organization or school and share my message of career fulfillment with those starting out in their careers, those who are lost, or confused about the prospect of finding meaningful and engaging employment or those who are looking for a change in their job to something more personally satisfying. If you would like to have me come to your school or organization please contact me here or via phone at 403-619-1173.
In my workshop and keynote, I share the many insights that I’ve learned through research into the lives of fulfilled people, and through application to my own life and career. Participants will gain the following:
- A new perspective of the purpose of your career, and thought provoking discussion of the “destination” or “journey” paradigm;
- An understanding of the importance of the concepts of fit, fulfillment, flow, intrinsic engagement, long-term mastery and motivation in your careers;
- The long-term motivational consequences of pursuing careers that are only monetary or status based;
- An introduction of the concept of a “value lens”. What is it? Why is it so important for your long term satisfaction;
- Common decision making biases that we all have that negatively influence the career decision making process;
- How to apply the “scientific method” as a habit to your career for long term fulfillment;
- How to transition into a new fit, or re-invent yourself in career context;
- Building your career on the foundation of “value creation”;
- Breaking through the self-lies, excuses, and feelings of entitlement, that hold you back from being empowered in your career;
- Challenging what are the “real rules in life” and what are just fears that keep us disempowered;
- Developing critically important skill sets that aren’t effectively taught in schools: like how to build relationships, the importance of doing what scares you, facing the scary crowd, and building powerful habits and personal systems for career fulfillment;
- The importance of career “grit” and how to develop it;
- The concept of “self-validation” and “self-leadership” in a career context; and
- The “hierarch” or “territory” career perspective paradigm.
CONTACT ME TODAY, or via phone at 403-619-1173, and arrange for me to share these valuable insights with your students or career seekers today!
My new Ivy Exec column – How To Find A Mentor In Your Career
My new Ivy Exec column is up:
My new Ivy Exec column is out: 5 Power Tips To Become A Better Public Speaker
Here is a new column I just published with Ivy Exec. If you ever struggle with anxiety then please take a look at this. Fear of failure can easily lead to anxiety, which can decrease your confidence and make failure a self-fulfilling prophesy. Here are 6 ways to control your anxiety as entrepreneurs:
For a long time I was puzzled by the notion of “fearing success”. I’d read about the concept, hear others talk about it, but it never sank in, and the definition didn’t make any sense to me.
Why would anyone be afraid of success?
It didn’t seem like this was a real issue to me. Sure – I can understand fear of failure, fear of “being wrong”, fear of “being criticized” – but fear of success? Who is afraid of that?
Over time however, as I’ve set more and more goals – trying and succeeding sometimes, trying and coming up short on others – I think that fear of success is a real concept, and I’ve given it my own definition.
It has everything to do with belief.
Think for a minute about your life, and all the things that you have either attempted to accomplish, or wanted to accomplish but came up short, or haven’t yet even pursued. In every endeavour that we contemplate, there is a corresponding belief system, or mindset, that we bring into that endeavor. Even before we set out to achieve a goal, we have a certain belief that we hold as to whether or not that goal is actually achievable.
That is what fear of success is – the belief (even if it is subconscious) that we are not capable of achieving a particular goal.
Compare it with the opposite belief: certainty
Have you ever met someone who was absolutely certain that they were going to accomplish something? Or better yet, have you ever been in a state of absolute certainty yourself? Aren’t these types of people inspiring to be around? They seem to emanate so much positive energy. They are so influential. They are so inspiring. Certainty of belief is one of the most powerful persuasion methods.
Well here’s the thing – more often than not (in fact, most of the time) the person who is absolutely certain that they will achieve something, does in fact achieve it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve seen it over and over. I’ve also experienced it many times in my life. The times that I am certain are the times that I generally get what I want.
A person who operates with certainty in their belief system, as to their ability to achieve a goal, will more often than not achieve their goal. This type of person does not fear success (at least in that particular engagement).
What about the person who fears success? If a person sets a goal, and then expresses doubt, in any way, as to their ability to achieve this goal – the person fears success. This is what fear of success means. I see it all the time. Someone would “like” to have something, or it would be “nice” if they had something, but they are not certain about it. There is doubt. Sometimes the doubt is closely held, and not expressed, but you can always tell the difference between someone who is certain, and someone who doubts.
Fear of success is real. At all times we’ve experienced it, and it impacts our belief system – it impacts our “certainty” about whether or not we will attain a goal. We may not think we are ready. We may not think that we are the type of person that gets what we want. We may not feel like we deserve it. We may not feel like we have the resources, or the skill, or the time, or the connections, to get what we want. This is fear of success.
How do you get rid of it? There is not an easy answer. Visualization can help. Having small “victories” in our life (thereby increasing our confidence and also expanding our capacity to believe) can help as well. Having a really positive social network around us, encouraging us, can help. But it’s not an easy, quick fix. I think it is actually more difficult to correct than fear of failure.
Fear of failure is actually quite easy to overcome – just view failure as feedback. You “objectify” the process. You become an amateur scientist. Bang! Gone! You want something. You try to get it. You don’t get it. Ok – you just analyze your actions (feedback), take new actions, and try again. Boom – failure isn’t such a bad thing.
But belief systems…those aren’t easy to change. Those have been crystallizing for years. Those take a lot of effort.
But at least start, at least try, in any way, to change your subconscious beliefs about what you are capable of achieving, because fear of success is something that has the capacity to derail any great dream.
My latest Ivy Exec Column: When I first heard the advice “Do What You Love” in regards to my career, I found it really hard to apply. When I thought about “what I loved” – work didn’t really come up. Here is how I was able to find an empowering career, without knowing “what I loved”, and why this advice can actually be terrible (sometimes). If you’ve ever struggled with the advice of “do what you love” you’ll enjoy this article.
Approach anxiety is a very, very common situation in sales – especially for people who are new to sales. It is something that the vast majority of salespeople experience, and I’m convinced that the people who claim to have never dealt with it are lying.
I’ve experienced it many times. Since I left traditional “employment” to become an entrepreneur I’ve felt it a lot. I was coming from an industry (a big firm lawyer) where I didn’t have to do approaches at all. I just showed up to work each day and did what I was told. When I started my own firm I had to get clients. I had to “approach” people (like realtors, bankers and other referral sources). This scared me a lot.
When I left law to build a sales business I had to approach even more. This was scary – especially since the rejection rates were extremely high in my industry. When I wrote my book I had to approach publishers and distributors. Now in my consulting, training and speaking, as well as my Educational business, I am constantly approaching people. I have had so many approaches over the last 7 years I can’t count – and I’ve felt approach anxiety more times than I can count as well.
If you are in business for yourself, and if you are starting from nothing, sales will be a MASSIVE aspect of your activity in the beginning until you establish a customer pipeline and a marketing and prospecting routine. You have to sell your product or service. You have to get customers for your business to stay alive. In order to get customers you have to approach.
What is approach anxiety?
Approach anxiety is that inner resistance that we often feel before making a new contact. That inner sense of “I’d rather not do this” or the rationalization that makes us wonder “is there another way to sell our product or service?”. Approaching a new person – even if that person is a referral, or a “warm lead” presents the opportunity for something that most people dread:
Being rejected is no fun. It cuts to the core of our self esteem. It immediately drives to the surface of our emotions all the insecurities, fears, and anxieties that we work so hard on pushing away.
What if this person rejects me?
What if I make a fool of myself?
These are the thoughts that often come to mind when we are in the grips of the inner resistance known as “approach anxiety”. It can be so powerful sometimes that many financial and entrepreneurial dreams never come to fruition because of an unwillingness to face large scale rejection.
If success in sales is simply a game of numbers, a matter of ratios – in that 1 in (x) people you approach will purchase your product or service, then it is theoretically possible that all salespeople will be successful. However we know that all salespeople aren’t successful. A very common reason is that the salesperson isn’t willing to deal with the number of rejections it takes to get the number of acceptances they want.
Why do we feel approach anxiety?
We feel approach anxiety because of evolution, and the hardwiring that exists in our brains. We are tribal creatures. The threat of rejection was once so scary that it would mean almost certain death if we were cast out of the safety of the larger group. This feeling of “group expulsion” still exists in us. We want to be accepted by the group. We want to be loved. We want to be liked. Everyone (at least everyone who is honest with themselves) will admit to this.
In a sales context, when we approach a stranger and attempt to “make a sale” we open ourselves up to the threat of “rejection”, or even worse “not being liked”. The automatic programming in our brain takes over and we get signals screaming at us (in the form of fear, anxiety, cautiousness, and rationalization) to stop and avoid the potential rejection.
How do you overcome it?
The good news is that approach anxiety can be resisted. It can be defeated – and frankly you need to defeat it in order to become successful in your sales and entrepreneurial career. However, the way to defeat it may not be what you realize.
A lot of people who are new to sales think that eventually, once they get enough experience – once they do enough approaches – that the anxiety will go away.
In my experience this isn’t the case. I still get approach anxiety even through I’ve done many, many approaches.
I just felt it last week for example – when I met the owner of a business that I had given a bid to for consulting work. That familiar rush of anxiety and nervousness that I’ve felt many times knowing that I am entering into a forum that I might get rejected on.
Here’s the thing – approach anxiety doesn’t really go away – you just learn how to manage it, and how to use it as fuel to help you move forward.
That is the first step in overcoming it – accepting it.
Knowing that it is just part of our DNA, and that we are hardwired to feel it. So we need to just accept it, and then move to the next step – embracing it.
By embracing it you are using the approach anxiety as a “signal”. A signal that you are in a situation that 1) you care about; and 2) that is important for your business. These are all good things – not things that we should run away from. Accept it and then embrace it.
Accepting and embracing are the underlying philosophies – but there are three additional steps you can use if you want to “master” situations of approach anxiety:
1. Don’t see the potential rejection from the outset. Be present to the moment, and just make the approach
Just make the approach. Turn it into a game. See if you can go 100 days in a row making a certain number of approaches each day. Give yourself a prize if you make it through the end of the streak without breaking the chain. Learn to detach, and be present to the moment. For me meditation has helped a lot with this. I would recommend a meditation practice for every salesperson.
2. Turn the fear into excitement – realize that you are in a situation where your business (and income) can grow
Think about it from this frame of reference – if you never have a situation where there is fear of approach anxiety – you never get a situation where your business can grow. So be excited. Love it. You are in a situation where your business can grow.
3. Call it out (Literally)
This one seems a little nutty – but stay with me here. Trust me. Call out your approach anxiety, and do it literally (out loud). Sit in your car, or when you are walking up to the approach, or at your desk before you make the call, and out loud state the following –
Address the approach anxiety like it was another person, say “hey, you, I know what you are doing. I can feel you. You’re trying to mess with me, but I’m moving forward anyway. SO GET LOST!”
It sounds absolutely crazy – but I swear it works. When you address your approach anxiety out loud there is a very interesting transformative effect that takes place. You realize that all of this is in your head. You can control your emotional state. You then feel a sense of empowerment because YOU are taking control. You are not being held hostage by your emotions. It works. Try it.
You have to be mentally tough if you are going to survive as an entrepreneur. No matter what business you are in, you will deal with set-backs, rejection, failure, and disappointment from time to time. It happens to anyone who is brave enough to venture out on their own and attempt to create something great.
Mental toughness is just like courage. You don’t get it by reading a book or hearing about someone who displayed it. You only get it by DOING the things that require it.
Here are some tips to help you develop mental toughness in your business:
1. Each day set a HARD GOAL for that specific day.
By hard goal I mean something that is really challenging. Don’t avoid challenges, rather intentionally seek them out every single day. Don’t get caught up in the results of the specific challenge or goal. If you don’t achieve the day’s hard goal, who cares. You went after it, and it was hard. That is a victory. If you do this each day, over time you will get mentally tough.
2. Learn to go a little further.
This one is easy to apply in the context of exercise. If you are running on the treadmill and you set a goal for 1 hour at a certain speed. When the hour is done you should ALWAYS push out an extra 5 minutes. You should always do more when you think you have reached your limit. Do the same thing in your business. After you are exhausted at the end of the day, push out another 5 calls. Before you go to bed, instead of watching the stupid TV, sit down at your computer and fire out 1 more email to someone who can help you in building your business. If you do this each day, over time you will get mentally tough.
3. When you have a setback (which is inevitable), find a way to make it into a positive learning experience.
Simple habit – each time you experience a setback ask yourself what you learned, and how you can apply this in the future. This way you won’t get discouraged if you experience setbacks.
4. If you aren’t being pushed to the max, then your primary goals are too easy, look bigger
You become mentally tough by setting big goals. Big daily goals (point 1) and big primary goals (monthly, annual, lifetime, etc). If you aren’t being pushed to the max, then you should change your goals. You’ve set them too small. If you aren’t having to give absolutely everything you got to achieve them, then your goals are too small, and you won’t develop mental toughness.
5. Confront the “Brutal Facts”
Each goal has “brutal facts” associated with it. That is, if you are going to achieve the goal there are some tough things that you are going to have to do. You develop mental toughness by learning to “confront” these facts right off the bat. Instead of ignoring the facts, being ignorant to them, or complaining when they present themselves, just confront them. This principle applies to all aspects of life – any pursuit. Any worthwhile pursuit has associated pain. Confront the pain right off the bat. Tell yourself “I know I have to walk through this, but I’m ok with that”. That will make you mentally tough.
I’ve been absent from blogging over the past two weeks, although I do have a good excuse (at least I tell myself as much). I’ve been travelling across Holland and France with my daughter Maci.
It was an amazing trip, one that was planned for several years, and one that Maci actually funded her portion of via her own entrepreneurial success. I wrote about her business venture in an article that got featured on several entrepreneurial websites. You can read the article here:
One of the places that we visited on our trip was the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. This was one of many art museums that we visited on our trip (including the Louvre). Van Gogh is an artist who really resonates with me – mostly because of the very unique circumstances of his life (circumstances that I have written about previously on this blog).
Van Gogh painted hundreds of works, while in obscurity as an artist (many of which we saw at both the Van Gogh Museum and the Louvre). It was only until after his death that he became famous and his art commanded exorbitant sums. As an artist he never experienced the fruits of his labours.
He resonates with me for many reasons – not least of which is the topic of motivation – why we do what we do? And what dictates whether a project is worth pursuing? As an entrepreneur, consultant and writer, I have had many “failures” – ventures where I have spent time on a project and my goals weren’t met. I have started businesses that never got off the ground. No entrepreneur has been an unequivocal success, not even the ones that we lionize (like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk) – even they have experienced failure.
Learning about the story of Van Gogh has given me a source of inspiration about focusing on “craft” rather than on results and learning to switch to an intrinsic minded motivation. These habits have helped me to be calm in the face of uncertainty and risk, and move forward despite the potential for failure – all skills that are necessary as an entrepreneur.
When I visited the Van Gogh museum however, I saw a quote on the wall that changed my perspective, gave me an even greater appreciation of the artist, and helped me realize why I find intrinsic motivation in pursuing things where the payoff is uncertain.
Here is the quote (in Van Gogh’s words):
It is only in front of the easel, while painting, that I feel a little of life.
Being “in front of the easel” is where I have felt the most life as well. That is how Van Gogh painted so much without experiencing the “rewards” of his art. The art was the reward.
It isn’t in the rewards, the results, the money, the success, the praise where life is most real. Life is most real, and most clearly felt “in front of the easel”.
This is my easel:
- Being an entrepreneur;
- Being an advisor to other entrepreneurs and helping them grow;
- Being a creator as a writer and entrepreneur;
- Sharing my ideas in spoken and written word;
- Strengthening the “creation” of my family life;
- Doing things that scare me;
- Pushing myself beyond the boundaries of my known limits.
This is where I feel life. Life isn’t felt in front of the TV, in the store, buying something to make ourselves feel better. Life is most felt when we are confronting our fears, pursuing our unique purpose as an individual, and living in front of our “easel”. I get it.
What is your “easel”?
I’ve been an “amateur”, but very consistent, runner for over a decade. I first took up running on the challenge of a law school classmate, who bet me that I would do better in my studies if I worked out 4-5 hours a week than if I dedicated that same amount of time to extra studying. I took him up on the challenge – and he proved to be correct, and I’ve been hooked every since.
I noticed something interesting recently in my running experience. Even though I have been running, every week, with the rare exception, for over ten years, during this period I had never once exceeded, in a single run, a length of more than 10 km. I had carved such a strong pattern of behaviour and routine that it was very easy to get out and run several times each week (in fact I craved it) but after 10 km my mind always seemed to say “you’re done now”. I would always seem to want to stop, at roughly the 10km mark, each time I went out.
I didn’t think much about until recently. I considered myself in good shape, and felt that 10km is a very good distance. The hour or so it took each day (usually 4 times a week) was a nice refresher, and I just built it into my lifestyle.
But for some reason, a couple weeks ago, I wondered why it was that my body always seemed to get tired at the 10km mark, and I wondered if, in fact, it was my “mind” that was the cause of the fatigue, more so than my body.
Besides – having run literally thousands and thousands of miles over the last decade I had to be in shape to withstand more than 10km, and come to think about it, when I would stop each day at 10km I would never be overly winded or fatigued. I just didn’t want to run anymore. My mind said that I was done.
I wondered if I could in fact override the mental conditioning that I had, and how difficult it would be to run a distance of more than 10km in a given session. So, last week, while I was travelling to Southern California, I decided to do an experiment. I downloaded a podcast interview (2 hours) of a program that I enjoy. Then I started out along the ocean (actual photo).
I had a very specific plan. I would run until the podcast was at 1 hour, then I would turn around and run back. 2 hours total. I would log my miles on my fitbit and hopefully I would nearly double my previous best distance.
My experiment worked. I got lost in the beauty of the run, and the podcast, and I was able to nearly double my best distance. Best of all, as I was walking back into the hotel that we were staying at, I realized that I could have gone a lot further. I wasn’t winded. I hadn’t hit my capacity.
So stopping at 10km, for all those years, had been a mental limitation, and a habit, not an actual limitation. I proved to myself, with a simple experiment, that I was capable of much more than my routine dictated.
As I reflected on this, later in the day, I realized that my stopping at 10km also had a lot to do with my “belief” in my ability to run much further. Now that I had a new reference point, I also had a new belief – that I was capable of much more. It made me think about other “beliefs” that I had and whether they resulted in self-imposed limitations.
I think that self-imposed limitations are very natural, and every one has dealt with them in some form or another in their life. Our society socializes us to avoid failure – even though failure, in its entirety, is absolutely unavoidable. When we fail (note I said “when” not if) it is very easy to build our experience in as a reference point that sets an artificial boundary for future engagements.
I see this all the time with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who have experienced great success in the past have a reference point of what they are capable of. They often set their initial sites much higher than someone who hasn’t previously experienced success, and if they fail, they don’t define their future by that particular failure (because they have a counter-acting reference point of success).
Self-belief, about our potential in the future, is largely influenced by our experiences from the past. If we’ve succeeded in the past we often believe we are capable of future success. If we have failed in the past we often doubt our ability to succeed in the future.
I coach new entrepreneurs and I can immediately tell, by the goals that people set for themselves, what their past experience has been and whether or not they believe themselves capable of significant achievement. People who set mediocre goals, are burdened by limiting self-beliefs, and also often have had prior reference points in their life that suggest that they aren’t capable of achieving great things.
But guess what….in almost all cases these limitations are self imposed. They aren’t based in reality. They are based in their mind.
Just like my experience running. 10km was not my limit. 20km isn’t my limit either. I am capable of much more. We are all capable of much more than we think we are – in just about all elements of our life. I believe that we have to learn to test our limitations on our own. We can’t expect society, or anyone else to do it for us, but when we do, and when we realize that we have been living under a false assumption for so long, it will excite us and motivate us to reach higher and set more compelling and exciting goals.
The following is a brief summary of the keynote presentation I gave at the Cochrane, Alberta Chamber of Commerce Business Education Series, February 25, 2015. If you would like me to share this presentation with your organization please contact me here.
Who is your “tribe” in your business?
How does the concept of “tribes” impact you in your business?
How can you leverage this concept to grow your reach, strengthen your relationships with your customers, and grow organically?
This is a concept that has always existed, but because of changes in the way businesses interact with customers, given the Internet, this concept matters much more now than ever before.
Marketing has changed.
This is what life was like for a business before the Internet existed:
- Big budget advertising was needed to reach the masses;
- Interruption tactics were used, with a focus on “closing” and sales based techniques;
- There were high costs, and many barriers to entry to become an entrepreneur;
- A typical small business had a limited customer base, and was generally limited by its geography; and
- You usually experienced slow growth (unless you had big $$ to spend on advertising and global expansion).
With the Internet….
- The consumer now has much more power;
- Interruption tactics don’t work as well, and people aren’t as influenced by hard selling techniques;
- Choice is abundant (just “Google” it);
- For many industries the barriers to entry now are virtually non-existent, costs are low, and as a result there is now massive competition;
- Because of decreased shipping costs, and outsourced labor, many businesses have global distribution opportunities (where previously none existed);
- People are willing to pay more for things they prefer;
- People are looking to connect with causes and stories they believe in; and
- Our world is massively connected.
Our increased connectivity and our propensity to share changes the consumer / business relationship, and it makes a single customer far more important (potentially) to a business. Each customer has a potential megaphone that they can use to share their opinion, and experience with a business, to the world.
Also – we know, from many writers, including Simon Sinek in his best selling book Start With Why that consumer decision making is influenced by the emotional components of our nervous system.
What does this mean for a business?
It means that connecting with, engaging with, nurturing and growing a “tribe” of massively committed, raving fans, is critical. These fans WANT to share, and because of social media, they have a powerful organic platform.
Raving Fans aren’t just about stuff. They are not just about consumerism. They want to be part of a cause, story or purpose that they believe in.
As a business, you don’t just want customers. You want “True Fans”, “Raving Fans” that believe in you, and are willing to support you and follow you.
Facebook Likes Versus “True Fans”
A true fan is far more than a “like” on your Facebook page
- A true fan cares deeply about your cause;
- A true fan not only buys from you, they tell a friend (an unpaid sales army);
- A true fan connects with other true fans to amplify the message.
When you have a tribe of “true fans” you have lower costs (because of organic marketing) and therefore higher profits, and you can charge more for what you do.
How Do You Grow And Nurture A Tribe of “True Fans” – 10 Specific Strategies
- Tell a story in your marketing efforts;
- Repeatedly share “WHY” you do what you do. Share your vision in your marketing;
- Connect with your tribe. Be present and top of mind. Go where they are (instead of the mass market blitz);
- Be “shareable” in what you do, and how you do it. Become worth sharing (be remarkable);
- Make it easy for your tribe to connect with each other;
- Create a “movement” – offer more than just a product or a service. Find a way to interact with your customer;
- Be the “Best” in what you do. Be remarkable. A market leader. Strive to “surprise and delight”;
- Be different. Distinguishing yourself attracts followers. Consumer curiosity is a powerful force;
- Be generous – give more than you take;
- Track your progress towards your vision. Create pathways for your followers to contribute to your progress.
One of my first “real” jobs, before I started University, was at Future Shop. In 2000 I was hired into the computer sales department despite having very little knowledge of computers. I was hungry though, needed to earn tuition money to make my dreams of higher education a reality, and I knew how to sell. So despite the obvious fact that my computer knowledge was clearly lacking, the store manager took a chance on me (knowing that since the job was 100% commission either I’d learn quickly or find myself out the door).
I’m grateful that he did. I worked there for just over 8 months, earning enough money to get me started in University, and I learned a thing or two about computers in the process. I even earned the “part time salesperson of the year” award (yes, they actually had one of those) complete with a trophy of a figurine holding a briefcase (I’m not making any of this up). My mom still has the trophy at her house. So I’d like to think that I made good on the risk that the store manager took on me.
When I was first hired, the reality that I knew nothing about what I was supposed to sell hit me really hard. So the first thing I did was go to the local bookstore and purchase everything I could on computers. I learned the difference between “hardware” and “software”, I learned about “operating systems” and enough basics to be able to sell computers and related accessories to the wide array of non-technical retail customers that would, on a daily basis, walk through the doors.
I also became acquainted with our “service” department, and on occasion I would have to assist my customers when their computers needed repair. I’d walk into the service room and see a number of machines waiting to be fixed, and marvel at how these very expensive computers (remember this was the year 2000 and it was not unusual to sell a computer for between $5000 – $8000) would be rendered useless if their operating system crashed. In a very simplistic fashion I began to see just how important the “operating system” was to the health and functionality of the computer itself.
Fast forward 15 years. For the last 7 years I’ve been a full time entrepreneur. In one of our businesses I’ve had the chance to work with, associate with, or coach in some capacity or another, several thousand entrepreneurs and small business owners. In this experience I have learned just how important a “personal operating system” is to the results that people achieve in their lives.
What is a “personal operating system”?
In my opinion, a “personal operating system” is that set of beliefs, behaviours, and habits, that a given person has, that operate both consciously and unconsciously in that person’s life, to dictate the results that the person achieves.
In my experience, everyone has a different personal operating system, and the consequences of this are quite noticeable.
For example – one person’s operating system instills a belief that they are entitled to things. They believe they are entitled to help from others, they believe that it is their right to have what they want, and if they don’t get what they want then it is not their fault. They are a victim. It is someone, or something, else’s fault. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system may give a completely opposite belief framework and suggest that in fact they are 100% responsible for their life and the results they achieve. It may suggest that they are entitled to nothing, and no one owes them anything. As a result, they are grateful for what they have, and never look to blame anyone, or anything, if they don’t get what they want. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
One’s person’s operating system may become repeatedly frozen when confronting anything outside of their comfort zone, or attempting anything that scares them. As a result, they stay safe, rarely take risks, avoid all situations where they might be rejected, or hurt. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system pursues things that scares them. It pushes them to operate outside of their comfort zone, to continually seek growth, and continually do things that scare them. It encourages them to take risks, and not live paralyzed by fear. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
One person’s operating system might look for escape from reality – through the very attractive medium of TV and movies, non-productive internet surfing, and gossip. They are up to date on the latest fashion trends, the gossip of celebrities, and the constant stream of happenings in the world. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system would rather create than simply be a passive observer in life, and they are willing to toil in obscurity, creating their unique art, even if no one sees it, or rewards them monetarily. They feel that a life worth living is a life filled with the act of creation. So they create. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Every one of us are “operating” with a certain “operating system” – a unique set of beliefs, habits, and behaviours that direct how we spend our time, what we think about the world, and what it does or doesn’t owe us. Our operating systems generate a certain result over time. The results that all of us have, right here, and right now, are the consequence of our operating system.
The source of our operating system is complex – I realize that. I realize we can’t control where we were born, or the ills that we may have suffered at some point in our life. But we can, absolutely, choose the operating system that we use starting right now, until the end of our life. Many people don’t even realize they are “operating” with a certain “operating system”. A failure to consciously “choose” an operating system is still a choice – it is a choice to take the operating system that society, and your social circle, gives you. With that choice you get results. Your results are the consequence of that choice.
It is not an excuse to say we can’t “find an empowering operating system”. There are examples everywhere. If we can’t create an empowering one on our own, we can walk into the nearest bookstore, pick out a book by a person we admire, and immediately act to implement their operating system in our life. This will generate results in our life.
This is an element of life that I find most exciting and empowering – the fact that we get to choose. Nothing can take away our power of choice. We can choose the operating system that we are going to use today, tomorrow and forever. No matter what happened in the past, the future is ours to choose the system that we will use to dictate our lives going forward.
Want a simple strategy that is 100% guaranteed to make you happier, more effective in your work, and move you closer, daily, to your most important goals? Not only that – but by turning this strategy into a daily habit you’ll experience more emotional self-reliance, and less need to ever “vent” about really anything. You’ll also feel a sense of active control over your life, more intrinsic fulfillment, and more flow.
Sound enticing yet?
This strategy involves just a simple daily habit, a tiny little adjustment in behaviour, but once you start doing it, the compounding results are astounding. I can’t take credit for the strategy – I first learned about it from the leadership writer Robin Sharma; however, I can vouch for its effectiveness as I have been actively engaging it for quite some time.
I call this strategy my “daily 5 – 5 – 3”, but I‘ve also heard it referred as the “Big 5, Daily 5, Nightly 3” strategy.
Here is the strategy:
First – get a journal (something I repeatedly advocate for). Needs to be a pen and paper style. Go back in time. Ditch the phone and tablet. You’ll thank me later.
Next – the “Big 5” – on the first page of the journal write the 5 most important goals that you have right now. What “makes your heart sing”, what “makes you come alive”? Make sure these form part of the 5. Make the goals very specific so that you know when you’ll achieve them. It could be the 5 most important goals for the year, or the 5 things you MUST accomplish in your life. Just make sure they are the most important things in your life – the 5 goals that you are most devoted to achieving. The 5 things that are more meaningful to you personally than anything else.
Next – the “Daily 5” – on the top of every page going forward you are going to write the date (repeated every day on the next page). Before the day starts you are going to set 5 “micro-goals” – one for each of your “Big 5” goals – that you are going to achieve that day. Every one of your “daily goals” will take you closer, in some way, to your achieving your big five goals. So by the end of the day, assuming you completed your “Daily 5” you will have successfully accomplished 5 different goals, one for each of your “Big 5” goals.
Finally – the “Nightly 3” – at the end of the day (on the same page that you wrote the daily goals for that particular day) write down three things that you are grateful for that happened that day. Simple and easy, but don’t go to bed until you have taken the time to record three things that happened that day that you are grateful for.
Here is what happens when you continuously engage this strategy (and by continuously I mean many days (100+) of consecutive execution):
- You start feeling really, really grateful, for just about everything in your life;
- You start embracing time as your most precious gift;
- You stop venting;
- You stop feeling sorry for yourself;
- You experience daily victories – this increases your self-confidence;
- Your motivation and drive to achieve your Big 5 dramatically increases;
- You start to believe that you can actually achieve your Big 5 because you experience yourself moving closer to your goals;
- You start to enjoy each day;
- You wake up excited for what you can accomplish that day;
- You go to bed fulfilled and satisfied with the day’s effort.
Try it, for at least 100 days in a row, and then drop me a line. I promise it will change your life.
Is your life process driven? Is it purpose driven? Do you feel that you’re not even the one driving your life? Perhaps you feel more like a passenger sometimes?
I know the feeling of “being a passenger” for sure. I once felt like my life was out of my control. That feeling was the catalyst for my moving towards a life that was process driven. I’ve been living this way for several years now and I’ll never change. It has been my foundation for success and emotional stability.
Why not purpose driven? Why do I focus on “process”. Isn’t it good to have goals, to have a sense of purpose about what we want to achieve?
Absolutely it is good to have goals, but I have found that “motivation” and “inspiration” are the most highly overrated concepts that exist in the field of performance and obtaining results. Habits, systems and process, trumps motivation every time.
I definitely have goals, and some of them are large and audacious. But each day my primary focus is process, not purpose. I try to chunk what will take me towards my goal into tiny, daily, chunk-able actions, and then only focus on getting those chunks done each and every day. I focus on “checking off the chunks”.
Here is why I advocate for adopting a “process driven life”:
1. Motivation is highly overrated, and unsustainable on its own
Motivation is like caffeine. A short burst of energy, that isn’t sustainable on its own (without more caffeine), followed by a “downer” that leaves you with less energy than you had before you took your caffeinated shot. The worst part about it is that, in most cases, it comes from an external source. We get motivated “because” of something we hear, see, want, need, experience. But it comes as a result of stimulus, it doesn’t take place automatically. It doesn’t anchor in our subconscious.
I have seen this over and over again in working with small business entrepreneurs. They feel a shot of “motivation” or “inspiration” because of something – that leads them to sprint on an achievement, but because they’ve never established a process or proper habits, their actions aren’t sustainable. They need to read another book, “re-engage”, find momentum, and “re-start”. The starting process is much, much harder when you don’t have momentum. A process driven, and habit driven person, doesn’t need to do this. They don’t need dramatic motivation. They just focus on getting the little chunks done.
2. Any goal is achievable if you chunk it down to its smallest parts and then attack one chunk at a time.
Have you ever heard the silly quote about “how to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.” There is profound wisdom in that concept. Really any goal is achievable, no matter how large, if you embrace this concept. I learned this by writing my book Unsuited. Many people are intimidated by the process of writing a book. Being process driven I found it to be quite easy. Here was the process:
My book needed to be between 200-220 pages (based on my publisher’s guidelines). For me that ended up being just over 65,000 words first draft (later cut to just over 59,000 for publication).
65,000 words may seem, to some, like a lot, perhaps even an insurmountable goal, but let me show you why being “process-driven” makes it easy to achieve.
One page of type is about 350 words. All I had to do was 350 words each day, and in 186 days I was done. 350 words took about an hour or so to do. So one hour a day, for just over 5 months and my book was done. Simple. Process. Chunks. If I wanted more each day (my goal in fact was 500 words a day) then my time to complete would be shorter.
So each day I just focused on 500 words. Nothing else. Before I knew it, I was done and I was an author.
3. Being process driven allows us to detach from our emotions. Our emotions are often the biggest impediment to our achievement (whether we realize it or not)
Being emotional, I’ve found, can be a huge liability. Emotions are the drivers of the “motivational world”. In the achievement world I’ve found that the more “scientific” I can be, the more “computer like” I can live, the better my results are. I love the methodology in the very popular Lean Start Up model by Eric Reis – build, measure, learn. It is exactly in line with a process driven mindset.
Being process driven allows you to detach from your emotions. You are seeking data. You are performing small chunked actions each day, and then you measure to see if you are moving closer to your goal. If you aren’t moving closer then you choose new small chunked actions. If you are – then you stay the course. There is no discouragement, there is never a need to vent, there is no victimization mindset. There is only data. Data and process.
4. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It is always the result of the culmination of a whole bunch of tiny steps.
This concept has been studied over and over again in the performance literature world. Change is slow. It is compounding. It is incremental. However, when you are process driven, you see this as a massive opportunity. You realize the leverage you have on yourself if you will just focus on getting tiny daily victories, and how these victories will compound and pay off over time, like the doubling of a penny sustained. When we focus on process, the results just happen.
David Brailsford – one of the UK’s top sports performance minds, who was instrumental in helping the British cycling team compile 14 medals in the Beijing games, had a philosophy called “the aggregation of marginal gains”. In essence it is the same as the process approach I am advocating for. The overall effect of a 1% performance gain each day is astounding when you follow the numbers over time.
5. It is really easy to get discouraged when you are constantly focusing on your goal
I really believe in the zen concept of detachment. It works in goal achievement. The more tightly I seem to grasp at things the easier they are to fall out of my hands. However, then I detach, when I just focus on process and completing my daily chunks it is remarkable how my goals seem to be fulfilled.
Detaching from a goal doesn’t mean that you don’t want it. It just means that you are directing your focus to what is in front of you – what you can do – instead of what you don’t have and what you want.
This is the foundation of being process driven. Focusing on what I can control. When I just focus on what I want, and what I don’t yet have, it is really easy (I have found) to get discouraged and impatient. None of this happens when I’m process driven.
6. Process driven works – plain and simple
Perhaps the biggest reason why I choose to be process driven is that it works. It is far more effective in achievement than getting on the roller coaster of motivation and needing to keeping paying for the ride. Being process driven gets results. I have seen this, not only in my life but in many examples.
The most recent example I came across was the story about British 8s Rowing gold medal team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics as documented in the book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster. Author and Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis recounts the sustained nearly 8 years of losses and disappointments that the British team suffered, despite being highly motivated before they adopted a process driven training model. Driven by the daily question of “will it make the boat go faster” they adopted a pattern of small marginal, sustainable, habits maintained over a four year training regime. These small processes could be tracked, analyzed and adapted based on performance – and over time this shift to a process driven mindset paid the ultimate prize – an Olympic Gold.
I really like this series by Jeff Stibel. It features some of the most successful people in the world and how they have (more often than we even realize) failed. It puts the subject of “failure” in perspective that is isn’t something that we should fear, but rather a powerful learning tool. We should embrace intelligent risk, embrace uncertainty, embrace change, build and create things, start new engagements and relationships. Life is most fulfilling when we live as if failure is only feedback, it is only education, it is not an expression of our self-worth.
I’ve been a runner for many years, and I was an “early adopter” of the Fitbit movement. I’ve been using mine for a while, and it is a rare day that I don’t get in my 15,000 steps.
My running habit started in 2004 while I was in law school. About a couple months into my first year I was studying with a good friend and we were discussing our exercise routines. I told him I didn’t really have one, as my primary focus was my studies. He challenged me, and said that if I built a consistent pattern of exercise I’d have more energy to devote to my studies. It seemed like a bit of a paradox to me – give time away from my studies, but be better off as a result because of increased energy. I decided that I’d give it a try.
He was absolutely right. Once I developed a consistent approach to exercise I found that I had a lot more energy to devote to my goals. Ever since then I’ve been hooked.
Energy management is an important consideration in goal achievement, and I’m always trying to ensure that I maintain peak energy levels. I’ve found that certain things – like exercise, a healthy diet, meditation, proper sleep, avoiding artificial stimulants like caffeine – keep me in a peak daily “energy state”. This is something that I rely on to achieve the goals that I’ve set out for myself.
There is however, a critical element to maintaining peak energy, that is rarely, if ever talked about. It is whether or not my goals are exciting and compelling.
A compelling set of goals, aligned with an exciting sense of purpose and direction in life, I’ve found, has a direct effect on my energy.
I’ve noticed, over the years, that I’ve experienced “energy lows” in the following periods:
- When I was in a job that I didn’t want to be in, and felt no future in;
- When I was “in between goal periods”, ie. I had just completed a certain goal but I hadn’t yet set another exciting and compelling goal; and
- I set a goal that didn’t excite me.
However when I had a goal that I was pursuing that was really compelling to me – meaning that I really wanted it – for whatever reason, I found that energy was in abundance.
Sometimes the energy that comes from a compelling set of goals is unreal. I can think of many, many days that I have worked into the night, without caffeine, completely alert, because I was chasing a specific goal that was compelling to me. This is the “flow state” that so many people talk about, and that I have experienced many times. Once you trigger that flow state it’s like you tap into an hidden reservoir of untapped energy that was always in you.
Compelling goals should be at the heart of all “energy management programs”. If you find that you are low energy, definitely look at your exercise routine, your diet, but also take a good hard look at your goals.
It’s my bet that your goals aren’t that compelling to you. If they were then you would tap into that hidden reservoir.
Recreation is overrated. Yes I said it. Vacations, entertainment, distractions, escapes, recreation…overrated.
So much of our society is designed around the consumption of recreation. It is a never ending black hole that doesn’t satisfy. We always need more. We get our short term “fix” and then we come looking for it again every 5 or 6 days.
When you find work that makes you come alive, being immersed in it is better than recreation. It is renewing. It is engaging. It is refreshing.
I’ve found that since I discovered the work that makes me comes alive I no longer search for recreation on the weekends. In fact – the weekends often blend in to the weekday. It is a process, a journey, an exploration of growth – and for me, it is better than recreation.
Does that make me a workaholic?
Probably….although I don’t really know what that word means any more.
I really like doing work that is aligned with my values. My primary values are freedom, autonomy, creativity, building things and nurturing their growth, adventure, risk taking, communication, community and adding value to others.
When I am engaged in work that is aligned with what I value, I am a better husband, a better father, a better human being. I have more confidence, more hope for the future, more energy and more excitement. I care more about other people. I want to add value to society.
So if by wanting to do more of this kind of work, and seek less recreation, that makes me a workaholic – I’ll gladly take that label.
At one point in my life I was doing work that wasn’t aligned with my values. During this time I wanted to escape. I needed recreation. I needed the vacations, and the distractions – and I wasn’t as good a father, or husband. I didn’t have hope for the future, or a positive outlook.
But I sought recreation whenever I could.
You can be the judge as to what is best for you.
For me – I want to do meaningful work. I want to work until I can’t work any more. I have no intention to retire, ever. I want to do work that is aligned with my values for the rest of my life. I want to wear away my life as an entrepreneur, a creator, and a communicator. I want to build communities and relationships. I want to add value to others, and I’m happy to forgo recreation to make that happen.
The problem is never work. The problem is alignment. Work is a virtue. Work is a value. Work gives confidence and self-esteem. The problem is when we are doing work that isn’t aligned with what we value, and who we are. The problem is when our work doesn’t make us come alive. That is when we need recreation to re-fuel.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There has to be a way where everyone can find meaningful work. There has to be a way were we, as a society, can get it right – where people can end up where they are most aligned to be. Maybe it starts with the educational system – the way our children are taught? Maybe it starts with moving away from a consumption based value system? I don’t know the answer. I just know that having work that makes you come alive is something that everyone deserves.
I’m making 2015 a relationship focused year. This is why:
To end 2014 I spent several weeks in quiet reflection and analysis. This is an annual habit that I have found to be quite beneficial in my life.
At the end of each year I take a couple of weeks to reflect, write in a journal, think about past successes, and setbacks, and try to analyze WHY they happened – and what the primary contributing factors were.
Once I complete this process I take the “whys” that I determine to be the “contributing factors” to both success and failure and I implement them in my next year’s goals and action plans. So essentially what I am doing each year is a “feedback analysis”. I am looking at the results that I achieve (both good and bad), analyzing the contributing factors that led to those results, inferring the causes, educating myself, and then implementing the feedback in my forward looking pursuits.
The causes that I determine to be contributory to success I look to implement as habits in my life to produce future results. The causes that I determine to be contributory to failure I look to avoid when making my plans.
I find this process not only incredibly instructive and beneficial, but also very intrinsically motivating as well.
This year, as I completed the process I also took time to analyze, not only 2014, but also my entire life (in terms of my achievements and setbacks). I came to a very powerful realization:
The times in my life that I have had the “most success” have been the times when I have most effectively utilized the power of relationships. In other words, the times that I have overachieved even my own expectations, I have done so not because of my own actions, but because I was part of a group where the cumulative effect of our actions together was far greater than the sum of the parts.
This realization was as clear as day for me. Truthfully it was a little difficult as well. I pride myself on being an “individual” – someone who marches to the beat of his own drum, someone who isn’t swayed by the crowd, someone who is self-reliant, both emotionally and temporally, someone who is a driver and who knows how to create results.
However – without a doubt – I am 100% positive that while I can (and should) strive to be self-reliant in terms of my emotional state and my ideas and opinions – I cannot achieve the level of success that I am continually striving for without a large number of positive relationships. Moreover – whatever success (great or small) I have experienced in the past, is BECAUSE OF, not in spite of, the relationships that I have worked to build.
As a result 2015 (and very possibly every year hereafter) is going to be a relationship focused one for me.
How I’m doing it is simple:
- I have established a “quota” of meaningful engagements that I have to meet each week with people (for me the number is 50 each week). These engagement can be in many forms (I’m not being restrictive) – a phone call, a meeting at a coffee house, a lunch, a meaningful email exchange or social media discussion. The format doesn’t matter as much as the substance of the conversation. I have to engage at least 50 times per week (that is my own standard I have set).
- I’m tracking all of the engagements that I do. I’ve incorporated 52 pages in my “2015 goal journal” to track my engagements – and yes I have completed the first two weeks.
- I have an accountability partner who I must account to each week. If I don’t do my engagements I have a “consequence” that I have established. If I do them I get a “reward”.
- Obviously the “reward” is the relationship itself. The reason that I have set a separate reward / consequence mechanism is just to condition the behaviour. In the past I have looked at building relationships more as a “strategic” or a “timely” thing – i.e. when I needed something I would go out and “network”. I think this is an incorrect approach and I want to change the way that I look at building relationships away from “strategy” to “lifestyle”. I want to treat building relationships the same way that I treat exercise. It is something that I consciously do each day. That is why I am using behaviour conditioning tools to do so. I’m looking to change my habits.
So let chat! Let’s meet! Let’s talk! I want to engage with you. Let’s help each other to reach our goals together. We need each other, and we are far more likely to achieve massive success if we accept and embrace this. If you read my blog I’m open to a conversation with you. Shoot me an email or contact me here
Wanting success is never enough, and hope alone is a really poor business plan. If you want to have a great year you’ve got to take a very strategic approach.
Here is how to make 2015 your best year ever. This is the process that I use to make my annual goals. It is a process that I have refined over many years in experimenting with methods that bring results.
In order to complete this exercise you’ll need a journal (a critical element to success anyway. My preferred choice – moleskin)
Let’s start with some “emotional priming”……
Before you launch into thinking about what you “want”, let’s take a moment to first get into a positive emotional state. Once we are in a positive emotional state we’ll be able to hit flow in setting our goals and plans for 2015.
Ok – now take out your journal and on the first page write the following declaration “I’m going to make 2015 my best year ever“. Feel good? Do you believe yourself? Is your emotional state starting to shift?
Let’s up the emotional ante by getting real grateful. Turn the page and then, on the next page I want you to write out the “5 things in your life right now that you are most grateful for”.
Can you see what I’m doing here? I want to get you into a positive emotional state before you launch into what you “want”. Focusing only on what you “don’t currently have” is a great way to feel entitled, upset and discouraged. Those feelings aren’t going to help you achieve in 2015. You’ve got to feel positive, and full of gratitude.
Let’s up the ante even more now. In order to accomplish in 2015, and really make it your best year ever you’ve got to have confidence. The best way to feel confident? Reflect on your past achievements.
Turn the page and then answer the following question, “what 5 things that you accomplished in 2014 are you the most proud of?“. I bet you’re already starting to feel good. Now we are almost ready to start focusing on what we “want” to achieve.
But before we do that, we’ve got to reinforce who we are….
So turn the page and write out a short statement of your life philosophy – this could really be anything, as long as it accurately describes who you are and the way that you are committed to live.
Some ideas –
I always give my best in everything I do; or
I’m not entitled to anything, so I’m grateful for anything that I have; or
I live each day with passion, and complete presence in what I’m doing.
Those are just some ideas (good ones in my opinion), but remember this is your life philosophy so it must resonate true to you. But this is a very important exercise because it forms what is essentially your “personal constitution” – something that you will not deviate from.
Now building off your personal life philosophy, turn the page….
And write down your top 5 core values. What are the “values” that you hold most dear? What values make you come alive? Need help? Here are my top five values:
Contributing Value To Others
Adventure and Risk Taking
You might have more than 5 (I do), and yours might be different than mine (they should since you are different than me). There is no “magic number” but you’ve got to “know yourself”. This part is critical because your goals must match these values.
If your goals don’t match your values then you will be incongruent. You will be trying to achieve something that your heart isn’t in. It doesn’t work. You need internal rocket fuel to achieve great things. Having incongruent goals won’t give you that rocket fuel.
Know yourself, and then make sure you are aligned.
Ok – I think we are now ready to set some goals.
First – answer this question on a new page (and make your answer as specific as possible):
“If my life ends up being perfect (in terms of my career and what I want to accomplish in my life) what would that look like?”
Next – answer this question on a new page (and again make your answer as specific as possible):
“What 5 things would need to happen for 2015 to be my best year ever?”
On the specific part – this is a critical detail you can’t overlook. Clarity is power. Don’t answer either of those questions with generalities (like wanting more money, or being happier). You are setting yourself up for failure if you do. You need to know when you have actually achieved your goal. You’ll never know this unless your goal is very specific.
Now go back to your core values and “stress test” your goals. Are your goals aligned with your values? If not then you are incongruent and you need to re-write your goals until you get it right. So if you need to re-write your goals then go back and do it.
Also – do your 5 goals for 2015 take you closer to your “perfect career / life scenario”? If not then you need to refine your goals.
Ok – now that you have a set of 5 specific goals for 2015 that are aligned with your life purpose and congruent with your core values let’s start getting into the planning process….
Answer this question on a new page:
“What 3 vital behaviours must I do each week in order to achieve these goals?”
By answering these questions you’re tapping into something powerful – the compounding effect of sustained small actions. Books and books have been written on this concept. Neglect it at your peril. It is critical. Your life (and your year) is really just the sum of all the individual weeks and days that comprise these time periods. You don’t grow wealthy, healthy or achieve any form of success overnight. It is never just one day. All successful people have a long track record of repeatedly sustained vital actions. What are yours?
Now turn the page….
We are still working with your vital behaviours. Number the lines vertically up to 52 (as you move down the page), and at the top (horizontally) write your three vital behaviours along the top. Yes – I want you to track when you actually do these things.
What gets tracked gets done. This is another critical success habit I have learned.
Next – I want you to create a reward / accountability mechanism for actually performing these vital behaviours. What reward could you give yourself? And how can you hold yourself accountable to ensure that these behaviours actually get done? I’m really serious on this point. If you want extraordinary results, we have to condition you to take action. Building a reward / accountability mechanism works wonders.
Next – I want you to turn the page back to your 5 goals for 2015. Now (on a new page) answer the following questions:
“What 25 specific things must I do in order to achieve these 5 goals in 2015 (5 per goal)?”
Once you’ve written this list out you have the basics of a strategic plan to achieve your goals. You are half way there. You can build from this plan and write more things (I always do). But at least you are on track – you’ve got a specific set of goals that are aligned with your main purpose in life and are congruent with your values. You’ve also got the foundations of a plan to achieve them.
Now label the next “52” pages in your journal, one per week, for the entire year. On each of these pages, for the entire year, once a week you are going to write down the 20 things you will do that week to move you closer to achieving your 5 goals for the year. You don’t have to do all of them now. I like to use Sunday nights to write out my 20 things for the week. So each week, on a new page, you’ll write out your new list.
Remember – don’t leave success to chance. Hope isn’t a plan. You’ve got to have more than just “wanting it”. You’ve got to know what you want, and you’ve got to plan for it, and you’ve got to DO IT.
Now go back to the first page of your journal – remind yourself of the promise you made – that this year is going to be your best year ever.
Now back it up.
Employee Fulfillment Workshop: Find The Joy And Meaning In Your Work – Live Your Optimal Self
Why This Workshop Will Help Your Business
The Employee Fulfillment Workshop is a program that utilizes leading research and thought on motivation, optimal performance psychology, employee engagement, and work fulfillment studies to help your employees discover the joy and meaning in their work, teach them how to find fulfillment and engagement without changing their job title, responsibilities, pay or benefits, how to effectively control their inner state, live with more confidence, perform more effectively and efficiently.
All Businesses Need Engaged Employees
Effectively deployed human capital is the foundation of a prosperous business. Technology will not replace an effective workforce. The challenge of every business is to ensure their workforce is productive and performing at optimal levels.
A Fulfilled Employee Is An Effective Employee
When an employee is fulfilled they work more efficiently, productively and effectively. Effective employees lead to profitable and sustainable businesses. Unfulfilled employees are unproductive, inefficient and decrease profitability.
Workplace Apathy and Attrition Leads To Decreased Productivity and Higher Costs
There is very little employee loyalty these days. Workers who pursue “greener pastures” leave companies with high re-training, recruiting and re-hiring costs. These costs could be mitigated if employees were more fulfilled.
There Are Steps An Employee Can Take To Find More Fulfillment In Their Work
Research in social science and psychology has revealed that fulfillment is something that each employee can create on their own – independent of their employer. Empower your employees by teaching them how.
The Workshop Isn’t “Motivational Content”. It Includes Immediately Actionable Strategies
It utilizes specific strategies that can be immediately deployed for significant results
Fulfillment Isn’t A Subject That Is Taught In School
What Does The Workshop Teach?
The Employee Fulfillment Workshop uses leading research and thought on motivation, optimal performance psychology, employee engagement, and work fulfillment studies to teach employees how they can find more fulfillment in what they do, without having to change their job descriptions, or increase their pay, vacation time or benefits.
The workshop is delivered in a 3-hour, on location format, and can also be adapted and tailored as a management seminar. Included in the workshop costs are 3 hours of follow-up consulting work directly with Ryan Clements to create sustainable systems to ensure that the behaviors taught in the workshop are adapted as a long-term habits that create lasting change.
The Employee Fulfillment Workshop Covers These Topics:
- 10 career misconceptions that keep employees unfulfilled;
- 10 truths about job fulfillment;
- How to evoke flow: the autotelic experience;
- Making time fly: the value of getting lost in your work;
- Defining and controlling the rules of the game of fulfillment;
- Creating internal reward systems that are within your control;
- Moving down the consciousness complexity channel (aligning skill with the potential for challenge and growth);
- Establishing fail safe zones;
- Transmuting emotions – how to turn negativity into massive creativity;
- Individual game design with clear goals and immediate feedback;
- The power of emotionally detached action taking;
- Becoming a master of your sphere of personal responsibility;
- Asking empowering questions to improve operations and creativity;
- Independent job-related goal setting;The foundations of emotional self-reliance;
- The myth of multi-tasking. Why this leads to stress; and
- Creating internal reward systems that are within each employee’s control.
- How to turn stressful situations into enjoyable opportunities
Contact Ryan Clements today at 403-619-1173, or using the Contact Form On This Website, to learn more about the workshop including costs and how it can be adapted to the needs of your work environment. Start today to empower your employees to find joy and meaning in their work.
I’m using an accountability partner for my goals in 2015. This is why:
I consider myself a highly disciplined person. I set goals, I take action. I hold myself accountable. I’ve achieved success in my life.
But I want to live the very best that I’m capable of. I don’t want to have any regrets in my life. This is something that is really important to me. I must know that I’ve lived at my peak potential, regardless of what happens, regardless of the “results” that I obtain. I have to know that I lived at my personal best.
This past year I read several biographies and autobiographies of top athletes – including books on Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Georges St. Pierre. I also read several biographies of highly successful business people. I noticed a recurring theme in all of the books that I read:
All of these top performers had some type of formal “accountability” factor – pushing them past what they thought they were capable of. This accountability factor would often manifest in the form of a coach or a training or business partner that they had to report to or work with.
I want that.
Not because I’m not disciplined. I am disciplined.
Not because I’m not capable of setting and achieving goals on my own. I am capable of achieving on my own.
I want the accountability because I believe that there is something unique about human relationships that causes us to push beyond what we would normally do when we are accountable to someone else.
It makes us more persistent.
It causes us to extend our comfort zones.
It causes us to be more focused and diligent.
I want that. I want that not because I don’t have it on my own. I want it because I know that with someone else I can push myself harder. I can live closer to my personal potential.
Here is how my accountability partner and I have structured the year: We will share our specific goals that we want to accomplish in 2015. Then we will identify a key behaviour that we want to track each week (something that is critical to our accomplishing our goals). Then each week we are going to “sign in” (in the form of a quick text) and let each other know whether or not we have accomplished the key behaviour. We are in the process of also layering in a reward / consequence mechanism for when we do (or do not) complete the behaviour.
Simple enough, but the key behaviour for each of us will push us, and take us out of our comfort zone. We both want this because we know that getting outside of our comfort zone is the only way to obtain what we want.
I really believe that this factor will be a difference maker in 2015. Try it for yourself. I’d love to share results with each other at the end of 2015!
There is a great story that writer and entrepreneur Gary Keller shares in his fantastic book The One Thing, about comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the advice that he gives aspiring comedians to be successful and productive:
“Write one joke everyday. Put a red X on the calendar for everyday you work on your craft. You create a chain of days. Your job becomes this: Don’t break the chain.”
This is a concept that I’ve encountered many times, in various books and speeches. Stephen King and Steven Pressfield both talk about it in the context of writing. Many other business writers, including Darren Hardy, and Greg McKeown have basically said the same thing (using different anecdotes). Also, when I look at my own life, at the goals that I set for myself, at the things I succeed in, and the things that I fall short at, I can see that this concept is truth, plain and simple:
There are certain behaviours that are more critical to the accomplishment of our goals than other behaviours. The task for us is to identify these critical behaviours, and then develop a mode of living – a habit – so that these behaviours are done every single day.
This is the chain – each link of the chain is the repetition of the critical behaviour, not breaking the chain involves ensuring that each day (at least each working day) we are doing the things that are going to lead to the best results.
This concept applies to anything – any goal and any pursuit. For any result that you want there are certain actions that you can take that are more effective than other actions. We’ve heard this so many times in our lives – the Pareto Principle? The 80 / 20 rule? But more often than not, when I audit my own behaviour I find that it is very easy to fall into a pattern of routine where I am doing things, on a day to day basis, that aren’t critical behaviours.
Part of the problem is the nature of our “always connected” society. Social media, checking email, and instantly responding can be very addictive. It is compounded by the pressure that we feel in not responding quickly (ever notice that “has read” component on Facebook messaging) – and the irrational demands that people have accepted into their lives about how quickly an email must be responded to. But it is rare that I’ve seen a situation where immediately responding to every email that we get is the most critical action that we can take for our goals.
It takes a very brave (and smart) person to be able to let emails go unanswered until their critical behaviours for the day are completed.
Those are the people however who often accomplish great things – the people who are brutally focused and prioritize their life to such an extent that the most important things, the things are going to generate the most results, are the things that get done every day.
Think about your 3 most important goals – the three goals that if you accomplished them in 2015 you would feel that the year had been your best year ever.
I 100% guarantee that for each of your goals there are a range of various actions that you could take that would move you closer to achieving them. Now within this range of actions there are certain actions that are more likely to drive results. These are your “critical actions”. These are actions that you must strive to do every day. These are the ones you must focus on, even if you have to neglect others.
What is critical to your life, your job, your business, and your goals? Do those things, every day, and don’t break the chain.
Life is a lot like a pendulum. On the one side of the pendulum is the potential for happiness, fulfillment, excitement, variety, interest; and on the other side is the potential for failure, risk, disappointment, and criticism.
If the pendulum stands still and doesn’t swing then nothing happens. Sure you don’t have failure, you don’t have any risk, you don’t have any disappointment, and no one says anything bad about you, in fact nothing bad ever really happens to you, you are insulated from disappointment; however, nothing really good happens to you either, you miss out on all the excitement of life, the fulfillment, the variety, the interest and the happiness.
YOU CANNOT SWING A PENDULUM ONLY ONE WAY.
Think about this for all aspects of your life. In every relationship there is a risk that your heart can be broken, but that doesn’t stop you from entering the relationship.
When you raise a family there is a risk that your child will make bad choices that bring pain to themselves and others, that shouldn’t stop you from starting a family.
When you start a business there is the risk that you will fail (in business this is a very real risk). But we can’t run from risk forever. We can’t avoid the POTENTIAL for pain for so long that we miss out on the other side. Whenever we take a risk it is because we want what is on the other side of the pendulum, and we are willing to deal with what comes our way.
Now think about your business and your career. On the one side is financial freedom, excitement, fulfillment, success, but on the other side is the POTENTIAL for rejection, criticism, failure and disappointment. I know many people who stay at careers they hate for too long, or don’t embrace their true desire for (again I repeat) the “Potential” of rejection, criticism, failure and disappointment.
Unfortunately in business I see many people who let the pendulum stand still. They don’t want the failure, the rejection or the disappointment, so they don’t take massive action where risk is present (which risk is generally just emotional, such as rejection). However, what they fail to recognize is that by making this choice they are also missing out on the other side of the pendulum – financial freedom, fulfillment, variety and excitement.
My advice – swing that pendulum high!!!!
The less you are scared of the “bad side” of the pendulum and are willing to charge ahead (who cares if you fail anyway, failure is never permanent unless you accept it as such) then the pendulum will eventually swing to the good side.
I believe this to be a universal law – if you are willing to push the pendulum to the “scary side” then it will inevitably swing the other way!
[below is a re-post from an article I wrote about Joe Kincheloe on December 19th, 2013 (five years after he died). Today (December 14th) is his birthday. You can find the original article here]
Today I feel inspired, reflective, maybe a little sad as well.
Tomorrow is exactly five years from the time that Joe Kincheloe died. Many people know Joe as a scholar and writer. He was a Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Education at McGill University. He wrote more than 45 books, numerous book-chapters, and hundreds of journal articles in diverse areas relating to education and critical studies. He was prolific, successful, and extremely influential.
He was also my father-in-law, and a loyal and trusted friend.
I think about Joe often. He is easily on a short list of the most influential men in my life. He is the strongest influence on my desire to become a writer. My first book (soon to be released) is dedicated to him.
So tonight, as I reflect on his life, and our interactions, while listening to The Stones, Tom Petty, Steve Earle, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Warren Zevon, and Tony and the Hegemones (music that reminds me of Joe), I wanted to share some of the wisdom that he shared with me when he was here.
Some things were direct, things that he’d tell me when we’d go on walks through the woods near his home in Morin Heights, Quebec. Others things I just noticed about him, and they were things that I observed in his habits and in his interactions with other people. They are in no particular order, just powerful little tendencies exhibited by a man who really knew how to live.
1. The taxi driver is as important as the President
Everyone who knew Joe had some memorable anecdote that went something like this: they’d leave Joe just for a moment, perhaps to check in to a hotel room, go to the bathroom, maybe drop into a store, only to come back and find Joe interacting with someone like he was their long lost brother. It was uncanny, and amazing. He could, and would, make friends with everyone. His smile was infectious. He was the most unpretentious person I have ever met, and he had valid reasons to be pretentious. I have been around so many people in my life who hide behind their titles and accomplishments, or even worse, shove them in my face to make them feel superior.
Joe was the opposite of this. He would literally treat the taxi driver with the same respect and dignity that he would show to a world leader. You’d never know that he was so successful and accomplished, because he never talked about it. The guy wrote 45 books, he had three graduate degrees. His intellect was off the charts, but he didn’t hide behind his titles and successes. He was the most real person I’ve ever met. He was always focused on the person in front of him. He is the best conversationalist, by a long shot, that I have ever encountered in my life, and his methods were actually quite simple: focus on the person in front of you, treat them like they are the most important person in the world.
2. If you’re going to rock, then really rock
Joe epitomized living in the moment, and really “feeling” what he was doing. He loved music. He was a talented piano player, and he would do concerts with his band “Tony and the Hegemones”. When he rocked he really rocked. Sweat pouring off him rock. Full immersion. Like he was a real rock star (to us he was).
You couldn’t listen to him, or watch him perform, without smiling, without tapping your feet, and without moving a little. Whether it was a Tom Petty cover, or a Joe Kincheloe original. When he played, he was the music, and you felt it.
3. Sit down and do your work
This is perhaps the most practical, success related, thing that Joe ever taught me. Interesting thing is that he never once told it to me. I just noticed it from him. I watched him, like the young impressionable man that I was.
It isn’t by luck that the man wrote 45 books. He was a machine. He was relentless in his habits. When it was time to rock he rocked. But when it was time to write, he wrote, and he rarely missed it. His discipline and habits, his ability to put his butt in the chair was remarkable. It taught me a powerful lesson, one that I try to implement every day as well: just sit down, shut up, and do my work. Do my work and the results will follow. Do my work and everything else that I want is possible. But first I must do my work.
4. There is nothing wrong with being a crazed fan
Joe was a wild (if perhaps not somewhat obsessed) Tennessee Volunteers football fan. Watching college football with him was an experience unto itself, and I loved it. I literally logged dozens and dozens of hours sitting with him just watching football. Since I was in school for most of our relationship, and they lived in either New York or Montreal, Meg and I would often go see them during winter vacation (college football bowl time). Those were some of my fondest memories.
You know what? If you’re going to be a fan, then be one, and there’s nothing wrong with loving your team, no matter what team that is. That is what Joe taught me. He unapologetically cheered, like a little kid, for his team, and I think what he was really saying was just be who you are. Love who you are. Love what you do. Embrace every moment.
5. Pursue what you believe in, even (especially) if it is scary
Joe was a master story teller. I can’t even pretend to do justice to his stories. They were so unbelievable that at times I wondered if I was listening to a life akin to the movie “Big Fish”. But every story that he told was true (at least he claimed). Many of his stories dealt with his many adventures being a counter-cultural youth in the bible belt south. One of my favourite stories was when he was wrongfully accused, arrested and detained as an undergraduate for “inciting a riot”. I’m laughing just thinking about that story.
The reality is that Joe had beliefs about education, corporate power, race and gender inequality, and government corruption that sometimes placed him in opposition to the ruling majority. Did he hide? Did he conform? Quite the contrary. He lived what he believed. He wrote what he believed. Even if it led to circumstances that other’s would find stressful, and scary. Best of all was that he could laugh about all of it. Truly a remarkable man.
6. Good things take time, and that’s a good thing
When Joe graduated with his doctorate the only job that he could find was on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota at Sinte Gleska College. I think a lot of people would be discouraged at this prospect. Not Joe, he wasn’t wired that way. He pretty much became an honorary member of the Sioux Nation. I’m not kidding. He embraced that role so much that he became beloved.
That was how Joe rolled. He wasn’t driven by instant gratification. He knew that getting his message across, and creating social change would take time, and he was willing to go in it for the long haul. One article at a time, one book at a time, one student at a time, one mind at a time. Complete immersion in the moment of what he was doing. When we had his life celebration it was packed with former students. People who could write their own articles on the things that Joe taught them. Even though he left us early, he did more in the time that he had than most people could ever dream of.
7. There is beauty all around
Joe had a gift for capturing, through poems and songs, the subtle beauties of life. He wrote songs for all his grandkids. I have the original copies of those songs for my daughter Maci and my son Cohen. They are so beautiful. It is hard to read them without getting emotional. He had a gift of seeing the good in everything. The good in people, and the good in situations.
My son Cohen was born with severe complications. It was a stressful time, full of tears, worries and anxiety. I had to take a leave of absence from work. It was the most uncertain moment of my life. Joe was such a support, always there to cheer us up. We lived for many months in Montreal during this time (as Cohen was at the Montreal Children’s Hospital). I can remember many moments where he would encourage us, cry with us, and make us laugh. He helped us to see beauty in the very darkest moments of our life.
8. Life is too short not to laugh, especially at yourself
Joe had a gift of laughter, and he was especially adept at laughing at himself. I’ll never forget the time when me and my friend Ali stayed with him for two weeks in Montreal to study for the bar exam. He was “in the trenches” on a soon to be released book, Shirley (Meg’s mom and Joe’s wife) was away and so he wanted the company. He’d write during the day, as we’d study for the bar, and then in the evening we’d watch sports. It was a great time.
Well one day Joe needed a haircut, so he left to go into town (he lived in Morin Heights) a small town outside of Montreal near the Laurentian Mountains. I think there was only one “stylist” in town and I think the only haircut they knew was the 1980’s bowl cut, Gerard Depardieu, cropped over the ears style, because that is exactly what he came home looking like. It was hilarious, and ridiculous. Joe walked in to the house, and immediately, as soon as me and Ali saw him, we burst out laughing. Then he burst out laughing also. Soon all three of us were just gut laughing. Finally as soon as Joe could manage he said “do I look like Gerard Depardieu?”. He never did get his hair fixed. He maintained his Gerard Depardieu until it morphed into his customary mullet. Good times. I think everyone who knew Joe had a story that involved something he said or did where he had a good laugh at himself.
If the world knew how to laugh at itself, the way Joe could laugh at himself, it would be a much different (and better) place.
Man we miss you Joe. You left us way to early. But thank you for sharing your time with us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. Thank you for teaching us. You’re in our hearts tonight. We love you.
What are the two most empowering words?
Most of the time we operate from a position of:
“I’d like to”; or
“It would be nice if”; or
However, there is a completely different mentality, a much more empowering and powerful mindset, when you operate from the position of “I will”.
The words “I will” are the two most empowering words we can use.
The moments in my life where I felt the greatest level of personal power have been those moments where I experienced absolute certainty. They were the moments that I knew that I would accomplish something specific. I knew something was going to happen, and I was willing to do whatever it took, no matter what, to make it come about.
Something happens to a person when they pass a threshold point, where they no longer wish, desire, hope, want or even dream, but rather they move to a position of absolute certainty that they will obtain a given result. They move from desire to absolute belief.
This state, in my opinion, is the most empowered state that a person can reach – a state of absolute certainty that a particular result will occur.
It all begins with a thought that is generated in your mind – a thought about something that is desirable to you. In many cases we don’t believe that the thoughts that we have will actually come to pass. We may dream of our business being a certain way, or our life looking a certain way, but we don’t really believe it. We don’t really think that it will happen. So we let the thought go, it passes, and we continue on with our day to day life.
However, every once in while we get a thought that we embrace as a real belief. We move that thought away from a “wish” to a “certainty” as we tell ourselves that it will occur.
A perfect example is the person who, at some point, looks in the mirror and they don’t like what they see (physically) so they decide right there to change it, and they do. All of us know people who have that story.
Think about a time in your life where you made a real change, or took real action in a certain direction. There was a moment of certainty where you actually believed that a given result was in your power, and you knew that you would do whatever it took to bring it about. The thoughts of discouragement, fear, or even the time that it would take to bring about the result weren’t on your mind. You knew that you would get the result, no matter what. Absolute certainty translates into reality. There is magic in this.
The exciting thing is that you can train your mind so that you live with certainty all the time. When you start out small, and build on your belief, then you are able to take on larger goals, and know with certainty that you will achieve them.
So start with something small. What is something that you could do for yourself or your business? Something that is totally within your control?
Think about that in your mind. Then do it. Absolutely follow through. You will engage the process of turning thoughts into reality because what you follow through on began with just a thought. Once you have completed this once, do it again.
Do it again, and again, and again, so that it becomes part of you. Once this pattern is conditioned inside of you, you will find yourself thinking larger thoughts and knowing with certainty that you will achieve them because you have conditioned this pattern of belief in your mind.
It all starts with a thought, and then a pattern of action brought about by the two most empowering words
All entrepreneurs (even ones who are full of passion and engagement for their work) feel fatigue from time to time. It is natural, and it is human.
I felt fatigue today. I woke up and I felt “down”. I honestly had no rational basis for feeling this way. This past month our business made more money than we have ever earned. All time highs in profit. I’m just coming off several public speaking gigs (including a TEDx talk), and I have many other public speaking opportunities and workshops lining up. Books sales of Unsuited are doing well. I’m engaged in some really interesting consulting files. I do what I love, on my own time frame. Really I have no reason -NONE – to feel down.
But I still felt down this morning anyway.
So what do you do when you are an entrepreneur and you feel down? How do you deal with it?
One of the benefits of being an employee is that you have to show up for work, even when you are tired. Otherwise you will lose your job.
What…..that doesn’t sound like a benefit.
Well it is a benefit if you are an entrepreneur because you want to show up for work each day. That is how to make things great, and you want accountability to show up each day.
When you are an entrepreneur you don’t have someone watching over you. So you can “not show up for work” and no one will know. You can even rationalize it, and say “it doesn’t matter today”, “one day is no big deal”. However when you get in the habit of doing this, you run many risks. One day turns into another day, and another, and before you know it your business is in trouble (if you even have a business left at all).
I’ve learned in my seven years of 100% self-employment, that the freedom that I get from being an entrepreneur has a real cost. The cost is that I have to show up every day. The cost is discipline.
The cost is that I can’t use “I feel down” as an excuse. I can’t be a tumbleweed of emotion. I have to change my emotion on my own. I have to master my internal state.
So here is a trick that I’ve learned that can be employed by any of you (who are also self-employed or commission based sales) for those days that you don’t really feel like “showing up” for work. For those days that you feel down:
Emotion is created by motion. If I don’t feel like working, then I really, really, really need to get to work. There is magic in work however, because as soon as I start taking action my emotions will change. It is 100% guaranteed. Pretty soon I will feel ok, and I will have momentum, and I will be grateful that I didn’t waste the day just because I “initially” felt tired or down.
Specifically there are two strategies that I use to change my own state:
1. Move and breathe
This is magic. Take 20 deep breaths into your stomach. Go for a brisk 20 minute walk. You will get the blood flowing, your brain will get that oxygen that it needs and you will start feeling good.
2. Hit a “flow state” as quickly as possible.
Immediately engage a flow state. Start a project that requires your total energy and focus to complete it. When you channel a flow state you lose your sense of consciousness of the self. All of your focus and attention is directed on the accomplishment of a specific task. When you do this you stop thinking about “the fact that you feel down”. Within an hour or two you feel great. I personally also like to use music to channel flow. Putting on motivating music in the background as I work. This works for me.
Flow is a state change drug. It is powerful
So this morning, when I was feeling down, I knew that I needed to do both of these strategies as quickly as possible. So I did them. I moved and breathed and I hit flow (in my case I worked on a presentation for a new workshop that I am developing). Within two hard hours of hard work I felt great.
This general concept is also explained by Og Mandino (from the Greatest Salesman In The World):
It is one of nature’s tricks, little understood, that each day I awaken with moods that have changed from yesterday. Yesterday’s joy will become today’s sadness; yet today’s sadness will grow into tomorrow’s joy. Inside of me is a wheel, constantly turning from sadness to joy, from exultation to depression, from happiness to melancholy….weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions; strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts…
If I feel ill I will double my labor
If I feel fear I will plunge ahead..
From this moment I am prepared to control whatever personality awakes me in a day. I will master my moods through positive action.
So the next time you don’t feel like it, just start. You’ll feel better shortly.
Remember – you are the master of your emotions. You are not “what happens to you”. Your emotional state is a factor that is 100% within your control.
Here is a powerful story to ponder as we start to shift our focus to a new year.
We should consider how we treat everyone in our life, and whether we could make incremental changes to perhaps be a little more kind.
More kind to those closest to us, but also to those who may be strangers, or unlikely to provide any “relationship capital” in our lives.
More kind to those that we have no potential monetary benefit by being more kind to.
I believe that kindness is a small but unbelievably powerful concept that is nothing but a benefit. To be kind is not to be weak. To be kind is not to lose ground. To be kind is not to be taken advantage of. To be kind is to express the best that is in us.
As told by Benjamin Zander in his great book “The Art of Possibility“
A monastery has fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order which, as a result of religious persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the mother house: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.
Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. One day, it occurred to the Abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. “I know how it is,” he said, “the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together, and they read parts of the Torah and spoke quietly of deep things.
The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. “It has been wonderful being with you,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?” “No, I am sorry,” the Rabbi responded, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.
When the other monks heard the Rabbi’s words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. “The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course—it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas, who is certainly a holy man. Or could he have meant Brother Elrod, who is so crotchety? But then Elrod is very wise. Surely, he could not have meant Brother Phillip—he’s too passive. But then, magically, he’s always there when you need him. Of course he didn’t mean me—yet supposing he did? Oh Lord, not me! I couldn’t mean that much to you, could I?”
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, people occasionally came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along the old paths, most of which led to the dilapidated chapel. They sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Some of the younger men who came to visit began to engage in conversation with the monks. After a while, one asked if he might join. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and—thanks to the Rabbi’s gift—a vibrant, authentic community of light and love for the whole realm.
Routines are powerful. Habits control most of our life, whether we like it or not. Most of what we do is automatic. If we tracked our behaviour for a week we would realize this to be true.
As a result, one of the ways to take control of our life is to take control of our habits. This doesn’t just apply to our personal life. Habits control our business, and physical health as well.
Every once in a while however it is meaningful to break routine – to do something unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous, just because.
Take a look at your goals. It is likely (if you are actually taking action beyond just wishing and hoping that your life will change) that you have established a fairly well worn pattern of routine about what you are doing to achieve a particular goal.
This is a good thing, because as noted, habits control your life, and if you can establish good habits relating to your business or career activity, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your goal.
Here are the reasons however, that breaking routine every once in a while is a good idea:
- It keeps you fresh, creates variety and leads to a better overall experience. Doing something new and unexpected is like an adventure. You aren’t sure what you will get (since you probably haven’t done it before). This is fun;
- A better overall experience will lead to more engagement and fulfillment in your life (so that your life doesn’t become only results or rewards based). There are psychological studies that suggest that solely focusing on the external rewards of a behaviour can actually decrease your intrinsic motivation to pursue that behaviour long term (see Daniel Pink’s book Drive for example). By breaking routine you can enjoy the process of achievement, not just the results, this is very important; and
- It gives you a view from 30,000 feet for a moment as to whether your routines are actually effective. Sometimes we get stuck in a hypnotic trap of thinking that what we are doing is effectively moving us closer to our goals when in reality it is just a non-effective behaviour that we have cemented into a habit. We think that we are taking effective action, but in many cases we aren’t. Breaking routine can help you to introspect and look back at your habits and see if they are effective or not.
What are some examples:
- Do something tomorrow to market your business that you have never done before but that you have heard other people try;
- Change up your exercise routine just for the day. Try a new exercise. See if you like it; and
- Do something totally unexpected with your family today, or with your partner. This will engage excitement and fun and make life less of a grind.
The truth can be very difficult to embrace. We tell ourselves stories all the time to avoid the truth:
- My job isn’t that bad (when we are really living in quiet desperation);
- I’m doing my best (when we know that we have way more to give);
- It’s not my fault (when we know deep down inside that we should take more self-responsibilty);
- This is good enough (when we really yearn for more);
- Nothing is working (when we know that we haven’t really tried “everything”, we’ve only tried a few strategies);
- I don’t have the knowledge, money or skill set to get this venture going (when we know that other people, with less knowledge, money and skill have succeeded);
- The job market, and economy is no good. It’s not a good time to change careers or start this business (when we know that this is just an excuse that allows us to hide behind our fears);
- I don’t have enough time to start a business (when we know that we waste tons of time each week watching TV or surfing the net);
- I’m entitled to this (when we know that we are entitled to nothing)
The list goes on and on. We all lie to ourselves in some way or another. I definitely have. You have too.
Why do we lie to ourselves? Why do we avoid the truth? Why do we tell ourselves stories?
- It is easier. We don’t have to accept responsibility. Being a victim is much easier than being responsible;
- It allows us to avoid taking action. This is important since most of the action that we really “should” take is scary, and way outside of our comfort zone;
- We’ve been socialized to think that if we go to school, get degrees and be “good people” that success is our right and it should come to us. Unless we are fortunate to have “tough love” mentors in our lives, or unless we came from nothing (and feel entitled to nothing) we can live in the entitlement mindset for much of our lives;
- You need very strong internal self-esteem, and an internal locus of control, to be able to objectively handle the truth – to objectify “failure” without becoming emotionally attached. Many of us simply don’t have that self-esteem. Our sense of self-esteem is not independent from our accomplishments – it is “accomplishment generated”. When your self-esteem is “accomplishment generated” you don’t want to feel that you messed up, or took the wrong path, or failed because it impacts your sense of self-worth. You have a motivation to pass the blame on to someone else – to avoid the truth – so that you can preserve your self-image.
Embracing the truth is one of the most powerful things that an entrepreneur can do.
When you embrace the truth you see the establishment of your business as an “objective feedback loop” unattached to your sense of self worth.
- You take an action;
- You get a response;
- If it’s a response that you want, then you judge the action to be good;
- If it’s a response that you don’t want then you just take different action.
There is no emotional attachment. No sadness. No failure. You collected a data point, and used that data point to your advantage.
The truth is your data point. In fact, it is the only data point that exists in an entrepreneur’s life.
What you think about your business, what your friends and family think about your business, and what you hope for in your business really means nothing.
What matters is the data that you get. Data presents the facts, and the facts are your most important asset.
- If you’re having a hard time selling your product or service, this is just a data point telling you that either your product or service hasn’t created value to customers, or your sales process (ie. how you are going about selling it) is not sufficiently communicating that value;
- If 20% of your actions in marketing are yielding you 80% of your results – this is a data point telling you that on the next marketing phase you need to do more of the marketing actions that yield you the results and less of the actions that don’t.
- Even if the business fails all together (which we hope that it doesn’t). This doesn’t mean that you should just resign yourself to your job that you hate. It doesn’t mean that you “don’t have what it takes” to be an entrepreneur. It just means that something didn’t work right. Either your product or service didn’t have good value, or you couldn’t connect with your target market, or you ran out of (or mismanaged) your money, or you were missing a very important skill set in your executive team. The list could go on and on.
It is all just data. It is all education. If you have an empowering mindset then you can take it all in, you can learn from it, and on your next go round you can avoid those mistakes.
That is why entrepreneurs talk so much about the “journey being so rewarding”. When you are an entrepreneur you are in a never ending educational feedback loop. If you intrinsically enjoy education and learning (which I think everyone does) then you are set up to enjoy your entire life.
Embrace the data. Embrace the truth. Don’t hide or shy from it. Strip yourself bare. Expose your insecurities. Allow all your failures to be felt and seen. This honesty will allow you to get the most from the data. The truth can be your biggest asset as an entrepreneur.
I just finished Roland Lazenby’s book Michael Jordan: The Life. I strongly recommend it – not just for the basketball or MJ fan (both of which I am) but for anyone who wants to gain incredible insight from one of the most remarkable successes the world has ever seen.
What impressed me most, after reading the book, was not MJ’s legendary work ethic, or competitive drive. I was aware of both of these traits before I read the book.
What I didn’t realize however, and what became evidently clear by reading the book, was just how willing MJ was to expose himself to potential failure so that he could live with no regrets and repeatedly test himself.
I think that prior success can sometimes be one of the biggest barriers to future success. When we are successful at one thing we now have “something to lose” – at a minimum the pride associated with our prior success. This can make us risk adverse, wanting to play it safe so that our pristine “success record” remains intact.
When we do this however, not only do we miss out on potential opportunities but we don’t fully live. A fulfilling life is a life that involves continual growth. Continual growth however isn’t possible without the potential for pain, setbacks and failure. I think that a truly remarkable person is someone who doesn’t allow prior success to define their willingness to try (and potentially fail) in the future.
MJ repeatedly displayed this character trait.
Think about it – after winning three NBA championships – in a row – he left to pursue a lifelong dream to see if he could make it as a big league baseball player. The best basketball player in the world was willing to ride a AA baseball bus in Birmingham Alabama just so that he could live with no regrets – knowing that he gave it a shot.
After his comeback, and second three-peat championship run with the Bulls, he retired, only to come back three years later as an aged player, without the once unmatched physical gifts, because he felt that he had more in the tank and he wanted to live without regrets. This time – with the Wizards – the results didn’t mirror the prior success he had with the Bulls, but the larger principle (at least to me is resounding):
He was willing to fail, and get criticized in the process, despite having achieved unprecedented success, so that he could test himself and live with no regrets.
I find that so inspiring – such a model of how I hope to live my life.
I think the only reason that we wouldn’t risk failure, in the face of prior success, is because we aren’t secure in ourselves, and we use our past success to bolster our otherwise weak emotional ecosystem and self-esteem.
But if you are secure in yourself, if you don’t need to hide behind achievements to support your lack of independent self-esteem, then you are willing to risk failure so that you can continually challenge yourself and live with no regrets.
That is how I want to live.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The most powerful concept that I’ve ever encountered is something that will scare most people.
It is something that most people will innately resist because all of our social conditioning, all of our spiritual beliefs (if we have them), all of our insecurities, fears, and anxieties desperately want this concept NOT to be true.
All of the assurances and assistance of loving and well-meaning mentors, parents, support networks, friends, partners, counsellors, suggest that this concept in fact ISN’T TRUE.
But if it were true – the way that we approached life would drastically change, and if you lived AS IF IT WERE TRUE then your life would immediately change as well.
You’d be more assertive and self-responsible, you’d have more self-esteem, you’d take greater action, you’d be more courageous, you’d be less concerned about what others thought, you’d organize your time better, you’d be more grateful, and you’d be happier.
I know – because I’ve been attempting (with my best efforts) to live this concept for several years and I have watched all of these things improve in my own life.
Here is the concept:
I am entitled to nothing, and no one is coming to help me.
Do you think you can live this concept?
I know I’ve sure had trouble with it, for all of the reasons noted above, and as a result, at one time in my adult life I thought that I was entitled to happiness. I thought I was entitled to success. I thought I was entitled to an empowering career, and everything that went with it.
This entitlement mentality led me to be passive, and then when things didn’t initially transpire the way I wanted them to, I started to believe that I was a victim. I started to become disempowered
Everything changed when I stopped feeling entitled. Everything changed when I realized that if I wanted change, then I had to change. No one could fix the circumstance but me.
I can absolutely assure you that the closer I get to living this concept the closer I also get to living my personal best, reaching my own unique potential, and the happier I also get.
Everything we know to be true about life resists this idea – that we are alone. We don’t want it to be true. We’ve been brought up to believe that it isn’t true. We’ve been continually assured that there are people there to help us, forces that will “assist us” and give us what we want. We have been conditioned to believe that if we will just be good people, and work hard then everything will work out.
What if that’s not that case? What if we truly aren’t entitled to anything? What if we are truly on our own?
I don’t know the answer to that question, and personally I don’t believe that it’s the case (that we are truly on our own).
However, I know with certainty that when I LIVE as if I’m entitled to nothing, when I live as if I’m not guaranteed any form of success, I’m not guaranteed any type of handout, and no one is coming to bail me out, this is what happens:
- I ferociously attack life with a spartan-like work ethic;
- I’m as brave as a loving parent protecting their child from a kidnapper;
- I’m as resourceful as I can possibly be;
- I constantly look to add value because I know that nothing is certain, and nothing is entitled;
- I manage my time like it’s life’s most precious gift; and
- I am so grateful for everything good in my life, and I feel gratitude every day just for having another day to go after my dreams
Do those sound like things you want?
If you want them, you don’t have to necessarily believe that you are alone, and that you are entitled to nothing, and that no one will save you.
But you have to act like it.
We’re all different – that goes without saying, and because we’re all so different I’ve often thought that any “path to success” that is communicated by someone is misleading because what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.
What one person defines as “successful” often has little meaning for another person. For example, it is very possible that you could take someone who is highly content, and empowered, as a junior high teacher and insert him in the position of a CEO of a major corporation and the junior high teacher would be miserable, and immediately miss his old job empowering students.
Likewise, you could take an executive, who loves the thrill and rush that comes from making major decisions that affect thousands of people, negotiating big deals, and competing for market share, insert her in the position of a junior high teacher and she would be unhappy. She would miss the rush that came with her former position, and want to go back.
Perspective (and experience) is in the eye of the beholder. What is amazing for one person is miserable for another. What is miserable for one person is super empowering for another. It makes me think about a quote from one of my all time favourite books – Walden by Henry David Thoreau:
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desparate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Because of this – the fact that in order to be long term fulfilled we must march to the beat of our own unique drummer – the only real career advice that we should ever really want to follow is to make sure that we end up in the right position.
If we are empowered as a junior high teacher we need to make sure that we DON’T get that MBA – despite what anyone might say otherwise. Likewise if we are better suited to be an executive – we need to press on despite the daily stresses that we may feel along the way.
Long term fulfillment in our careers is about value alignment – it is about getting to actually experience the things that make us feel alive. It is not a generic path that involves making lots of money and having stuff that our neighbours envy.
Also – our ability to actually attain a level of mastery in our pursuits is going to hinge on whether or not we find an area to be intrinsically motivating. If we are intrinsically motivated by something then we are moved to take action, independent of the external rewards that we accumulate, or the setbacks we experience. We just keep at it because the “work is rewarding in and of itself”.
Many writers including Robert Greene in his book Mastery will concur – without a great sense of intrinsically motivating purpose in what we do we won’t stick with anything long enough. The highly referenced “10,000 hour quota” (a la Malcolm Gladwell) will never be reached if we aren’t deeply motivated from a wellspring of internal fire.
Sometimes what we think we won’t be good at, or like, actually ends up being incredibly intrinsically motivating and rewarding. That is why an open mind, and an willingness to experiment, and even fail, can be such an empowering mindset.
For example – when I was growing up I was shy and “uncomfortable in my skin”. I had skipped a grade in elementary school (grade 5) so I often felt ostracized by my peers, and I felt that I didn’t fit in. I found ways to blend it – for example sports became a refuge for me – but I never let the force of my personality free until much later in life. By experimenting as an adult I discovered that writing and public speaking were flow channels that brought a tremendous amount of intrinsic enjoyment to me – two things that I have now built a life around as an adult.
Had I not been willing to experiment, and fail, I would have never discovered this and I would be missing out on a very empowering aspect of my life.
It is a travesty that children are conditioned to avoid failure. Failure is a meta-skill in the learning process, and a willingness to experiment and fail is one of the only portals to truly find out what brings you intrinsic fulfillment, and what you can become great in.