News or Noise

IF you are like most hard working professionals, then you probably make a habit of reading the news each day.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Wall Street Journal, the FT or The Economist.

There are many titles to choose from.

You scan the headlines for an interesting story and then dive in, happy to have something to read on the way to work, glad to be able to discuss the latest sporting headlines with colleagues – with whom you may have nothing else in common.

The reality though is that most of the time the news is not news, it’s noise. Information for information’s sake, something to read, something to talk about. Another story to consume our attention.

Why do so many of us choose to spend our time in this way?

It’s possible that the alternative is just too uncomfortable – silence and time to think.

Time to read a book that changes our world view. Time to write an article that challenges someone’s thinking. Time to create something remarkable that solves a problem or delights an audience.

We each have a choice about how we spend our time.

Are you filling your time with noise, or making an effort to create a story all of your own?

Forgiveness

An act of personal empowerment that gives you freedom from the past and allows you to retain the initiative

Forgiveness

(Source: Flickr)

FORGIVENESS is a noble sentiment, but shouldn’t our tormentors be punished?

What about truth? What about justice? What about revenge?

Breathe, breathe, everything will be okay.

The deceptions and betrayals of those around us can sometimes infect and overwhelm the mind. The feelings aroused from past hurts make it difficult to see clearly, the blood boils and the mind can replay the situation many times, thinking of how we were wronged and counting the ways we might be able to get even.

This kind of thinking is not particularly healthy or helpful, and you risk becoming trapped in an endless cycle of negative emotions.

You feel hatred today, because you felt it yesterday, because you felt it the day before that.

Forgiveness has value because it frees us from this cycle and liberates mental energy to focus on the matters at hand.

Thinking about it this way, we can see that forgiveness actually has nothing to do with the person(s) who wronged us (they may not care less about your feelings), but it instead confers a benefit on the person who forgives.

Past hurts afflict the mind only for so long as you hold on to them, and by letting them go you regain your freedom.

Another way to think about forgiveness is as an act of personal empowerment. People who hurt us are able to do so by wielding some kind of power: money, influence, strength, a seductive story, a daring feat, shiny packaging, or anything else which allows them to attract attention or control the game. This power can sometimes be used to hurt us, and the negative emotions that result leave us feeling dis-empowered.

Forgiveness puts you back in control.

If you can forgive, then it gives you an opportunity to learn the lessons hidden in the rubble.

Was it just bad luck, or did you enable your competitors to defeat you through bad judgement, poor execution and inferior strategy?

The situation may reveal something about the other person’s character or about your own. It may show you a blind spot in your vision, or uncover a shortage of critical resources and capabilities.

By practicing forgiveness and learning your lessons, you can retain your freedom and seize the initiative going forward.

Strategic Fail

Fail fast. Your success depends on it

BACK in high school, you teachers probably trained you in ‘exam technique’.

For example, your maths teacher probably gave your class exam-prep advice which sounded something like this: “do the easy questions first, skip anything you don’t understand and come back to it at the end of the test if you have time. Use your time carefully.” This is excellent advice. That is to say, it is excellent advice if you want to pass a high school maths exam.

Fast forward 15 years and imagine little Jimmy from your maths class, now a medical doctor, standing in an emergency room doing surgery on your father. Do you want him to skip the tricky bits and come back to them at the end?

Would you prefer a doctor who is good at surgery and good at golf? Or a doctor who is excellent at surgery and horrible at golf?

The advice that got us through high school exams, won’t get us through life. Trying to be good at everything is only a good strategy if you are trying to ensure that you don’t become excellent at anything.

Fail strategically, and fail fast.

Your success depends on it.

Learning From Your Mistakes

Are you?

THE scientific method is a formal way of investigating the world by testing your guess about a certain situation, correcting your mistakes, and thereby improving your understanding of the world.

If something doesn’t work out for you, do you get angry? Or do you ask yourself, “what went wrong in this experiment?”

Learn, grow stronger, and move on.

Who is responsible for your success?

THIS IS an important question because the answer will affect how you feel about yourself, how likely you are to persist in the face of set backs, and how much enjoyment you gain from the things you do.

If you have read any of Seth Godin‘s work then you are probably familiar with the idea of the “linchpin”; the person who makes things happen, gets things done, and is the reason for successful outcomes.

Who are the linchpins in your world?  Think about your work life, family life, or sporting activities.  Who do you want on your team?  Who is the person that will ensure quality work, home cooked meals, or sporting victory?  Chances are you can think of at least one person in each setting who you would describe as a “linchpin” … and chances are they’re not you.

Many people look externally for the source of positive outcomes, success and enjoyment in their lives.  Martin Seligman, in his best-selling book “Learned Optimism“, outlines that this habit of attributing positive outcomes to other people, external factors or luck is a form of pessimism.  And the more non-personal, temporary and specific your explanations for positive outcomes, the more pronounced the pessimism.

Here are three examples of pessimistic explanations for positive outcomes:

  1. Praise from a client: “The client was happy with the finance report [specific] that the team [non-personal] submitted on this project [temporary]. Dave had some great insights.” [non-personal]
  2. Enjoyed family barbeque: “I enjoyed the family barbeque [specific] this year [temporary]. Grandma was so funny.” [non-personal]
  3. Won a swimming race: “I won the race [specific]. Suzy was off the pace tonight.” [non-personal and temporary]

You need to take personal responsibility for the good things in your life because this is a form of optimism, self-belief, and will give you the positive energy you need to keep moving.  The more personal, permanent, and pervasive your explanations for your success, the better.

Compare the above explanations with the following more optimistic explanations:

  1. Praise from client: “The client loves us [permanent, pervasive]. We are a good group and I work really well with people.” [personal, permanent]
  2. Enjoyed family barbeque: “What a fun day with the family, I always enjoy myself.” [personal, permanent and pervasive]
  3. Won a swimming race: “The other swimmers are very competitive [permanent]. I swam a personal best [personal] and I am grateful to my coach for helping me make the most of my abilities.” [personal, permanent and pervasive]

The interesting thing about each of the above statements is that they explain things which have happened, i.e. they explain the past.  It is curious that many people find it difficult to explain the past in an optimistic way because, after all, your life is a story, you are the main character, and you are free to tell your own story and portray the the main character in any way you choose.  If you do not own your past successes then you are placing other people or circumstances at the the centre of your personal story, and thereby shifting positive energy away from yourself.

Wait a minute, you may be thinking, taking all the credit for my success sounds kind of arrogant and being humble is a good thing, right?  Yes, you are right, humility is a good thing.  However, if you think of “humility” as the quality of avoiding excessive arrogance and considering other people as just as important as yourself then you might agree that failing to take responsibility goes much further than this.  The humble man will give credit where credit is due, but the irresponsible man will almost always downplay or ignore his own role in success and attribute that success to other people, fortunate circumstances or dumb luck.

The irresponsible man may be able to avoid any blame for failure. However, he will find it difficult to be satisfied with his success, persist in the face of personal setbacks, or delight in fulfilling his daily goals … because he has none.

Who is responsible for your success?

CEO U

BACK in 1997, Tom Peters talked about “Brand You“. Tom told us that big companies understand the importance of brands and that today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. This is absolutely true, but it is only part of the story.

You are not a walking brand, you are an individual who can create, develop and (if necessary) modify your image to help you provide significant value to others.

You are the big gun, the top cat, the ringleader, the head honcho, the Chief. And as the Chief Executive Officer of You Corporation you are responsible for figuring out who you are and, based on your discoveries, to then confidently create, package and sell what you have to offer the world. There are 5 matters that you will need to attend to:

  1. Resources: You are responsible for sourcing the best materials available to help you do what you do best every day. Butchers need the best meat, bakers the best flour, consultants the sharpest insights, and lawyers the deepest and most accurate legal knowledge. Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
  2. Talents: You need to capitalise on your strengths in order to distinguish yourself. If you have a remarkable flare for fashion and find yourself working as an accountant, ask the CEO to find you a different role.
  3. Passion: Your passion is the internal energy and powerful emotion that you need to steam roll the obstacles that stand in your way. Some people say that motivation doesn’t last, this is true, but neither does bathing. Do it daily. Get motivated and then get moving.
  4. Branding: Your brand is the word of mouth; it is what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room. A positive brand works in your favour because other people will be happy to open doors to help you on your way. The more work your brand does for you, the less you will have to do for yourself.
  5. Relationships: You are in the business of value creation, and you will inevitably work with other people to obtain value, create new value, or to offer this value to the world. Build strong trust based relationships so that you can focus on the value creation process and not on who gets what, and who so what to whom.

I love my job! …

… do you?

YOU may be one of thousands of people who finished a vocational university degree (engineering, law, accounting etc.) and thought, “I need to get some professional experience to my name … and then I’ll branch out and do what I love!”  Two years later and you are still an engineer/accountant/lawyer.  You’ve learnt a lot and met some interesting people, but it wasn’t meant to be this way.  You have dreams of success and personal fulfillment!  Is now the right time to switch?  Is the economy strong enough or should you wait? There is no right time to stand up and go after what you’ve always wanted, but just don’t wait too long!

I Love My Job

I love my job, I love the pay.
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss; he/she is the best.
I love his boss and all the rest.
I love my office and its location.
I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray,
And the paper that piles up every day.

I love my chair in my padded cell.
There’s nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers.
I love their leers and jeers and sneers.

I love my computer and its software;
I hug it often though it don’t care.
I love each program and every file,
I try to understand once in a while.

I’m happy to be here, I am, I am;
I’m the happiest slave of my Uncle Sam.
I love this work; I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.

I love my job-I’ll say it again.
I even love these friendly men,
These men who’ve come to visit today
In lovely white coats to take me away.

(source unknown)