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Hardwired to Fail

Nov 06
2018

Hardwired to Fail You were supposed to be the new vice president, but a colleague got the promotion instead. Instantly, a wave of doubt and humiliation washed over you. Your first thought was “I’m never going to get promoted here.” Your next thought was “This will thwart my life’s work.” You quit on the spot.

In that one moment, you again got caught up in the pattern of negativity that has derailed you from achieving your goals. You acted rashly—and you don’t get to go back in time to do it over again.

You still cringe when you think of the person you were and the choice you made.  You’re wondering, are you just hardwired to fail?

The answer is YES.

But there’s good news, too.  You get to make a different choice next time. You have the power to step off the treadmill that leads to negative thoughts and emotions and unveil a fresh new mindset that primes you for success.

Next time you feel the pressure to give in to negative emotions, here’s what you can do to change the outcome —in both big and small ways.

Step 1: Jot Down Your Fears

Grab a journal or notebook and write down the negative thoughts and emotions that are playing like a broken record, repeating over and over again, in your head. You have to recognize that you’re stuck before you can begin to break free.

Step 2: Reality-Test It

Ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” Seeing your thoughts and feelings for what they are— just beliefs and emotions that may or may not be true—means that you get to discuss, debate, and decide for yourself if they are truly important.

Step 3: If It’s Not True, Kick It to the Curb

–Negative thoughts and emotions only have as much power as you give them.  When you kick them to the curb and let them go, you find new ways to connect what you think and believe about yourself to the things you’re passionate about.  Be willing to see yourself in new and different ways, and evaluate what resonates with you positively. This primes you to see yourself more realistically.

Step 4: Commit and Act with Clarity

Success isn’t a linear path.  Once you commit to making a different choice, be bold and act with clarity.  Start small and as you build momentum your inner critic will recede. Balance is key: you don’t want to overwhelm yourself and be unable to work through steps 1 through 3.

Your successes will rewire your brain to succeed. Staying there over the long term will mean taking risks and remaining intentional about your choices.

Adopting This Strategy Can Keep Adversity from Bludgeoning You Again

Feb 27
2018

Adversity Your plan to get what you want falls woefully short of the mark. You endure the defeat with discouragement, as the victim — not the victor – yet again. Why? The answer is simple: you didn’t have a plan to counter the wrecking ball known as adversity.

Adversity is part of life. Things won’t always go our way. Without a plan to knock down the roadblocks, adversity will bludgeon you every time. Do yourself a favor: start to plan for adversity and make room for both successes and failures to exist in your life.
Here’s what you need to do – and not do:

Don’t Be at War with Adversity

Practice acceptance. Don’t pretend that you can ignore an obstruction away. Accept that the best way to knock it down is to not try to control it. And accept responsibility for your choices, past and present. Stop fighting to minimize problems as unexpected, impossible-to-anticipate surprises. Instead, focus your energy on the choices you can make to deal with them.

Don’t Be an Absolutist

Life isn’t lived on the extremes. Get comfortable with the world as a mix of success and adversity. Don’t always expect perfection, or to anticipate disaster.

Don’t Rub Salt in the Wound

When adversity arrives, don’t take a wrecking ball to your life. Silence your inner critic. Look at your strengths, shortcomings, and unknowns from many different angles. Kick to the curb anything that won’t help you move past the obstacle.

Do Get Contradictory

Look for the paradox in the situation, and for the lessons you can take from your experience. Think of a way it may have saved you from an even more catastrophic mistake. This practice eliminates the uncertainty that comes with adversity. Biases are exposed, distance is created, and a new clarity of thought emerges.

Do Let It Go

Success and adversity happen in bursts. Throughout your life you will experience moments of both. Let go of your conscious focus on the setbacks when you deal with them and the successes when you celebrate them. The memories and lessons learned can be recalled when you need them in the future.

Plan for adversity, take the lead, and decide what you want to get in life.

6 Surefire Ways to Survive Crunch Time

Don’t’ Go Down for The Count

Jan 23
2018

Mulligan
You’ve got a few more crunches before you get to 50. That burning feeling on your 47th rep signals the oncoming fatigue of your abdominal muscles. You focus, muster all of your remaining energy, and knock out those last three crunches to meet your goal.
A challenging project, an overbooked calendar, and even the success you’ve always dreamed of can signal that it’s crunch time. But far too often, it hits us harder than we think it will. If we miss the signs, we can fall prey to tension and stress.
When crunch time arrives, here’s how to prevent a flame-out and complete the task at hand.

Resistance Is Futile

Why deplete your energy by lamenting the situation you find yourself in? Resisting where you are is futile and won’t get you where you want to be. Get crystal clear: identify what is most urgent and take decisive action.

Label It

Notice, name, and shed the negative thinking that only exhausts you emotionally and psychically. Labeling emotions impacts how your brain experiences them. It helps you stay calm and allows your rational brain to function, making you more effective.

Renegotiate

When we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves – or when we think others expect a lot from us — we may set unrealistic deadlines, bite off more than we can chew, and over-promise. Set firm boundaries on your time and on your tasks. Renegotiate deadlines if necessary. Where possible, shift work that isn’t in your sweet spot to trusted colleagues.

Make Tough Trade-Offs

Decide early on what you will and won’t focus on in any given time period. Assess your priorities and make the tough decisions about where to spend your capital each day. Ask yourself – what one or two things are critical for me to be successful today? And what two or three things must be set aside today to be successful?

Connect with Others and Yourself

Preserve time each and every day to focus on an activity that recharges you and another action that strengthens your connection to others. It could be as simple as taking time to scan Facebook for updates about friends, then going for a quick walk or workout or reading a book while sipping your favorite beverage.

Practice Self-Forgiveness

Crunch time is no time to beat yourself up. Treat yourself with care, just as you’d treat a friend going through a pressure situation. Let yourself vent, then forgive yourself and give yourself a pep talk to get things moving again.
Next time you find yourself in crunch time at work or in life, survive and thrive by putting these ideas into play. You’ll emerge successful and in better shape than when you started.
48…49…50!

How to Take a Mulligan: Your 2018 Resolutions Aren’t Ironclad Promises

Jan 09
2018

Mulligan You got caught up in the excitement of seeing the new year as a way to start over, or change direction, and made a set of audacious resolutions to get you there. But as your exhilaration wanes the resolutions you made are more difficult to keep than you thought. Don’t beat yourself up and let the anxiety you feel diminish your self-worth.

The truth is that you’re not really bad at setting reasonable goals, you’ve just made it ridiculously complicated for yourself by biting off more than you can chew.

Every January, I like to remind everyone that your resolutions aren’t ironclad promises.  The best thing about having free will is that, at any point in time, you can take a mulligan and start over again.

If you’re ready to do that here are my suggestions for creating what you want most in your life in 2018.

I encourage you to give one or all of them a try.

Switch Off the Tech

Noticing and asking questions are essential skills for success in life. It’s time you stop looking down at a screen and challenge yourself to spend more time looking up at the people and the world around you. You never know what you’ll see that will spark your curiosity and help you discover what makes you a better person.

Get Risky

Stop the groupthink that goes on around you by asking the tough questions even if you don’t know the answers. Be the person who steps forward and says, “This is risky but….” Watch the relief on everyone’s faces as the weight lifts from their shoulders and they admit they don’t know and are willing to figure it out too.

Welcome Not Having All the Answers

You don’t have all the answers and it isn’t required. What is? Spending time asking straightforward questions of others – ones that show your commitment to getting to the heart of what truly matters to them. But asking questions isn’t enough – you’ve got to listen intently to the answers and use those answers to inform your judgment and shape your decisions.

Soul-Searching is Required

Asking straightforward questions of others only gets you so far. Ask yourself the same questions you ask others – what is it you need, and what is it that truly matters to you. Then listen as intently to your answers as you do theirs and act upon what you hear.

When you do any of these things regularly and fearlessly you’ll get to the heart of what you will lead and live best with in 2018.

The One Surefire Way to Succeed as A Leader in 2018

Dec 21
2017

There isn’t one. Leadership advice isn’t ironclad. There’s no single trend, quality or rulebook that guarantees your success – it doesn’t exist (and it never did!).

Don’t waste any more time in 2018 trying to fit into some other leader’s mold. Emulating exactly what led to their success won’t work for you. Why? Because you’re not like them.

Instead, turn your focus to what will define success for you, a bespoke model of leadership, one that comes from discovering the one of a kind set of skills, talents and abilities that you lead with.

There is a straightforward way you can discover and embody the values, talents and skills that power your leadership success in 2018 and it starts with:

Listing the Pivot Points

Think back on your career.  You’ve had many moments that caused you to act, make a decision for good or ill.  These are your pivot points. These taught you something about yourself, about how you think and lead. List those that stand out and changed the direction of your life.

Self-Reflection Illuminates the Secrets Within

Take a few minutes and whatever you think of your choices then, acknowledge that they taught you something about yourself.  Write a few lines about why that moment mattered, how it changed your life, your mind or both.

See Things with A Grateful Eye

It isn’t that you can’t learn from other’s advice and perspective. The trick is to see those experiences through the lens of gratitude and then tailor the advice to mirror your own experiences, style and needs. Survey people whose perspective you value. Include people in that group whose perspective on things differs from your own. Hearing divergent perspectives helps highlight opportunities your biases keep you from seeing.

Unpack the Insights

This is where you’ll put it all together.  Reflect on your own observations and the feedback you received from others.  Unpack the insights by creating a list of tweaks and game changers, and plan your next steps for 2018 to become the most successful leader you can be.

There isn’t one right way to do this. And if there isn’t one right way to do this, you might be wondering if you’re on the right track.  You might even be feeling overwhelmed.

If so, I’ve created a FREE resource – a Lead With IT Kit © workbook – that you can download to help walk you through the process.

I hope you give it a try in 2018.  I promise, you will learn what you lead with and it will open doors that you never imagined possible.

Go Rogue as a Leader Or You Won’t Survive

Oct 25
2017

A leader who clings to conventional wisdom is relying on a model that just doesn’t work anymore. A new generation of employees has redefined their expectations for top leaders and global organizations. And I’m going to tell you something your employees won’t: if you aren’t meeting their needs, they’ve already decided to jump ship and find a new team or company that will.

You’ve got to grow or lose them. It’s a struggle for every leader — but you can’t afford not to go rouge. It’s the only way to give your team the chance to thrive.

Here are a few ways you can go rogue:

Hire Up

Everyone you add to the team should raise the bar for everyone else. That includes you. Only hire people you could see yourself working for one day. The goal is to constantly boost the talent pool, create ongoing intellectual diversity, and learn from each team member’s knowledge and expertise.

Give Up “Kitchen Sink” Meetings

Stop holding catch-all weekly team meetings. Instead, switch to meetings driven by subject matter. For example: Mondays are project meetings, Wednesdays are budget meetings, and so on. Invite only the key players to keep things simple. A focused meeting makes for quicker and better decision-making.

Think Big and Let Them Call the Cadence

As the leader, paint the big picture for your team. Share with them where you’re heading, tell them that you expect them to get there the quickest way possible, and assure them that you’ll clear the speed bumps if need be. Then step back and let your trusted team members call the cadence, approach, and path they’re going to take to get there.

Kill the Annual Review

Only one thing matters when it comes to connecting with your people: putting them first. Spend more time focused on them and less time worrying about technical aspects of the business. Don’t wait for an annual review to share what you’re thinking; coach and develop them in real time.  Your investment in them will pay big dividends over the long term.

Isn’t it time you threw out conventional practices to go a bit rogue as a leader?

5 Things To Do to Outsmart the Unexpected

Sep 23
2017

Carefully plan and you’ll avoid the unexpected, right? But, life doesn’t work that way. Don’t underestimate life’s ability to surprise you, the unexpected happens every day.

You can’t possibly know what unknowns tomorrow will bring. Increasing your ability to cope demands that you make decisions quickly and with limited information.

Here are 5 things you need to do each day to outsmart the unexpected.

1. Practice Purposeful Distraction

Physical and mental exercise alter your body’s responses to heightened stress. Spend 5 to 10 minutes a day practicing things like deep breathing, acupressure and “purposeful” distraction techniques like doodling or thinking of words that start with the letter “a”. Practiced daily these become habits that you intuitively call upon in a crisis to calm you enough to decide, act, focus and survive.

2. Go Toward Problems

Think counterintuitively – don’t retreat, go directly toward solving problems. Break things down – solve smaller problems within the larger ones first. Savor the small wins and use them to formulate your plan B.

3. Add Humor to the Mix

Give yourself the fuel and tenacity you need to get back in the zone of optimal performance – find humor in the situation. Levity lessens the tension and anxiety so you can reframe the situation and win the contest of determination over fear.

4. Don’t Be a Risk Denier

Don’t be blindly in denial about the risk of failure – it guarantees you’ll take unnecessary risks and make failure a certainty. Create solutions that you can test against what is real versus what you feel is real in the moment. Even if these experiments aren’t successful you’ll learn what you need to keep moving forward. 

5. Get Out of the Tunnel

Get out of the tunnel where you’re susceptible to being blindsided by the biases that won’t serve you in an unexpected situation. Find, outside your sphere of interests, people who are trusted advisors, mentors, and resources willing to share their knowledge and expertise with you. Reaching outside your inner circle increases the resources you have to draw upon outside of your own knowledge base when unfamiliar situations arise.

Avoid the all-consuming anxiety that comes from the unexpected and see opportunity in the world of the unforeseen by being ready for the unexpected before it comes.

My Summer Short List: 5 Books That Will Change How You Think

Jul 25
2017

 

 

Amazon offers over a million books — so I thought I’d help make choosing one a tad bit easier. Here’s my summer reading shortlist, five books that will change how you think:

  1. Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely reveals intriguing new insights into motivation – showing that the subject is far more complex than we ever imagined.

  1. Invisible Influence by Josh Berger

Josh Berger explores the subtle, secret influences that affect the decisions we make—from what we buy, to the careers we choose, to what we eat—in this fascinating and groundbreaking work.

  1. Listful Thinking: Using Lists To Be More Productive, Successful and Less Stressed by Paula Rizzo

Listful Thinking is the book that will give readers their lives back with indispensable tips on saving time, getting organized, improving productivity, saving money, and reducing stress.

  1. Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins by Annette Simmons

Stories have tremendous power. They can persuade, promote empathy, and provoke action. Better than any other communication tool, stories explain who you are, what you want…and why it matters. In presentations, department meetings, over lunch–any place you make a case for new customers, more business, or your next big idea–you’ll have greater impact if you have a compelling story to relate.

  1. The Little Things: Why You Should Really Sweat The Small Stuff by Andy Andrews

Andy shows how people succeed by actually going against the modern adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. By contrast, Andy proves that it is in concentrating on the smaller things that we add value and margin.

 

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

 

3 Simple Steps to Squash Vacation Guilt

Jul 11
2017

As a kid, you longed for summer vacation, counting the days until it arrived and making plans for every precious week.  But now, summer’s arrival sneaks up on you. You fail to carve out any downtime and watch your vacation days vanish unused. You curse the overbooked calendar, the full inbox, and all those work emergencies that forced you to miss out on a much-needed break.

Don’t shoot me for saying this, but your workload isn’t to blame here.  The real culprit is you! Guilt and fear lie at the heart of the matter. You worry that work will pile up, and dread the thought of colleagues seeing you as a slacker.

Not taking a break may seem like the “right thing to do,” but it isn’t. Your body and your mind need to escape the bombardment you experience each day. A recharge makes you more productive in the long term. So, if you haven’t yet carved out some time off from work this summer, do it. And before you pack your bags, take some precautions to keep the fear and guilt at bay.

  1. Turn Things Down to a Simmer

Reschedule deadlines and critical decision points so that they won’t occur while you are away. Then, choose a person who is intimately familiar with the work to act in your stead in case an emergency comes up.  Share your high-level musts and concerns, and trust that person to make decisions. A stand-in who has your full confidence will keep the work on an even keel, and won’t disturb you.

  1. Email Rules Are Magical

Don’t answer any emails while you are away—it only confuses your correspondents. Set up your email program to send important items to those covering for you, and all others to a folder labeled “upon my return.” That way you won’t be faced with 800-plus emails in your inbox on your first day back, and will avoid a panic attack that destroys your post-vacation serenity. Once you’re back in the groove, scan the collected email at your own pace. In all likelihood, you’ll find that most of it can be deleted wholesale—either because it’s been handled or because it’s no longer relevant.

  1. Go Cold Turkey

When you reach your vacation destination, leave your phone and other devices in airplane mode, turn off all notifications, and disconnect from technology. If this causes major withdrawal symptoms, then wean yourself slowly. Try checking your email just once a day, and only for 30 minutes. Schedule an activity for the end of that timeframe. And do your email peeking in the late afternoon, not in the morning—that’s too much like the way you start your workday. The familiarity will trigger your existing patterns of behavior and rope you into work mode.

Enjoy your break from the daily grind.

3 Ways to Defeat Decision Fatigue

Jun 20
2017

Starbucks offers 80,000 drink combinations, making the simple act of ordering a cup of coffee a maze of multiple decisions.

Much as we like having lots of choices, the hundreds of small and large decisions we must make every single day do nothing to improve our decision-making skills. Just the opposite, in fact. The more choices we have to make —almond milk or cream; whether or not to close a million-dollar deal — the more susceptible we are to the dangers of decision fatigue.

Decision-making takes a biological toll on us. It taxes the part of the brain that controls our thoughts and impulses. As a consequence, the prefrontal cortex — our “inner CEO” —  looks for shortcuts to conserve its energy. Researchers call this type of mental depletion “decision fatigue.”

In response to decision fatigue, your brain may push you into quick and irresponsible action, just to avoid expending energy on the painstaking act of choosing. Or it may try to reserve its energy with analysis paralysis, and agonize over options to sidestep making any decision at all. Fend off decision fatigue so that your brain can focus on your most crucial choices.

Sidestep Unnecessary Decisions

Consciously choose to use your decision-making energy. Consider the decisions you make each day — even the simple things, like what to have for breakfast or prioritizing your inbox. Use technology to make things easier, or delegate tasks to others. Remember, it’s okay not to make a decision — even when others want you to. You can offer perspective or advice, but if you have no clear preference or choice to make, opt to let other people choose. Next time someone asks where you want to go to lunch, for example, simply say, “You decide.”

Go It Alone When Possible

Begin the decision-making process with the end in mind. It’s great to get feedback from others, but we can’t accommodate everyone’s point of view. Streamline the process to conserve your energy. Separate input sessions from your actual decision-making process to give yourself time to absorb and consolidate all the information. Sketch out your considerations and all salient points, and know your own mind. When it’s time to make the final choice, do so on your own.

Don’t Hedge

Indecision is exhausting; a massive drain on your resources and energy. Decision-making isn’t always linear; you can move forward and then retreat. But each time you waver, it takes more energy to move forward again. Vacillation spikes your fear of the unknown and builds resistance to making a definitive choice. As you tax your brain to evaluate endless options, you’re also straining it to regulate your emotions. Uncertainty leaves you subject to manipulation by outside forces. Make your toughest or most emotionally challenging decisions first, or carve out time to consider them when you’re mentally and emotionally fresh.

It’s great to have options. Use your decision-making skills wisely to stay in control of your energy and your choices. In fact, I just downloaded the apps for my two go-to coffee chains and set them up with my regular drinks. Now when I want to place an order, I just hit favorite. One decision down … a few dozen more to go.

Let me know your techniques for reducing your daily decisions in the comments field below.