Kick Conventional Wisdom to the Curb

A guide for figuring out - what’s next for ourselves, our team and the organization we work for

Feb 23

Kick Conventional Wisdom to the CurbThe disruption and chaos of the past two years challenged leaders and organizations, rendering them more reactive than proactive. If you’re like the leaders I work with, you’ve asked yourself hundreds of times: When will we get back to normal?

I’ll share with you what I share with them.

Returning to normal, whatever that was, isn’t possible. Thinking about how to do that isn’t the right strategy. Acknowledging the world fundamentally changed and figuring out how to defy conventional wisdom and create better ways of doing things is.

Thinking differently in times of uncertainty means learning fast, analyzing problems you’ve never encountered before and seizing opportunities you haven’t thought about before.

Here are some suggestions to help you do just that:

Don’t Rush Back
Rushing back to what was simply because of an artificial timeline isn’t a recipe for success. Resist the pressure to run quickly toward what is safe and predictable. Give yourself and those around you time to really get ready for the new world that awaits you.

Kick Conventional Wisdom to the Curb
Encourage yourself and others to ask the hard questions about what was and wasn’t working for you as a person, a team and an organization. Learn from experts outside your industry to generate better and more innovative ideas as you design what the future will look like for you professionally and the organization as a whole.

Value Steady Progress
Don’t become frustrated when things aren’t moving as quickly as you think they should. Celebrate small wins and steadily build on success. You and those around you will meet your long-term goals more quickly if you view progress incrementally.

Encourage Patience and Perseverance
Remember, everyone is still struggling to come out on the other side of this. Not everyone will emerge at the same pace. Encourage everyone to have patience and compassion for themselves and others. Perseverance and patience are the keys to coming back together stronger and motivated to achieve new things together.

As we return to what one day we’ll all consider normal, we have a rare opportunity to find out who we are now and what works and doesn’t in this world, we now find ourselves in. We are forever changed as a result of this experience, and if we seize the moment, we’ll return more inspired and ready for whatever lies ahead.

5 Strategies to Living with Discomfort in Uncertain Times

Get Comfortable

Mar 19

Discomfort in Uncertain TimesYou can’t turn on the TV or talk with someone that the topic of coronavirus doesn’t come up, and that’s to be expected – it’s on all of our minds.

The intensity of the uncertainty we share about our health, livelihood, and future kicked our brain’s state of emotional arousal up a few hundred notches. Our collective brain is screaming at us to narrow our focus and engage in short-term fixes and safety-seeking behaviors like locking down cities and emptying grocery stores.

Intuitively and experientially, we know the human brain is automatically drawn to the worst-case scenarios, often inaccurately. The constant updates don’t calm our collective anxiety and fear. They prime the pump for the cycle to intensify.

What will work to get comfortable with discomfort in uncertain times?

Learning how to be comfortable with the discomfort that uncertainty brings.
There are five things you can do today that will put you in a better position to refocus your mind and build your emotional resilience.

Get Comfortable with Discomfort
Getting comfortable with discomfort helps break your fear response cycle and frees your mind up to see other things that are equally or more important to your survival. Acknowledge you’re having an automatic emotional response to unfamiliar, scary and life-altering situations. Lean into the discomfort you’re feeling rather than expending energy and avoiding it. You can do this by first thinking about what you fear will happen. Then quickly force yourself to think about what you want to happen and then shift to what is most likely to happen. Once you’ve arrived at what most likely will happen, develop a plan for what most likely will happen.

Tune Down the Intensity
Too much information can gunk up our thinking. Seeing beyond the noise means immersing yourself in pursuits that aren’t related to solving the current challenge 24/7. Choose how long you’ll spend each day watching the news, talking about it with others, or just thinking about it. Set that limit and stick to it. Stepping back from all the noise means you won’t seize and freeze in these changing times.

Don’t Blindly Trust Your Gut
Trusting your gut instincts works well when time is of the essence, when the challenge is both complex and not clearly defined, or when there is too little or too much information. But your intuition isn’t infallible – intuitions aren’t truths. Test your intuitions and rule out bias, fear-driven action and thinking too fast. Solve what is likely to happen by taking some practical steps that are completely under your control.

Break the Spell of Conformity
Respectfully raise relevant objections or scenarios that uncover and improve the strategy under consideration. You’re not the enemy when you do this rather you help yourself and others avoid magnifying the problem beyond what it is, and rushing to conclusions that give undue weight to what may have worked well before.

Make it Safe to Think Counterintuitively
We all have a responsibility, especially those in leadership roles, to make it safe for people to think and experiment with counterintuitive solutions, take intelligent risks, report and adapt to failures quickly and ask smart questions. Letting go of needing to be right, to be the one who acted first and blame unleashes the vast potential of our collective mind to solve the challenge together.

Our shared willingness to experiment with these strategies helps us be comfortable with the discomfort that uncertainty brings and helps us to see a wider field of potential solutions.

I’d love your best ideas for leading yourself and others in times of uncertainty.

Stay well, lean in, and we’ll emerge even stronger together,

Achieve More Think Bigger

How to stay competitive in a dynamic world

Sep 10

Achieve More, Think Bigger Achieve More, Think Bigger. “You’ve got to do more to keep us competitive!” It’s frustrating for a leader to hear this feedback because it rarely accompanies any concrete direction about how to accomplish it.

For many leaders, staying competitive means creating a vision that will withstand the headwinds of a business climate that is fraught with daily disruptions.

The smartest leaders know it isn’t doing more that keeps them competitive– it’s thinking more.

 When you think more you can achieve more, because you can spot the needs of your customers before they’re even aware of those needs themselves.  As the trendsetter, you ride the tailwinds, creating and achieving more than you ever imagined possible.

Want to learn how to think bigger and achieve more?  Here’s what you need to know:

Check Your Arrogance at the Door

Don’t allow your expertise to turn into arrogance.  Expertise can blind you to factors that are beyond the scope of your considerable knowledge and experience. To think bigger, translate your expertise across industries and sit in the mindset of your clients.  A discovery mindset lets you perceive the subtle needs of your clients that they don’t yet even know they have.

Embrace the Outrageous

Don’t readily dismiss implausible or outrageous ideas that your team comes up with. Often the most insane ideas hold the most promise for disrupting an industry. Uncovering a need that your customers don’t know they have starts with thinking about what is impossible, and then making it possible.

Everyone Needs to Risk Something

Everyone on the team needs to have something at risk so they are fully invested in the outcome.  Having something to lose changes how you approach and make decisions.  Having skin in the game makes you the architect. You’re not simply executing someone else’s plan – you’re all in.

Make the Most of Adversity

Adversity is inevitable. Make the most of it when it happens, or deliberately turn a situation on its head when things are going too smoothly. Don’t fear making an unpopular decision or taking a position that goes against everyone else in the room.  Being a consensus builder isn’t a strategy for innovation.  When there is adversity, your ability to deliver a well-thought-out counterargument can spur creativity.

Be Still

When the time is right, clear the decks and your calendar and spend some time being quiet.  Amid all the noise, data, and discussion, it can be hard to hear yourself think. Find a quiet place where you can reflect in silence.  Creating time to think stems from the urge to make a snap decision that feeds your need for instant gratification. Being still can be challenging, yet it is essential for developing the clarity that’s necessary to see the next new trend.

When you’re bold enough to think more, you’ll achieve more and be able to weather the storms when they come.  What can you do today to think more?

Hardwired to Fail

Nov 06

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.

Keep Adversity from Bludgeoning You Again

Adopt This Strategy Can

Feb 27

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 the 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 to extremes. Get comfortable with the world as a mix of success and adversity. Don’t always expect perfection or 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.

Getting Unstuck

Out With The Old And In With The New

Mar 14

You’ve invested a great deal of time and determination in pursuing the plan you, or perhaps someone else wrote for your life. Though you don’t totally despise what you’ve been doing, you wake up each morning with the nagging feeling that you’re not moving in the right direction either. As the day tick by, the nagging turned to unease and unease into discontent. The pressure mounts, and you’re unable to find the connection between who you are, what you’re certain of, and what you’re doing with your life. Simply said: you’re stuck and need help getting unstuck.

You probably took a stab at trying to get unstuck by doing what most people in that circumstance do—you decried that you weren’t stuck, and to prove it, you began taking action. You set out to either add things to the plan or subtract things from the plan: trying everything and anything to make it work. But the more you focused on making it work, the more the sense of discontent grew. Today turned into tomorrow, and tomorrow into next month, and you still didn’t know what would work and what wouldn’t. You were more disheartened and even more stuck.

But getting unstuck isn’t about continuing to do what you’ve always done, plus or minus a few things. After all, where’s it written that you have to stay on the path you’re currently on? And yes, I know it isn’t easy to think about giving up on a plan that you’ve dedicated years to pursuing—yet you have to accept that being stuck is your first and best signal that you’re ready for an important realignment in your life.

Being stuck is a great puzzle to solve, and it isn’t as difficult as you think once you accept that being stuck can lead to the start of something new. Digging out of the hole starts when stuck and becomes the springboard for understanding what might be within your grasp. Knowing what we want starts with knowing what we might want and then figuring out what we need to pull it off.

There are many paths to living an incredible life and many chances in our lifetime to reinvent ourselves—you won’t be stuck for long if you accept where you are, get over being stuck quickly, and start getting about the business of discovering what you might want to do next.

Expanding your possibilities gets simpler when you follow these four steps:

1. Realign Your Compass

Feeling stuck often leaves you questioning everything: your past, your present, and your future. Before you can even begin to find out where you want to go, you have to take a moment and figure out where you are in relation to your true north. Spend the time you need getting back in touch with the things that honor your values, interests, and core beliefs. Take the time to really ask yourself questions that shed light on what you really want to do with the work you do each day, and then ask yourself questions about what you want your life to be about. There are many great tools and exercises to help you do this (shameless plug: many of them you can find posts about on the Leadership Compound blog—check some out and give them a try). Find and ask the questions that most resonate with you or the tools that work best for you, and if you don’t see any, you can create your own. There really are no rules other than to write things down—it really does help you bring them into reality. The key is to begin.

2. You Have To Generate Ideas, And Quantity Is King

Once you’ve realigned your compass and know your true north, you can begin to explore new ideas, preferences, and capabilities. In certain things quality does matter more than quantity, except when you’re trying to dig yourself out of the roadblock known as being stuck. Getting on with your life starts when you consciously engage in activities that spike your creativity and idea generation to the levels where ideas, options, and possibilities begin to flow freely and without judgment. The key is to begin free-associating, imagining, and coming up with lots of outrageous, enticing, and electrifying probable and improbable ideas that spark your interest or intrigue you. Zeroing in too quickly and/or attempting to think up a handful of high-quality ideas in the early stages of idea formation is totally counterproductive to becoming unstuck. It only serves to intensify the pressure and indecision, stymie your creativity, and block any forward progress. Options—and lots of them—are what eventually lead to better-quality ideas. They magnify our thinking and energize and help us give thought to things we might have previously dismissed as impractical or outlandish. Quantity then leads to more choices, which result in better options and eventually a few quality ideas which are optimal to implement. Some of my favorite tips for doing this are creating mind maps, journaling, word association, vision boards, and writing ideas on post-it notes—find something that is creative and works best for you.

3. Choose What Fits—And First Isn’t Always Best

Despite our best intentions, our biases can often work against our best interests, especially when we lose sight that they exist. Failing to recognize and consider their impact on our decision-making can prove disastrous. In highly charged emotional situations, like overcoming being stuck, we can sometimes forget that biology outmaneuvers rationality. The high rush that we get from generating new ideas and seeing possibilities again can cause us to view our first idea and consider it “the one,” even though we’ve given it little scrutiny. Our desire to do this is more related to the chemical response of the brain’s positive hormones than a rational validation of the solution. Getting moored to a solution just because it seems good enough might right the ship, but it also closes down the exploration of many other really good and often beneficial options. Many times, what we first come up with is the safe or familiar choice. In the long term, choosing what is safe or comfortable could lead to being anchored in another sandbar: stuck again with some familiar issues. Learning how to keep working beyond the first quality idea and coming up with several other options helps us overcome the natural inclination to settle for the first thing we arrive at. Once we’ve uncovered, walked around in, and reviewed in depth several really solid options, we have the information we need to begin to draw the contrasts and weigh the advantages of each choice. The process of learning in depth about several high-quality choices by asking questions and getting additional data and facts reduces the fear of uncertainty and increases our clarity about our choice and the outcome.

4. Don’t Critique, Sabotage, Or Stifle Your Forward Progress

The more ideas we have, the more choices are open to us. If we are to imagine things in ways that we haven’t before and think about things more broadly than ever before, we can’t sabotage ourselves along the way. Our brains are designed to be critical, find problems to solve, and make spur-of-the-moment judgments—nothing could be more detrimental to free-associating for creativity and inside-out thinking. Knowing this is how our minds work is the first step toward quieting the inner voice that, if left unattended, can impede our ability to do the two steps outlined above. You have to be mindful as you embark on this journey. Prepare yourself by first spending some time becoming aware of your own destructive self-talk: the messages you give yourself that say you can’t do something. Keep a journal as you start this process, and make a note of every time you think, “You can’t do that,” or “This idea is too crazy.” Put a plan in place to stop yourself from making that judgment and reward yourself for banishing the inner voice that says no and choosing to do things differently. Enjoy the benefits and the stress relief from knowing that this isn’t about getting it right the first time—it is about experimenting, learning, and small steps. With practice, you’ll see the fog will lift, and you’ll be less stuck and more willing to push the door open to consider what once seemed unimaginable.

If you’re feeling stuck today, I encourage you to embrace it, accept it as the great puzzle it is to solve and figure out what path will lead you back to your true north. If you’ve solved the puzzle before, I’d love to hear about your journey and what worked best for you.


Performance: Getting People To Tell You The Truth

Feb 01

As a leader, each and every day, you’re besieged with irreconcilable demands from those you work with and for. And although you have sway over the direction of your business, you rarely have access to the much-needed objective and ongoing feedback about your ideas, plans, and performance. Perhaps you’re not that worried about it, but here is why you should be.

Failing to seek out and encourage those you lead to share the unvarnished truth and actionable feedback about how best you can boost your performance and lead better can have dire consequences for you and your long-term success.

The longer you delay asking, the less likely it will be that you’ll get the type of candid perspective and opinion you need to keep you from making critical errors in judgment. You can’t become an effective leader by trial and error, but conversely, you certainly can become a terrible one.

So why are so many leaders afraid to ask those they lead to give it to them straight?

The answer is really two‐fold. As a leader, haven’t learned how to or don’t want to open themselves up to being vulnerable in this way with their team. They haven’t invested in building the trust that encourages people around them to tell them the truth without fearing negative repercussions—especially when what is being said will contradict them or be negative about their performance as a leader.  Realizing your success as a leader goes through and depends on those who work for you is the first step in getting those you lead to tell you what you might not want to hear.

Here’s How You Make Give It To Me Straight The Rule Of The Day

Make sure you’re the one who shakes up the status quo and takes an active role in asking for feedback about how you’re doing on a recurring basis. Follow these simple guidelines:

  • Call Out The Fear – Recognize there is a degree of fear and risk when someone is willing to be candid with you. As the leader, it is your obligation to take the first step toward making the situation a relaxed one for the other person. Enable them to speak openly by calling out the fear and acknowledging it. Let them know that you appreciate and understand that it is difficult to share feedback with a boss—especially if it is negative in nature. Tell them you want to know no matter what because if you don’t have a realistic picture of what you’re doing well and not doing well, then you don’t improve as a leader.
  • Make It A No Repercussion Zone – Make it clear there are never any repercussions for sharing feedback that helps learning or growth, even if it is different than what you think or believe. Be consistent and apply this beyond these feedback conversations to meetings and all matters.
  • Have A Go-To Question – Have a go-to question that you can easily call upon to break the ice and start the conversation flowing, like “What is it that I can do to become a more effective leader for our team?”
  • Speak To More Than One Person – Make sure you ask more than one person the same question separately and outside of a formal conversation. Reiterate that you want them to give it to you straight. You don’t have to ask everyone every time—just make sure that you reach out to everyone over the course of a few months.
  • Read Between The Lines – Listen for what is being said and perhaps not being said. Follow up and get clear by asking for specifics and asking for examples and use open ended questions to solicit more input.
  • Get A Concrete Step You Can Take And Implement – Ask them for one future-focused suggestion that, if you implemented today, would improve your performance.
  • Share What You’re Going To Do – Look for areas in which to agree, and say so when you find them. Let them know what you’ve chosen from what they said to implement.
  • Reward The Sharing – With “thank you”—as a leader, remember that any time someone shares his or her insight with you, it is a gift.
  • Make Asking For Feedback Your MO – Ask for their input often and in all things that impact the work and performance of the team. Especially follow up on how you’re doing with the suggestions you implemented from your conversation with them. It doesn’t just have to be in formal ways. Ask for quick feedback on ideas also. The key here is consistency.

The people who work for us shouldn’t be the only ones desperately seeking more frequent and actionable feedback—as their leader; you should shake up the dynamic and be the first one to ask for future-focused suggestions, opinions, and perspectives on everything ranging from business matters to how you can boost your performance as their leader.

Let me know how you’re planning to ask those you lead how you’re doing.

A New Beginning: Life Changing Connection For 2017

Dec 20

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying—without much success; I’ll admit—to come up with a novel way to start my end-of-year post. After numerous false starts and piles of crumpled sheets of paper filling the wastebasket—yes, I still do handwrite my first draft—I decided to take a well-needed break and bolster my spirits by reading through my quote journal.

And there, to my surprise, was the solution to my writer’s block. On one of the well-worn pages, I’d written the following quote, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” –Seneca.

As the quote reverberated in my mind, I realized that a shift in my thinking was also taking place. Traditionally, I’d always viewed the end of the year as a concrete ending point and the start of a new year as a beginning. The more I thought about the quote, however, the more I realized that how I saw this was based on how I chose to define and describe it, and by extension, I realized that much of the way in which we describe, define, and assign meaning to things in our lives is based solely on our perspective, beliefs about ourselves, and our choices at the time we decide what something means. In essence, the things in our lives only have the meaning and power they do because we impart it to them. It was then that it dawned on me there was a better way for all of us to begin 2017, and it certainly didn’t involve making another set of the same old tired resolutions that we all know will never work.

Every new beginning doesn’t have to start with a complete overhaul of the past—it just has to start with some other beginning’s end. Overcoming the inertia of what has become comfortable for us in 2016 and replacing it with what is less so in 2017 is a great place to start. Knowing where endings have to begin in order for new beginnings to emerge starts when you rethink what you have the capability to do and contest the habits, rationalizations, and meanings that you’ve assigned to things that are keeping you stuck and not seeing the potential in yourself and in others.

I hope that you’re willing to begin to end something so that you found your new beginning in 2017. The beginning that sees you connect to your passions in new ways, build connections with others more deeply, and accept that all is possible—if you know how to connect what you’re capable of with what you pursue.

With perseverance, intention, and commitment, 2017 will be a great new beginning!


How To Own A Compliment

Sep 27

Do you know how to own a compliment? We set high expectations for ourselves and strive to meet those expectations. Still, when someone notices and offers us a well-earned compliment, many of us in a quavering voice, quickly launch into a stream of self-deprecating comments, denials, and deflections. Perhaps you can empathize because someone simply giving you a compliment disarms and dissembles you so completely that you immediately shift the focus, talk down, or cast off the compliment entirely.

Answering a compliment with anything other than gratitude and a sincere thank you have only one lasting effect—it creates awkwardness for both the person extending the compliment and you. Failing to acknowledge the gift of that compliment can help you be seen as ungrateful, lacking confidence, and, worst of all, unappreciative. From your vantage point, how confident can you really feel about yourself when you second-guess, deflect, or deny what you’ve done well to the point where you can’t even concede that you were able to achieve something?

Here are four surefire ways to own a compliment the next time someone is gracious enough to offer one.

Let Your Body Language Speak For You

A smile and a nod go a long way in conveying that you appreciate what someone is saying to you. Before your words express your gratitude, your body language can be your best ally. Smiling and looking the other person directly in the eye not only indicates agreement but also goes a long way in building and reinforcing the trust and connection between you and the other person. If you’re feeling comfortable in your own skin, you’ll be less likely to walk down the road of shifting the focus, deflecting, or not accepting the compliment as it is intended and given.

Simply Say Thank You

You can simply express your gratitude by saying thank you, and then either adding a short personal anecdote about the thing the person complimented, or how you feel about what they complimented. A thank you can express so much in so few words, it’s really easy to learn to say, and it can be practiced beforehand. Saying thank you to others and watching how they respond can really help you become comfortable with saying thank you to others because you understand firsthand how powerful those words really are.

Don’t Trade Compliments

When someone gives you a compliment, your first feeling might be to offer him or her a compliment in exchange. No matter how well-intended and honest your compliment may be, in truth this is really another form of deflecting the focus from you and the compliment you were given. Trading compliments isn’t going to help you learn to accept a compliment any better. If you truly feel a compliment is merited for something they’ve done, save it for a time where they have the chance to be the focus and shine.

Be Humble, Not Boastful

Sometimes we lean toward diminishing what we contributed or what we’ve done when others pay us a compliment because we’ve been taught that focusing on our accomplishments is boastful. There is a real difference between boasting and being overly focused on what you do and being humble and accepting praise for what you rightly have earned. Knowing the difference will help you own a compliment without deflecting or attributing the good expressed to someone or something else. Not recognizing your abilities and strengths in an honest way—especially when someone else does—isn’t a strength of character. It is false modesty. Being humble is about knowing what you know and what you don’t, and it doesn’t preclude being pleased that someone else notices.

The next time someone takes the time to offer you a compliment, I hope you own it with all the grace and gratitude you have. It will be the best thing you can do for yourself and the other person.


Concentrating On Your Best Intentions

Aug 23

“Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition. Yawn and stretch and try to come to life.” — Who among us doesn’t identify with the sentiment expressed in this Dolly Parton lyric? It resonates with us because we begin many of our days looking for the get-up-and-go approach to the upcoming day with a positive outlook and plan. We have way too many things on our plate, limited time and attention to devote to them, and too many other distractions vying for our attention that we never originally planned on.

Woefully, at day’s end, we realized that we were on autopilot addressing other people’s concerns, priorities, and unexpected situations. Our mood decayed throughout the day, and opportunities to influence others were overlooked. Ultimately, instead of taking the reins, we let the world around us dictate our daily priorities and direction.

But turning off the autopilot and flying under our own power means understanding how important our perceptions, assumptions, and intentions are in creating and shaping our experiences.

Intentionally determining what deserves, demands, and drives our focus means adopting some essential strategies that leverage the power of the brain’s automatic systems to our advantage. We don’t have unlimited attention to give the world. As such, our automatic systems are very adept at prioritizing what seems most relevant to our stated intentions and filtering out input that isn’t as important. Tapping into them is just what we need to regain control and accomplish what we want to achieve.

After you’ve poured yourself that cup of ambition, you can do these few essential things below to help set your intention for the day and tell your brain what you’d like it to focus on.

1.  Pave The Way And Prime The Pump

Determine what your intentions are for the upcoming day. Think about the task(s) for the day, what needs to be accomplished, and what really matters most. Consciously ask yourself what needs to happen for those goals to be achieved. This will help you define your real goal(s) for the day. The conscious focus on the task(s) helps you prime the pump and pave the way for your mind to recognize them as priorities and attune your brain to look for things related to achieving that outcome as relevant and not off-topic.

2.  Adopting The Right Attitude Is Everything

Once you’ve focused your brain’s energy on the tasks that are important, it’s time to ensure that your attitude supports your success. It should be no surprise that a happier, more positive attitude strongly influences our frame of mind and how we approach the day. Our brain looks for resonance between our intentions and our attitude about them as a way of confirming that they are indeed our priorities. If you have concerns about the upcoming task and they are really driving your mood in a less than positive direction, you have to determine if they help or impede your achieving the desired outcome. If they don’t have merit or a factual basis and come from a place of unfounded fear or emotion, set them aside and redirect your thinking to the positive aspects of what you are setting out to do.

3.  We Get What We Focus On, So Lock In Your Intentions

Now that you’ve primed the pump and synced your attitude, the only remaining task is to firmly set your sights and lock your attention on your priorities. Attuning your focus to your priorities helps you identify what you want to see more of—especially those things that support achieving your goal. You will become more aware of and vigilant for the things that will help you get there, traps that must be avoided, and yes, even potential opportunities to adjust and re-calibrate. Once you know what you’re looking for or what to avoid, you’ve engaged a level of awareness that will help you make sure that you focus on what you want to achieve. You might even want to capture them on an index card or memo on your phone so that you can look at it before you go into that big meeting or consider what comes next—especially when the day gets challenging.

Establishing a process that carves out some time for personal reflection and intentional thinking in our complex world doesn’t mean giving up vast amounts of time—it means taking a few minutes, perhaps as long as it takes to make and drink your coffee. However, the investment of a few minutes each morning returns vast rewards. The next time you tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen to pour yourself that cup of ambition, set your intentions for the day, and let me know how it goes.