Category Archives: Well-being

Thoughts on Leadership and Success

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Everything moves so fast now that it’s easy to lose sight of the basics, to forget the principles and practices we know to be true. For that reason, I regularly take time to reflect on the fundamentals of leadership and success. This helps to ground me, get my head out of the clouds, and keep my ego in check (We all have egos…pretty large ones in fact.).

Here are a few thoughts that help guide me back to reality and toward making a meaningful contribution. They apply universally to any organization, department or team. Therefore, I suspect they will ring true with you as well. Use them in good health. Share them with your peers and your managers. Infuse them into your organization so they won’t be forgotten.

Most of the  decisions in life motivated by greed have unhappy outcomes.

Focus on what you can give back to society, not what you can extract from it.

The best corporate growth comes from putting the doing of things for the client ahead of meeting earnings targets. Growth must be organic and synergistic rather than forced simply for growth’s sake.

Trust is everything because success depends upon customers’ trust in the products and services they buy from you and your employees’ trust in you as leader. If you do not have integrity, no one will trust you…nor should they. (There is a strong likelihood that fewer people trust you than you think.)

Your purpose is to create value for your customers, your employees, your stockholders, and for society, rather than extract it for yourself.

Institutions that survive and prosper must have values and a purpose beyond just making money. They will also require managers and leaders who infuse vision and character into every element of the organization, men and women who bring not only their heads but their hearts to the challenge.

“Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership…are more interested in empowering people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money, or prestige for themselves…are as guided by qualities of the heart, by passion and compassion, as they are by qualities of the mind…lead with purpose, meaning and values…build enduring relationships with people…are consistent and self-disciplined. When their principles are tested, they refuse to compromise.” – Bill George

Insecurity

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Many of the people I meet and work with don’t do much reading, either because they don’t enjoy reading or say they don’t have time to read. Life without reading is a foreign concept to me. I love reading. I love the world of books and ideas and spend as much time as possible reading for the pure enjoyment of learning. So, for the non-readers among us, this blog is an opportunity form me to share snippets of things I have read that speak to me and I hope will speak to others who have the 2-3 minutes it takes to read them. Today’s topic is insecurity, a malady which strikes most of us from time to time.

INSECURITY

“The feeling of insecurity is based upon a concept or belief of inner inadequacy. If you feel that you do not ‘measure up’ to what is required, you feel insecure. A great deal of insecurity is not due to the fact that our inner resources are actually inadequate, but due to the fact that we use a false measuring stick. We compare our actual abilities to an imagined ‘ideal,’ perfect, or absolute self. Thinking of yourself in terms of absolutes induces insecurity.

“The insecure person feels that he should be ‘good’ — period. He should be ‘successful’ — period. He should be ‘happy,’ competent, poised — period. These are all worthy goals. But they should be thought of, at least in their absolute sense, as goals to be achieved, as something to reach for, rather than as ‘shoulds.’

“Since man is a goal-striving mechanism, the self realizes itself fully only when man is moving forward towards something… Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward — or seeking. When you think of yourself as having attained the goal, you become static, and you lose the security and equilibrium you had when you were moving toward something. ‘The man who thinks he has “arrived” has about used up his usefulness to us,’ the president of a large business said to me… St. Paul is generally regarded as a ‘good’ man, yet his own attitude was, ‘I count myself not to have achieved…but I press on toward the goal.'” — Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.

So, here’s your homework. Carefully, answer these questions. Are you using a false measuring stick? Are you living a life of “shoulds?” What are you doing that is giving you a sense of forward momentum in your life…a sense of progress? Do you see yourself has having “arrived,” giving off an aura of false (or arrogant) bravado? What’s next for you that will bring meaning and fulfillment to your life? A truly successful life, a life that leaves a legacy, is a life of continually asking yourself the hard questions and always pressing on toward the goals you have chosen.

Rat Races and Whirlpools

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I watch some of my students at the business school take on jobs which they know will require 100-hour weeks, all year, every year, cramming what used to be a forty-five-year working life into twenty or twenty-five pressurized years, and then what I wonder? I see others postponing motherhood until it is too late, and I have watched my son and his friends, these last three months, shut themselves up in a dark studio every day and night until 4:00 a.m. to make their album. He is only twenty. There is more to life than just this music, I say. There is, for instance, the sunlight which you never see. He answers in the catchphrase of our day, there is “no alternative” if he wants to succeed.

I admire the dedication. I worry that they lose their balance, their way, and their sense of truth. What makes young bankers, I wonder, risk their careers for $30,000 profit on an insider deal when they know, they must know, that finance houses have their own ways of catching up with them.

Caught up in our own whirlpool, what the others do quickly becomes the measure of what we should do, of what is right. In my world we call it “group-think.” “You people,” the Indian mystic said to me, “have lost yourselves in busyness.” I could be more dramatic and say that we are in danger of giving away our souls.

To re-find those souls we must learn to leave our whirlpools from time to time, to withdraw and then re-enter, refreshed and redirected. We need, I feel, to walk awhile in other people’s worlds or, like the desert fathers of old, to go out at times into the desert and vomit up our double, the one that isn’t us. We need, or at least I need, a regular place of stillness to reconnect myself with the God I believe is in me, my true me.

“Be still then, and know that I am God,” sang the psalmist,  but it’s hard today to hear this song amid the din of all our doings. — Charles Handy, Waiting for the Mountain to Move: Reflections on Work & Life

Three Qualities…do you have them?

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To fully benefit from questions of purpose and commitment, we need to be grounded in certain qualities that help us hold to our personal intentions when we engage with the pressures of the marketplace. These qualities are our capacity for reawakening our idealism, our ability to become more intimate in the way we contact the environment, and our willingness to choose depth in the face of the ever-quickening pace of modern life. The culture has forsaken idealism for cynicism, it has foregone intimacy for consumption and virtual experience. As a result, we find ourselves alienated and isolated, regardless of the crowd that we move in. Finally, in an effort to go fast, we sacrifice depth. When we lose idealism, intimacy, and depth, we function at a cosmetic level, pushed along by fashion, out of touch with our center, and we react as if we are the effect of the culture, rather than its cause. — Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes

Have you yielded to cynicism? Do you feel isolated? Are you living at a purely surface level, simply responding to external presssures? The likely answer to at least one of these questions is “Yes.” So, what are you going to do about it? Be the cause  for idealism, intimacy, and depth in your life and in the world around you. It really is your choice.

Daydreaming

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“Daydreaming does not enjoy tremendous prestige in our culture, which tends to regard it as unproductive thought. Writers perhaps appreciate its importance better than most, since a fair amount of what they call work consists of little more than daydreaming edited. Yet anyone who reads for pleasure should prize it too, for what is reading a good book but a daydream at second hand? Unlike any other form of thought, daydreaming is its own reward. For regardless of the result (if any), the very process of daydreaming is pleasurable. And, I would guess, is probably a psychological necessity. For isn’t it in our daydreams that we acquire some sense of what we are about? Where we try on futures and practice our voices before committing ourselves to words or deeds? Daydreaming is where we go to cultivate the self, or, more likely, selves, out of the view and earshot of other people. Without its daydreams, the self is apt to shrink down to the size and shape of the estimation of others.”  — Micheal Pollan

 

Trust Your Intuition?

Follow your instincts. Trust your gut. Listen to your intuition. Exhortations we’ve all heard…and we’ve all likely implored others to do the same. But how can we be sure? When should we act?

This week I’ve been re-reading sections of Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star. Ms. Beck’s insight into intuition help answer these questions for us are worth passing along so here you go.

“I learned to follow the priorities of…body first, emotions next, intuition last.

“This means that if you’re sensing some urgent message from within, first make sure your body is healthy, fed, and rested. Then check your emotions for unhealed wounds. Physical impairment or emotional shrapnel, when mistaken for psychic knowledge or the word of God, can lead you off your true path in the weirdest way. Many’s the emotionally wounded soul who got swept up in the charisma of some self-declared prophet…When in doubt, act on skepticism. Here are some signs that an inner urge is probably not a true intuitive message.

  1. The thought is accompanied by feelings of fear, anger, or desperation…the impulse itself is peaceful.
  2. You feel the urge to tell other people how they should live their lives…intuitive information about your destiny, about what you should do, comes only to you.
  3. Your body responds to the intuitive message with revulsion or dejection…your body lies closer to intuitive truth than your brain.

When you think you sense your intuition prodding you, use these three guidelines to validate the message. I’ve found them to be quite accurate and helpful since I’ve consciously began to apply them in my own life.

Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and that you carefully cultivate your intuition.

 

Maximizing Joy

When I work with people to help them clarify their life purpose or be more authentic in their career and in their leadership, I always ask what benefits they hope to realize as a result of this work. In almost every case, one of the benefits they are seeking is more joy, more happiness in their life.

To have more joy or happiness, we first have to understand what it is that makes us truly joyful or happy. In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck provides three “remedial joy exercises” that I often use with my clients.

  1. Search your brain for any memories that make you smile spontaneously.
  2. Try to remember the last time you cried because you were happy, not sad.
  3. Search for incidents where you have felt intense yearning, and perhaps jealousy about something you have never experienced.

What about you? Is there room, maybe even a longing, for a little more joy in your life? Get a pencil and paper and do these three exercises for yourself. What have you got to lose?

Okay, you’ve determined what brings you joy. Now what?

Beck goes on to say, “Once you’ve figured out what brings you genuine joy, it goes without saying that you should immediately begin filling your life with as much of it as possible… Putting joyful activities into every nook and cranny of your day is a great way to start toward your North Star. The great thing about this strategy is that it can vastly improve the quality of life almost immediately, without requiring any massive changes.

“For example, Geraldine feels soothed and happy when she visits bookstores, so she started going to one during her lunchtime, instead of hanging out at the cafeteria in her office building.  Brent loves golf, so he decided to get up early and hit balls at the driving range twice a week… Marianne’s greatest joy comes from being around children. Since her own babies are grown and gone, Marianne volunteers as a classroom assistant in an elementary school, and she reads to children during a weekly ‘Story Hour’ at a public library.”

So what does maximizing joy have to do with you and your career?

“…Career miracles happen when you’re so in love with your life that pushing yourself is actually easier than stopping, when you ‘do without doing.’ Joyful activity adds real value to the world, and adding value is the heart and soul of a successful career.”

Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and maximum joy.