Category Archives: Guest Blog

Emotional Intelligence. Have you lost it? Part II

Today’s guest blogger is Morag Barrett, the founder of Skye Team and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships. This is Part 2 of 2. Read Part I.

The more I read about Emotional Intelligence the more fascinated I become about its impact in both the workplace and at home. I am also conscious that awareness is not sufficient, as my earlier example shows, knowing what I should have, or could have done different is not as effective as actually doing different…

Now if you are raising your eyebrow and thinking “that would never happen to me” or “this is a business, there is no place for emotions in business” or “I’m a tough leader… I don’t get emotional.” Then take a moment and humor me for a moment. I want to show you how quickly emotions drive behavior. How quickly emotions drive YOUR behavior.

My team and I start our EQ workshops with a discussion and activity that demonstrates how emotions and feelings are at the root of all our actions and drive behavior, performance and leadership. Here is a quick example of how emotions impact and drive behavior…

Imagine you are walking down the street… around the corner comes your Nemesis, your archenemy, what are you thinking and feeling in that moment?

Here are some of the things we hear from workshop participants:

• Dread
• How can I avoid them?
• I feel myself get defensive

When we then as what happens next, participants will say they:

• Cross the street
• Pretend to be on a phone call
• Avoid eye contact
• Walk quicker (so as to spend as little time as possible with them)

Now imagine its your best friend who turns that corner… What are you thinking and feeling in that moment?

• Excitement
• Pleased to see them
• Maybe you have a quick flashback to your last evening out together

What happens to your behavior this time?

• Smile
• Walk quicker (to be able to spend more time with them)
• Make eye contact

Even in the classroom we can see participants visibly tense up in the first scenario, and then relax and smile in the second, even though their best friend is not in the room, they are only mentally picturing the encounter.

This is a simple but powerful example of Emotional Intelligence in action. Emotions are part of our DNA, our operating system, and try as you might, you cannot leave your emotions at the door. They are with us every minute of the day. Emotional intelligence is about recognizing this fact, understanding the emotions we are experiencing, why and how best to leverage that emotion to achieve a successful outcome.

Emotionally Intelligent leaders are aware of the emotions they experience in or about work. Consciously and unconsciously these emotions impact the how you communicate and the messages you send to those who work for and with you.

• When was the last time you laughed at work? Why did you laugh? Did others sense your positive mood?
• When was the last time you were frustrated? How did this impact the atmosphere of your team?

My advice? Don’t dismiss EQ as a fad, or as something you don’t need. “I have got to where I am today without it, why would I need to know this?” Think of it more in terms of where do you need to be in the future, to what extent does that rely on building effective relationships and managing your responses in given situations? Emotional Intelligence is the game changer that differentiates great leaders from the pack.

You can learn more about emotional intelligence at Morag Barrett’s SoundviewPro course A Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence. Have you lost it?

Today’s guest blogger is Morag Barrett, the founder of Skye Team and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships. This is Part I of 2.

I lost it yesterday. I was at a meeting and all was going reasonably well. I was aware that I was tired and not focusing 100% on the matter at hand when it happened, I lost it. What happened? Someone made a comment and I decided to come out of my corner fighting. As soon as I did I regretted it.

How many times has that happened to you?

• Have you ever been in a conversation that started ‘heating up’, where the tension and/or complexity increased?
• Where you wanted to say ‘No’ but found yourself saying ‘yes’
• When things didn’t go as well as you would have liked? …

And a few minutes later you’re thinking, “Why didn’t I do this?” or “Why didn’t I say that?”

This is Emotional Intelligence in action… or in my case, re-action, as I didn’t effectively manage my response to the situation. My emotions ‘escaped’ and I only applied the emotional intelligence knowledge afterwards.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Daniel Goleman’s Primal Leadership is an excellent read. If you haven’t already obtained a copy I would highly recommend that you do. Daniel talks about Emotional Intelligence as the key ingredient that causes great leaders and performers to stand out. As you move through your career it becomes less about how smart you are or the results that you achieve personally…it is about your ability to build effective relationships and to motivate and inspire others – to achieve results through them.

Daniel Goleman’s model for EQ has 5 components.

Personal Competence – this comes from you and understanding the following:

1. Self-Awareness– understanding yourself. What is your default behavior, fight or flight? What causes or triggers you to react one way or another and it may be different at home than work. It may be situational, specific to individuals with whom you are working. Once you understand what drives you, you can move to:

2. Self-Management – how can you anticipate and plan for your reactions and triggers. If you know you are about to enter a situation or a meeting that in the past has caused you to behave in a way that is different to what you intended, how can you anticipate and influence your reactions and stay in the moment. And trust me, its one thing to know and anticipate an ‘amygdala hijack’ – when your brain takes control of your ‘sane mind’ and you speak without thinking and another thing to be able to manage it in the heat of the moment. Think about it, how many times have you thought about the ‘right response’ or “I wish I had only…” later on in the day, when it is too late?

3. Motivation -understanding what drives you to individual and team success. How you react to and explain successes and setbacks.
Social Competence -understanding and managing other’s reactions.

4. Connection – once you are aware of your reactions then you can apply these to others. Understanding from their perspective how they may perceive the situation, their reactions and seeking to start from their point of view, to learn and to move forward in an effective manner.
5. Social Skills-the ability to influence others, to communicate effectively such that the shared learning and understanding of different perspectives grow (rather than just focusing on one point of view). To lead and inspire others, to manage conflict effectively and to build relationships that collaborate and work effectively together to achieve common goals.

To Be Continued . . .

You can learn more about emotional intelligence at Morag Barrett’s SoundviewPro course A Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence.

Coaching Us To Do The Right Thing

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog appeared first at Forbes.

When you do something right, do not seek recognition for it.

That was the essence of a comment that Dean Smith made to John Feinstein about not wanting to be remembered for helping to desegregate restaurants in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1958. Feinstein, an author and sportswriter for the Washington Post, had covered Smith for years and got to know the man personally.

Remembering Smith for NPR on the occasion of his death, Feinstein noted how Smith entered a lunchroom with a black man who was a member of Smith’s church. This was a risky move for a young coach to do in the segregated South, and years later Smith’s pastor related the incident to Feinstein. When Feinstein recalled the story to Smith, the coach was disappointed that his pastor had noted it. When Feinstein pressed Smith as to why he would not be proud of his actions as a young man, Smith replied, “John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing, you should just do the right thing!”

Far be it from me to disagree with Coach Smith but I believe it is important to recognize people for doing the right thing. A self-effacing character such as Smith who won two NCAA titles and made 11 trips to the Final Four never wanted a fuss made about him, even asking the University of North Carolina not to name the arena in his honor but rather for the players. In this instance UNC did override Smith’s request.

Smith was a righteous man who stood up for causes larger than himself politically and as a coach for his players. He radiated integrity and so remembering him now for the good things he did is a way to honor his memory. Reporters around the nation hailed Smith as a good coach but an even better man. President Obama, who awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, noted Smith’s triumphs on the court but also cited his involvement in Civil Rights, his recruitment of UNC’s first black players and his 96% graduation rate.

Now is also a time to remind us that we do live in a world that is shaped by good men who do good things. Too often if we focus on the news we learn more bad than good in terms of conflict between people, nations and religions. Digesting such evil day after day it is easy to fall into the trap that evildoers outduel the righteous.

Very often I am asked in interviews about the sad state of the world, specifically the fact that there seem to be too few role models or good leaders. I always disagree. Certainly those who make headlines are executives who make mistakes that end up costing their companies millions. Daily we witness the gridlock that paralyzes national and state politics because elected officials favor partisanship over governance. It is easy to turn cynical.

That said I try always to mention the good example of leadership we have all around us. Everyday we see men and women of good intention struggle against the odds to do what is right for their businesses or their organizations. These are people who teach by their example. Like Dean Smith they don’t seek recognition; they seek to make a positive difference.

For that reason remembering a man such as Smith who did the right thing is to hold a light up against the darkness. In doing so we illuminate a path forward where good deeds are noted, not to the benefit of patting people on the back but for the reason of reminding the rest of us that we can do better because good men and women show us the way.

Learn more about leadership from John Baldoni in his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself before You Say Anything

Marshall Goldsmith has twice been recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50. This blog first appeared on his website.

Conflict is an unavoidable part of our lives, whether we’re CEOs, entrepreneurs, parents, spouses, engineers or ditch diggers. In some cases, conflict stimulates us to accomplish great things. It can also drag us off course, eroding our relationships, stalling our careers and keeping us from becoming the people we want to become.

So which conflicts are useful and which are counter-productive? As an executive coach, I’ve been helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior for more than 35 years. My experience with great leaders has led me to develop a simple formulation, one that can help you avoid pointless skirmishes and help you take on the challenges that really matter. Follow it, and you will dramatically shrink your daily volume of stress, unpleasant debate and wasted time.

I phrase it as a question:

AM I WILLING
AT THIS TIME
TO MAKE THE INVESTMENT REQUIRED
TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
ON THIS TOPIC?

It pops into my head so often each day that I’ve turned the first five words into an acronym, AIWATT (which I find appropriately rhymes with Say What?). AIWATT doesn’t require you to do anything, it merely helps you avoid doing something you’ll regret.

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘I don’t need to repeat a simple question to know which battles are worth fighting.’ But I believe that all of us – even the most brilliant and successful – need exactly this kind of help. In my new book Triggers (Crown, May 2015), I make the case that relying on structure – even something as simple as the AIWATT question – is key to changing our behavior.

Why? Because in every waking hour we are bombarded by people, events, and circumstances that have the potential to change us – the triggers in the title of my book. We often fail to appreciate just how much these triggers affect us, and how difficult it is to fend them off without some kind of support.

AIWATT is just one of the tactics I suggest. Of course, it isn’t a universal panacea for all our interpersonal problems, but it has a specific utility. It’s a reminder that our environment tempts us many times a day to engage in pointless arguments. And, it creates a split-second delay in our potentially prideful, cynical, judgmental, argumentative, and selfish responses to our environment. This delay gives us time to consider a more positive response.

Let’s look at the question a little more closely.

“Am I willing” implies that we are exercising volition – taking responsibility – rather than surfing along the waves of inertia that otherwise rule our day. We are asking, “Do I really want to do this?”

“At this time” reminds us that we’re operating in the present. Circumstances will differ later on, demanding a different response. The only issue is what we’re facing now.

“To make the investment required” reminds us that responding to others is work, an expenditure of time, energy and opportunity. And, like any investment, our resources are finite. We are asking, “Is this really the best use of my time?”

“To make a positive difference” places the emphasis on the kinder, gentler side of our nature. It’s a reminder that we can either help create a better us or a better world. If we’re not accomplishing one or the other, why are we getting involved?

“On this topic” focuses us on the matter at hand. We can’t solve every problem. The time we spend on topics where we can’t make a positive difference is stolen from topics where we can.

Like closing our office door so people hesitate before they knock, asking ourselves, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” gives us a thin barrier of breathing room, time enough to inhale, exhale, and reflect before we engage or move on. In doing so, we block out the chatter and noise – we make peace with what we are not going to change – freeing ourselves to tackle the changes that really matter in our lives.

You can learn more about becoming a better leader at Marshall Goldsmith’s SoundviewPro course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Eight Signs You Discount The Value Of Your Time

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

I have a bulletin board at the door of my office containing several items that would probably appear strange to you, but keep me focused. Some items come and go while others have a more permanent place. One is the memorial program for the recent funeral of a friend who unexpectedly died at 53. Another is an adorable “brochure” that one of my daughters created for me to use several years ago. One item that seems to always stay posted is a chart I picked up at a trade show many years ago that charts how financially valuable one’s time is at work, based on 244, eight hour working days per year. Here’s an example:

If you earn $40,000 per year:

  • Every hour of your work time is worth $20.49
  • Every minute is worth .3415
  • In a year, one hour a day is worth $5000

Every time I see this chart I am quickly reminded that I can not allow my day to be filled with activities that don’t give me a solid “return on investment.” When I do waste time, I frequently force myself to do the math on just how much that lack of intention cost me, and how I could have used those financial resources to support or grow my business, or just provide for my family. You can see the actual chart here.

Whether you work for yourself or for an organization, there is no question that there is a cost associated with not placing a high value on your time. If not financial, it might be in diminished quality of relationships, a lack of personal well-being, or just the sinking feeling (and fact) that your most important things aren’t getting done.

Here are eight signs that help me recognize I am discounting the value of my time… and not making a wise investment of these critical resources:

I accept interruptions as the normal mode of work. Whether the interruption is physical (phone or email) or mental (thoughts of unfinished tasks or other things I need to do), there are steps I can often take to create an environment where my higher priority tasks actually get accomplished. I can move to another work area, shut down my email, or just take a second and write down the thoughts that keep hovering around me like pesky gnats. Unfortunately I sometimes foolishly think I can keep all those thoughts in play and still stay focused.

I am too available. Don’t get me wrong. People sometimes need my attention immediately, but if I always drop everything at a moment’s notice, they come to expect it. And once they are trained that way, it’s hard to break the cycle.

I don’t put filters in place. In our book, Getting to It, Todd Musig and I discuss the use of filters in screening out unwanted interruptions or distractions. Simply put, decide what you will allow to interrupt your work BEFORE the interruption actually occurs. What phone call, email, message, or face to face interaction are so important that you would pause work on your highest priorities to handle?

I don’t create an effective task list. If I just haphazardly make a list and don’t prioritize the items in light of which ones will most move my work forward, it’s easy to get “check happy” and just start plowing through the list, finishing the mundane and unimportant. A more effective approach for me is to ask myself, “If I only got 3 things done today at work that are most aligned with my purpose and goals, what would they be?” With those three in mind, I build my day around them.

I don’t share my current work activities with others. A favorite moment in one of my training programs is when I work with those who are so frustrated with their boss or coworkers because they keep piling on more work. When I ask them if those bosses or coworkers know exactly what they are currently working on at the moment, the answer is usually, “Well…no.” If we don’t communicate what we are working on that is of value to the organization, the team, or to our own personal success, why is it a problem for them to want to fill our schedules with less important tasks? Even in my office I let Belinda know what I am working on so she can make a more informed decision about when to interrupt me…or not. For a more detailed strategy for sharing your work priorities with others, check out my CARD Techinque.

I don’t put limits on meetings or activities. I hear you screaming, “But Jones I am not always the one in control!” True, and for those situations you can only reflect back to the previous point and remind people that your current work is important and you need to get back to it ASAP. For those other events or meetings where you do have influence, reflect on the time needed for completion and plan with that deadline in mind. I’ve also found that if I tell others of my desired time limit, they will often work just as hard to meet it. Don’t tell them and…. you might as well be burning money. For more about the value of limits, click here.

I let multitasking rule my day. The starting and stopping process alone is like throwing money away with all the lost mental resources trying to regain focus. When I define what “done” looks like for a task (or at least how far I can take it with the information or resources I have available), and then work to that objective, I get so much more of value accomplished.

I’m too lazy to get away from distractions. When I first started writing this blog I had multiple messages vibrate on my phone and a number of notifications light up on my tablet. I hadn’t looked at any of them, but my mind was racing with the thought of, “I wonder who the message is from?” After checking the messages, I moved my phone and tablet out of eyesight, and turned my phone to silent. If I’m working on a new training concept or a keynote address, the last place I need to be is at my desk. There are just too many visual reminders that I could be doing something else. If I see my time as valuable, I’ll make other arrangements to get the right work done.

A poem I read many years ago highlights the incredible value each moment has if used wisely:

I have only just a minute, Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

But it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

-Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, check out his SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

5 Tips For Working Smarter, Not Harder

Our guest blogger Faisal Hoque is founder of SHADOKA and other companies.  His newest book is “Everything Connects”. This blog first appeared at Fast Company.

Working smarter requires a combination of critical thinking, discipline, and techniques that we can employ for making continual progress

Regardless of our background, location, or profession, there is one language that is the same, and that language is the language of progress.

Progress certainly comes from putting in the hard work, but working hard is not enough. To achieve our desired outcome, each one of us needs to find our own ways to work smarter.

Working smarter requires a combination of critical thinking, discipline, and techniques that we can employ for making continual progress.

Here are a few techniques that I find helpful:

1. Assess Everything That Needs To Be Done

There is a saying that 80% of our accomplishments come from 20% of our efforts. So what 20% of our work is the most valuable? Once we’ve identified it, focusing the lion’s share of our time and energy in that direction creates progress.

Selecting the right success indicators to drive our activities creates the tasks we can knock out first for greatest impact. Here are three fundamentals for assessing potential for success:

  1. Closely examine your strategy and execution methods from the perspective of your particular situation.
  2. Next, articulate and analyze the impact of your work on yourself, your team, partners, and customers.
  3. Finally, evaluate your own ability to execute, focusing on your assets structure, and capabilities.

2. Limit Your Short-term Goals

Once we have our long-term goal stated as an intention, we need to break it down. Let’s say your intention states a five-year goal. Where do you want to be in one year along the journey?

Let’s say that you want to build a new company. Your new company will offer a unique product. Your year one goal may include developing, commercializing, and market validation of offerings. Your first 30-days goal may solely focus on defining the purpose, audience, and the usage of the product.

Where do you want to be on your journey in the next three months? Perhaps doing market research, positioning, and developing the first version of the product. And so on.

It is very tempting to focus on many goals at once. As we mature our own personal techniques and disciplines, it is very possible to be involved in multiple initiatives. However, limiting goals for each initiative to measureable outcomes is what allows us not to overwhelm ourselves into a state of submission and defeat.

3. Work To Your Own Cycle

Our bodies work in cycles. There are times of the day that are most productive as well as times that are quite the opposite. The most effective way of staying productive is to learn your cycle. Which times of the day do you find that you complete the most tasks as well as those times in which all you can think about is taking a break?

For example, my maximum peak of productivity and efficiency generally occurs between 4:00 am and 11:00 am, so I prefer not setting up meetings during those hours.

Studies show that, on average, our brains are only able to remain focused for 90 minutes; then we need at least 15 minutes rest. This is based on the ultradian rhythm, the body’s “basic rest-activity cycle.”

By taking period breaks roughly every 90 minutes we allow our minds and bodies to refresh and be ready to fire off another 90-minute period of high activity.

4. Create, Modify, Reuse, and Automate

The biggest lesson from my computer science schooling was the concept of reusability. In computer science and software engineering, reusability is the use of existing assets in some form within the software product development process. More than just code, assets are products and by-products of the software development life cycle and include design and implementation technique. Reuse implies the creation of a separately maintained version of the assets.

This notion of reusability can be applied to anything we do. For example, as an author, I first write small blogs, the blogs turns into feature length articles, and articles become the basis of a new book.

Reuse is what gives us speed and efficiency without reinventing the wheel every time we want to create a new asset.

Much has been written about the benefit of automating repeated tasks. Automation can be a great personal and organizational productivity method. For example, you can use a social media scheduling system that posts your content on social media platforms regularly versus you posting repeatedly at different times of the day.

The trick is being conscious enough to connect the dots between our past, present, and future.

5. Summon Your Willpower

In her book Maximum Willpower, Professor Kelly McGonigal talks about three different aspects of willpower; I will, I won’t, and I want.

Understanding these three areas of willpower is key to reaching our productivity goals.

Having the I won’t willpower is saying no to things that will keep you from achieving your tasks such as getting easily distracted with emails, social media, and lengthy useless conversations with others.

The I will willpower is having the will to focus on productivity. As an example, we can use social media to move our work forward or we can choose to become addicted to self-entertainment.

The I want willpower is to remember the end goal and the reason why we are doing what it is that we are doing. Consistently exercising our willpower keeps us focused—and that takes disciplined practice.

You can learn more about techniques for entrepreneurs in Faisal Hoque’s SoundviewPro course, How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.

Imagination: Use It Or Lose It

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog first appeared at www.forbes.com.

How can a one-footed worm kick a soccer ball?

You cannot “put too much thought into such things… [Y]ou have to allow room for imagination and just let things be as they are,” replied Richard Scary, Jr., son of the famous children’s author speaking about one of his father’s greatest creations, Lowly Worm.

The above question was posed tongue in cheek by Scott Simon of NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday. The interview was conducted in connection to the publication of The Best Lowly Book Ever, which was initiated by his father (who died in 1994) but finished by the son, known as Huck Scary. Judging from the interview, Huck has the same kind of wit and humor that his father depicted in his books, which are treasured by parents for their wit and children for their imaginative turns and both for their style and beauty.

Most important, as is evident from Scary senior’s work is a respect for his audience. Richard Scary “loved to put a lot of things on the pages so the children would have a lot to look at, and he also wanted the parents to have a good time.” Scary wanted to entertain children by catering to their own vivid and fanciful imaginations. A child won’t question how a worm can kick a ball. That’s a question for grown ups.

It has become an axiom that as children mature they lose their sense of imagination. Certainly the structures of formal education — coupled at times with a need for conformity — does not encourage imagination and in some areas it is devalued. That said, the world has been shaped by the creative energies of people who refused to stop imagining, whether they were at drawing table or a research bench, or work on CAD screen or managing a new business. Creativity abounds.

Part of the imaginative process is as Huck Scary, pointed out is to stop thinking literally. There is a need for literalism in learning the basics of one’s discipline, or disciplines like science, engineering and medicine, but once we have the rules down we can innovate to our hearts content.

A perfect metaphor for such thinking is jazz, an oft-cited example of free flowing creativity. Jazz musicians will often begin with a standard tune – be it by Harold Arlen or Dave Brubeck – and after playing the melody, the basic thirty-two bars will let it rip into an improvisational tour de force that accents the musicianship of the combo. Think Charlie Parker with his dazzling riffs, Miles Davis with his soaring trumpet solos, or Oscar Peterson with his classically inspired piano maneuverings. It sounds incredible in the hands of such masters. What we forget however is the hours of practice that talented musicians pour into their crafts in order to create sounds that sound spontaneous and unencumbered.

Creativity then is based on substance which in turn becomes transformed by the energy that an artist, scientist or entrepreneur expends in producing something new and something different. Most importantly, as we see in the work of Richard Scary as well as in jazz, there is always purpose. The phrase creativity for its own sake gives short shrift to the intention that creator gives to the work.

Management by nature is administrative. It is designed to make things work operationally. At the same time management without innovation becomes stale and stolid; it degenerates into bureaucracy where policy dictates behavior to denigration of the individual.

Managers then need to fight back against burdensome bureaucracy in order to enable individuals and teams to think clearly and freshly. Why? So they can contribute purposefully. Creativity nurtures the organization and for that reason it must be fostered and stimulated.

Time spent reading Richard Scary – or other great children’s authors – might be a good place to learn how to turn off our literal mindedness in favor of imagining as a child might just how a one-footed worm could kick a ball.

As Huck explained, “Kids understand that Lowly can kick a ball. They don’t care that he can’t back up and then run forward and kick it, but he kicks it.”

Simple when you imagine it!

You can learn more about leadership from John Baldoni at his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

What Really Matters in Life?

Marshall Goldsmith is today’s guest blogger. Goldsmith has twice been recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50.

Most people don’t want to “do nothing’ all day. We have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions. We want to contribute to the world, make it a better place, not “retire” from it to a life of “leisure”. For most of us, the prospects of sleeping in late, lounging on the beach, improving our golf scores, living on cruise ships, and lazing about all day may sound good for a short time, but they hold little allure for us in the long-term.

So, what really matters in life? I can boil the answer to this question down to six major themes:
1) Wealth
2) Health
3) Relationships
4) Contribution/Achievement
5) Meaning
6) Happiness

First a little discussion on the themes.

Wealth – some have more than others, some have less, but most of the people I run across agree that while it can be used to pay for nice homes, fast cars, and fine dining, it can’t purchase meaning. Beyond a middle-income level, the amount of money you have bears little correlation to how happy you are.

Health – is critically important to enjoying life. Good health is a combination of luck, a healthy lifestyle, and medical care.

Relationships – are very important. Everyone I meet clearly values their relationships with friends and family members and sees that these relationships are key to their emotional wellbeing.

Contribution/Achievement – for most of us reading this blog we are fortunate in life and seek to give back, make a positive contribution, even leave a legacy. Helping others as we’ve been helped is important to us.

Meaning – work that has meaning is important to our sense of well being. We want to feel that we are making a real difference in the world.

Happiness – everyone I’ve ever met wants to be happy. True happiness can’t be bought – it has to be lived!

As you contemplate these themes and set your goals for 2015, you might choose to volunteer or work on projects that make the world a better place. You might choose to change to a job or a career where you have more opportunity to serve. For me, I still teach and give classes, but I focus more on advising people how they can have a great rest of their lives rather than just work harder and “make more money.”

Reflecting on life’s purpose should start when you’re young—and never stop. I served on the board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for 10 years, so I had a chance to observe Peter personally. He worked until his death at age 95! He was never interested in retiring. He was interested in working to make the world a better place. Through his example, I learned that making a difference means more than, and is very different from, making a living.

Think about your life. Now’s a great time to start planning the rest of it. How can you make a contribution? How can you find meaning? What will make you happy? How can you make this time count—for yourself, the people around you, and the world?

To learn more from Marshall Goldsmith about improving your life, check out his SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life.

A “Selfie” Of Your Time Management

Today’s guest blog features Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

Selfie

Selfies are everywhere! These self made photos of people doing everything from standing with a best friend to kayaking down a river blindfolded (just wait) are appearing at the rate of one million per day… and that’s the ones we know about. According to an infographic at stylecaster.com, here are some other interesting facts about these portraits:

  • They make up 30% of the photos taken by people 18-24 years of age
  • Selfies are more popular in Australia than any country in the world. Second is Canada and third is the United States
  • 34% of males state that they retouch their selfies while only 14% of females make changes to their selfies before posting

Even world leaders, including President Obama and Pope Francis have snapped pictures of themselves! The picture at the top of this post is one of my favorite selfies, taken with my younger daughter.

All this interest in selfies makes me wonder what a quick and spontaneous “snapshot” of how we are managing our time would look. Would yours:

  • Show you spending time working on our highest priorities, or just switching from one task to another to get through the day?
  • Be more likely to be taken with a friend or loved one… or alone because you keep rationalizing you will have time for them later?
  • Be a generally fuzzy picture because you aren’t sharpening our focus on 3-4 key tasks each day?
  • Reflect a celebration because you stayed focused on that complex assignment and finally finished it?
  • Have you looking exhausted and anxious because you keep denying yourself much needed rest?
  • Be snapped in a spot where you are taking some time for solitude and reflection instead of always trying to cram more and more into each day?
  • Show your children or significant other looking longingly out a door or window or be a snap of them running toward you with a HUGE smile and outstretched arms?
  • Include your phone, tablet, or computer screen showing your 30th post to social media today?

What would your selfie reveal about how you are managing your time?

Learn more about personal productivity at Jones Loflin’s SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

10 Things Everyone Should Know Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

Today’s guest blogger is Faisal Hoque, a self-professed “devoted student of life, entrepreneurship and humanity. Originally Published at Business Insider.

Business literature is filled with definitions of entrepreneurship. And we often speak of entrepreneurship within a tech or startup space, though surely the family running your neighborhood market is also an entrepreneur. Many people around the globe are forced to become entrepreneurs just to survive. 

Unfortunately, there is no exact formula for entrepreneurship. Rarely one finds overnight success. There are no quick fixes. It is unique for each individual. 

For me, entrepreneurship started with the need to survive, then moved on to fulfill my dream, and finally graduated to a need to make a difference (in whatever small way I can). But in many ways, the challenge remains the same. 

I have learned many things through trials and tribulations:

1. There is no substitute for love. 

The great poet Rumi once said: “What you seek is seeking you.”

Sooner or later, our entrepreneurial journey needs to support what we each love to do. It is only when we find the love of our true calling that we find inspiration to fight for our purpose. Our love drives our passion — gives us the energy for the long haul. 

And to discover such love, it takes self-awareness and connecting with ourselves. 

2. You are your greatest investment. 

In rough waters when there is no one to call upon, it is our skills that save us. Mastering our skills requires utter devotion. It is only through daily devotion that we improve our authentic craft. Devotion is our best sustainable self-investment. 

Devotion is what gives us the daily dose of confidence. You can lose everything, but no one can take your authentic craft. 

3. Mindfulness helps you survive.

Several decades ago, the term mindfulness was used to imply Eastern mysticism related to the spiritual journey of a person, originated by Gautama Buddha.

Today, psychologists define mindfulness as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). Being mindful allows us to focus and execute one task at a time.

More importantly, being in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy.

4. Suffering needs to be your friend.

I love this Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

The more things we try, the more likely we are to fail. And that’s very much the essence of being an entrepreneur. 

Failure and adversity inherently invokes pain, suffering, and disappointments. Accepting and growing through our pain is part of entrepreneurial growth. This is hardly easy. Like any other skill, learning to suffer well requires conscious practice and learning. It is only when we learn to welcome suffering, we are able to get up repeatedly. For an entrepreneur, pain is a must — therefore suffering needs be optional.

5. You need to inspire yourself every day.

Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone. Mine often comes from meditation, cooking, writing, listening to music, or watching movies.

For example, writing allows me to consciously put these positive reaffirmations on paper to visualize my destiny. I have also found writing is therapeutic for coping with my adversities. It allows me to turn my anger, fear, and disappointments into inspiration for myself and my readers. It serves as stress relief when I try to turn negative into positive by finally expressing what I feel down deep inside.

6. Avoid people who hold you back.

We all know that the people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success. If you’ve ever been around someone who leaves you feeling exhausted and drained, you have probably encountered an emotional vampire. These people don’t drain your blood, but they do drain your vital energy. Emotional vampires can be found anywhere. 

It is important to avoid people who bring us down, waste our time, take us backward, and have no empathy in our suffering. Make a deliberate effort to spend time only with people who uplift you and make you stronger.

7. Believing in chance encounters moves us forward.

In any journey — entrepreneurial or otherwise — there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing “chance encounters,” where it seems as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. 

They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become business partners, friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a “negative” experience, they turned out to be much-needed lessons for me. I believe chance encounters happen to those who remain optimistic no matter what. 

8. Saying “no” and making tough calls is essential. 

It takes more courage to say “no” than to say “yes.” But if we do it, we protect ourselves from making poor decisions. This tactic can help us stay focused and prevent unnecessary complexity and wrong turns. It can also keep us from getting involved with the wrong people.

Dr. Judith Sills in Psychology Today writes:

“There’s a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes. Yes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But no — a metal grate that slams shut the window between one’s self and the influence of others — is rarely celebrated. It’s a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage.”

9. Being intentionally omnivorous allows us to be diverse. 

An ongoing part of identity building — both in our individual working lives and as part of a team — is to practice inviting a breadth of experiences, a pool of experiences from which we can draw on later in life. When journalists ask artists the lazy question “Where do your ideas come from?” the answer can only be this: their experiences.

To gain a diversity of experience, it requires entrepreneurs to be intentionally omnivorous.

10. Treating yourself kindly is a must.

In his book, “The Art of Happiness,” His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama wrote, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Entrepreneurs are often very hard on themselves. For many, even though it may be easy to show compassion to others, it may be hard to accept, embrace, and be compassionate toward ourselves. Some of us blame others for all our miseries and some blame ourselves. Often it’s easy to blame oneself, feel sorry, and/or put oneself down. It is only through being able to let go, have compassion for oneself, and self-encouragement that we can pursue a long-lasting journey.

Learn more about entrepreneurship at Faisal Hoque’s SoundviewPro course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.