Posts made in February, 2014

How to Win Without Being a ‘Winner’

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Change Your Thoughts | 0 comments

I’m a loser!

There, I said it.

I’m a big loser who fails most of the time he attempts to do anything.

It took me years of loneliness and rejection before I could get a girlfriend. It took me hundreds of clients before I could be sure that I was giving a good service. And it took me years of rewrites and frustration before I could finally get my message down in a book.

magic-number-oneWith all the challenges I attempt in life, my success rate must be down at about 10%. However, I still have victories. I still win and this is what I hold on to.

Born to Lose?

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I have a feeling you might be in the same boat. The vast majority of us are not born winners. Although we’re bombarded with images and stories of all conquering sports stars and internet heroes earning millions and even billions, these people can be difficult to emulate. So difficult, in fact, that most of us get discouraged before we even start to get our great idea or skill out into the world.

If you find yourself in this situation, and are overwhelmed by what you perceive it’s going to take to achieve your goals, then I want you to remember this:

You don’t need to win every time! You don’t even need to be successful most of the time! You just need a few key victories!   

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at the following examples.

1. Toshiji Fukada.

Who?

The winner of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in the category of Endangered Species. He took a stunning photo of an Amur Tiger in North East Russia as it made a rare appearance by the sea. However, as amazing as the photo is, and as skillful a photographer as Toshiji must be, his success rate on this particular expedition was down at 1.3%.

He camped out in a tiny hunting hunt for 74 days. While enduring cold, cramped conditions and an immense amount of boredom, he also had to put up with the fact that he was failing every day. Despite reports of tigers being in the area; days, weeks and months passed without even a glimpse. Come day 50, though, and he finally got his shot. Emerging out of the forest into the brilliant morning sunlight was a female Amur tiger. He took the winning photo, stayed an extra 24 days (with no further sitings) and finally returned home.

Was his trip a success? If you’re measuring it simply on statistics then the answer would be a resounding no. He experienced an endless amount of time where he was failing to achieve his objective. However, common sense would suggest that it was a huge success. All he needed was that one perfect shot and it didn’t matter what he had to go through to get it. 

2. Tigers

Sticking with the Tiger theme, one would assume that the largest big cat on the planet would be an incredibly effective hunter. Not so. It turns out that Tigers are only successful on approximately 10% of their hunts. Even with all their power, stealth and camouflage, they fail to achieve their objective nine times out of ten. 

3. Tim Ferriss

Heard of The Four Hour Work Week?

Most people have, as it is now calculated to have sold over 1.3 million copies. Then followed The Four Hour Body, The Four Hour Chef and a hugely successful blog. Surely such a successful writer had publishing houses queuing up to offer him deals?

Despite Ferriss appearing to be a phenomenon, this wasn’t actually the case. In fact, he’s a prime example of how you can fail again and again, yet have one key triumph that turns it all around. The original manuscript for The Four Hour Work Week was turned down by 26 out of 27 publishers (a fact he notes in the updated version of the book). This gives Ferris a success rate of 3.8%. However, this apparently low rate doesn’t matter. He held out long enough to have his key success, built his platform and never looked back. 

3 Steps to Achieving your Key Victory

I hope these examples ease some of the pressure you may feel. Too many of us believe we have to be perfect in order to succeed. This is simply not the case. Born winners are rare, perhaps even a fantasy. We ALL have the capacity to string together a few key victories that will enable us to create a successful career, get our message out or even find love.

Here’s how:

1. Develop obsessional persistence

Most people will try a fair few times before they give up on an endeavor. However, this isn’t good enough. You need to develop something beyond ordinary persistence. You need to go into the realms of the crazy and develop ‘obsessional persistence’.

This means that you keep going until you succeed. There is no cut off point. Of course, you try new approaches and learn from past mistakes, but there is no turning back.

All of the characters in the above examples possessed this quality. They simply HAD to succeed and this is what enabled them to brush off failure after failure.

 2. Choose your battles wisely

You don’t have to put all of your effort into every attempt. A Cheetah will frequently pull out of a hunt as soon as it realises the chances for success are slim. It’s a strategy you’d do well to emulate. Save your best for the most important occasions and don’t become too obsessed with winning. Sometimes the effort put into attaining a smaller goal can detract from the energy needed to achieve the greater one.

3. Focus on improvement, not results 

It’s very unlikely that you’ll win every time. It’s probably unlikely that you’ll win even half the time. That’s why it’s so vital, when an opportunity to secure an important victory does present itself, that you’re razor sharp. 

You’ll only be ready for this moment if your focus is on improvement rather than results. Too greater focus on the latter will see you dejected as the inevitable setbacks associated with breaking new ground occur. However, if your focus is on improvement – something that you can be successful at every single day – you’ll be fresh and eager when an opportunity does present itself.

Combine all three of these steps and you’ll have mastered the art of winning without being a winner. And remember, when it’s all said and done, it’s what we DO contribute to the world that counts, not the failures we experienced along the way.

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How to Make Small Talk With Strangers

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Change Your Thoughts | 0 comments

Having good conversations with people you just met is crucial to building friendships. But you only need to have “good” conversations; you don’t need to obsess over having a great first impression.

You don’t need to impress or blow the mind of anyone; you just need to build new ties with people. In this article, I want to share with you the right strategies for having conversations that lead to new friendships.

Avoid Being Too Serious, Too Soon

CYT Small TalkPeople unconsciously need to know if they’re going to be able to have fun, relax and shoot the breeze with you. The way you prove this is to avoid being too serious, too early. Try to find the humor in every situation and take things lightly in conversation. When you become friends with the person, you can show a more serious part of yourself.

The essence of small talk is to go from subject to subject to subject, without going too deep in any of these subjects. When you find that you have a pretty rare common interest, and that it’s worth discussing more in depth, that’s the exception that allows you to stay there for a while.

Practice Small Talk Anywhere

Small talk is your winning ticket as you’re meeting new people; if you don’t know how to do it already, then practice!

Fortunately, it’s easy to practice. You should just realize that you can do it anywhere you are; you have permission. You can do it with salespeople, bartenders, cab drivers, people in line, etc.

They like it when people are nice and talk to them a little more than necessary, so it’s a win-win.

The rule of thumb here is to talk 5% more than usual.

Try and put a few more words, one or two sentences more than usual. Your “usual” will grow with time; your mind will be more and more comfortable talking to people you just met. It gets better as you practice.

Small talk isn’t logical, it doesn’t have an outcome behind it. We use it to relate to people, to find things in common, to prove that we’re similar, and we’re comfortable with each other.

As I said, if you think you need practice, don’t hesitate to start ASAP. At the same time, even if this is not a priority for you, it’s still cool to be nice and cheer up the people that meet day-to-day.

Avoid Filtering Yourself

When you meet new people, it’s easy to think that you’re only allowed to talk about interesting things. This usually happens if you have doubts about whether you’ll be judged or criticized for what you say. It also comes from that myth of the “first impression.”

Friendship, is not like dating; it’s also not like selling, and definitely not like applying for a job.

It’s way, way lower pressure than that. Mostly, people want to have someone who they can relate to, who they can feel relaxed around, and who can listen as well as talk.

There is no place for trying to impress people. When you meet people who are socially skilled, they’ll actually tolerate that “I’m perfect” talk, for a while, but that’s just to figure out who you really are. It’s just creates a delay, and makes the friendship take more time to start.

People can’t be friends with you if you’re not ready to lower your guard.

This “pressure” to only talk about cool, impressive, interesting, extremely relevant, important, or funny subjects stifles you. 99% of what you could talk about is not that amazing; so if you censor yourself, it’s easy to end up with nothing to talk about.

I suggest you lower your standards and widen your filters of what you can talk about. Give yourself more freedom and slack; that’s what friendship is for, goofing around, making mistakes, and being yourself.

If you’re less socially skilled than the people you’re with; they’ll still tolerate you if you’re not arrogant and can at least give your two cents on most of the subjects that come up.

And if you practice talking about whatever comes to your mind, you’ll polish your conversation skills so quickly, you’ll learn a lot before you even notice.

Understand that people need to know that you’re “there,” that you can speak your mind. This helps them trust you; people who never speak their mind come across as if they’re hiding something.

Learn More

If you want to learn more techniques for meeting new people, I recommend that you get on my Free Social Skills Newsletter.

In it, I’ll show you the best techniques and strategies for meeting and making friends. I’ll also share with you effective techniques for having amazing conversations, that instantly make people want to get to know you.

See you there.

– Paul Sanders

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Leading Like the Energizer Bunny

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Great Leadership By Dan | 0 comments

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

 

Guess what?  It can’t be done.  No human can keep on going and going without recharging their “batteries”.  And when leaders start running on empty, bad things can happen.
Leaders who aren’t able to effectively manage their energy are subject to:

·       Making poor decisions
·       Communicating ineffectively
·       Missing the obvious and the subtle
·       Managing their emotions improperly

So what techniques do leaders use to manage their energy?
1. They surround themselves with people who are energy producers not energy users.

Take a look around you. Where are the windmills and solar panels in your organization and personal life? You should be able to think of their names quickly. When you need a boost reach out to them.

These are the people who see a half full glass and immediately start making lemonade out of a pile of lemons. They are also the people who respect you and value the gifts you bring to the organization, and they are the ones who step in to help you when you need help.
2. They take short periods of time each day for just themselves.

We all have our own biorhythms and we know at what point in the day our energy will drop and when we are at our best. Prepare for those drops in energy before they come and take time to reenergize. Talk a walk and visit with your energy producers or find a quiet place to close your eyes and go to your “happy” place.  This is a place that is either real or imagined where you can refuel.  It is a place that only you know; it creates a sense of peace and relaxation.

3. They use their high-energy times like the Energizer Bunny.

Leaders can accomplish a lot when they use their high-energy times to tackle the difficult and important such as decisions and communications. They quickly prioritize and use their energy as effectively as possible by getting the most important things off your list.

4. They delegate effectively.

The leaders who feel drained, more often than not are just saying yes to too many people and projects. They are the ones who want to help solve all the problems because they have the correct solution.

Being able to let go of things that others around you can do, may even want to do, is a great energy management technique. Focus on those things that are providing the most value to the organization and those things that use your strengths not your challenges.
Don’t get trapped into the cycle of low energy.  Use these 4 techniques to manage your energy, decrease your stress, and become a much more effective leader. Not only will your employees thank you but your friends and family will as well.
Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. She is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA. And she is a Certified Managerial Coach. Beth’s insight and expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. To learn more about Beth visit BethArmknechtMiller.comor Executive-Velocity.com.
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How to Stop Worrying: 9 Simple Habits

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Positivity Blog | 0 comments

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Leo Buscaglia

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”
Swedish Proverb

Worry.

It starts with a nagging thought.

That creates another few thoughts.

And before you know it there is a storm brewing in your mind, making you think irrationally and zapping your mental and physical energy.

Your old friend is back, creating chaos within.

 

I am no stranger to it either and to the powerful negative effects it can have on life and the happiness in it.

But in the last decade I have found several habits that have helped me to greatly decrease my worrying and to more easily handle such thoughts when they pop up.

1. Most of things you worry about have never happened.

I love this quote by Winston Churchill:

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

I have found it to be very true in my own life.

So when you feel worries starting to pop up ask yourself this:

How many of the things I feared would happen in my life did actually happen?

If you are anything like me then the answer will be: very few. And the very few ones that actually happened were mostly not as painful or terrible as I had expected.

Worries are most often just monsters you build in your own mind.

I find that asking myself this question regularly and reminding myself of how little of the worries that actually came to life makes easier and easier to stay calm and to stop a worried thought before it becomes a big snowball of negativity.

2. Avoid getting lost in vague fears.

When fears feel vague in your mind, when you lack clarity then it is very easy to get lost in exaggerated worries and disaster scenarios.

So find clarity in a worry-inducing situation by asking yourself:

Honestly and realistically, what is the worst that could happen?

When I have answered that question then I follow it up with spending a bit of time on figuring out what I can do about it if that pretty unlikely thing happens.

In my experience, the worst that could realistically happens is usually not as scary as what my mind could make up when it is running wild with vague fears.

Spending a few minutes on finding clarity in this way can save you whole lot of time, energy and suffering.

3. Don’t try to guess what is on someone’s mind.

Trying to read someone’s mind usually doesn’t work too well at all. Instead, it can very easily lead to creating an exaggerated and even disastrous scenario in your mind.

So choose a way that is less likely to lead to worries and misunderstandings.

Communicate and ask what you want to ask.

By doing so you’ll promote openness in your relationship and it will likely be happier as you avoid many unnecessary conflicts and negativity.

4. Say stop in a situation where you know you cannot think straight.

From time to time when I am hungry or when I am lying in bed and are about to go to sleep I can become mentally vulnerable. And so worries can more easily start buzzing around in my head.

In the past this often lead to many minutes of time that where no fun.

These days I have become better at catching such thoughts quickly and to say to myself:

No, no, we are not going to think about this now.

I then follow that up with saying this to myself:

I will think this situation or issue through at a time when I know that my mind will work much better.

Like when I have eaten. Or in the morning when I have gotten my sleep.

It takes some practice to apply this one consistently and effectively but it also makes a big difference in my life.

5. Remember, people don’t think about you and what you do as much as you may think.

They have their hands full with thinking about what other people think of them. And with thinking about what is closest to their hearts like their children, pets, a partner or the job or school.

So don’t get lost in worries about what people may think or say if you do something. Don’t let such thoughts hold you back in life.

6. Work out.

Few things work so well and consistently as working out to release inner tensions and to move out of a headspace that is extra vulnerable to worries.

I also find that working out – especially with free weights – makes me feel more decisive and focused.

So even though working out helps me to build a stronger body my main motivation to keep doing it is for the wonderful and predictable mental benefits.

7. Let your worry out into the light.

This is one of my favorites. Because it tends to work so well.

By letting your “big” worry out into the light and talking about it with someone close to you it becomes a whole lot easier to see the situation or issue for what it really is.

Just venting for a few minutes can make a big difference and after a while you may start to wonder what you were so worried about in the first place.

Sometimes the other person may only have to listen as you work through the situation yourself out loud.

At other times it can be very helpful to let the other person ground you and help you find a more practical and useful perspective on the situation at hand.

If you do not have anyone to talk to at the moment about the worry bouncing around in your mind then let it out by writing about it. Just getting it out of your head and reasoning about with yourself either on paper or in a journal on your computer can help you to calm down and find clarity.

8. Spend more time in the present moment.

When you spend too much time reliving the past in your mind then it easy to start feeding your worries about the future. When you spend too much time in the future then is also easy to get swept away by disaster scenarios.

So focus on spending more of your time and attention in the present moment.

Two of my favorite ways to reconnect with what is happening right now:

  • Slow down. Do whatever you are doing right now but do it slower. Move, talk, eat or ride your bicycle slower. By doing so you’ll become more aware of what is happening all around you right now.
  • Disrupt and reconnect. If you feel you are starting to worry then disrupt that thought by shouting this to yourself in your mind: STOP! Then reconnect with the present moment by taking just one or two minutes to focus to 100% on what is going on around you. Take it all in with all your senses. Feel it, see it, smell it, hear it and sense it on your skin.

9. Refocus on the small step you can take to move forward.

To move out the worried headspace I find it really, really helpful to just start moving and taking action to start solving or improving whatever I am concerned about.

So I ask myself:

What is one small step I can take right now to start improving this situation I am in?

Then I focus on just taking that small step forward. After that I find another small step and I take that one too.

Image by Amparo Torres O. (license).

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Culture Counts

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Leadership Now | 0 comments

Leading Forum

Corporate America has had no shortage of heroes: Kellogg, Hewlett, Disney, Packard, Kroc, Watson, Ash and Iacocca. These leaders come to mind as examples of lions that have emblazoned their names as corporate giants. But far more important than heroic reputations are the values these captains of industry personified and instilled within their organizations.

When reading the news these days, I sometimes wonder if we have completely forgotten the tenets these titans used to shape American industry. While it is true that history can both illuminate and obfuscate, we would do well to remember the past in the case of these great examples.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of spending a summer at Abbott Laboratories in North Chicago as a PhRMA Fellow. There I observed a wide array of Abbott executives, scientists and managers. I was struck not only by their disciplined approach but also by their freedom to discover, develop and design within broad operating parameters—conditions I did not typically associate with large, for-profit corporations. It was there that I first became fascinated with the question “what makes a successful organization.”

As a manager “on loan” to Abbott from the University of Michigan, I quickly found similarities between the two organizations. While it may be better known to some for its legendary football, winged helmets and “Hail to the Victors” fight song, Michigan, much like Abbott Laboratories, is one of the world’s premier research institutions where scientific rigor, intellectual freedom and disciplined scholarship thrive in a lively, entrepreneurial and decentralized university environment. I realized then that the same core principles could apply regardless of industry.

Perhaps the most crucial linking pin connecting great leaders and their vision is the personal value system they demonstrate and teach to others which becomes ingrained in the fabric of the firm, the so-called “corporate culture.” Today’s best leaders realize that a strong corporate culture is the glue which unites people and provides them with a raison d’ etre that’s bigger than any product or service. Profit is necessary, but it shouldn’t be the paramount goal. Results from a seven-year study conducted by the Workplace Research Foundation and University of Michigan investigator Palmer Morrel-Samuels, as reported recently in Forbes, confirmed that, as employee morale improves, a firm’s stock price enjoys higher returns.

Undeniably, today’s global marketplace is a far cry from the insular corporate environment of the past. Perhaps two of the biggest barriers today to establishing and perpetuating an enduring corporate culture are:

  • excessive CEO and executive compensation packages, reflective of greed and a short-term mindset; and
  • a workforce comprised of increasing numbers of younger employees who do not often remain at a company for more than a few years.

When a widening gulf in salaries and benefits between the top and bottom ranks of an organization exceeds acceptable bounds, employees are less likely to feel a need to work harder, let alone possess the sense of loyalty, responsibility and trust needed to help solve a company’s most pressing challenges. They will often point to the C-suite where executive perks and bonuses are out of control and say “Let them solve it!” As companies have had to cut costs to survive and, as result, expect remaining employees to pick up the slack, the disparity in compensation has become a battle cry across the business landscape that is now reverberating in the halls of Congress.

The younger workforce presents challenges as well. This generation is far less enamored by traditional organizations and is more independent than any that came before. They can pose major challenges for today’s managers, especially if those managers are part of a different generation. New forms of stimulus and incentives should be created to appeal to these technologically savvy, bright and environmentally conscious young minds. Presenting more stimulating assignments, frequent two-way dialogue and company-supported affinity groups can help achieve this.

The values of many former great leaders were forged by the experiences of the Great Depression, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and humble beginnings. They understood the impact that a strong, adaptive corporate culture has on organizational performance, the true mark of leadership.

They treated workers as their greatest asset, investing in and motivating them. They understood that the purpose of business was to serve the customer. They expected high standards for employee behavior which they themselves modeled and reinforced.

Perhaps if today’s business leaders took a page from history, their companies would achieve the success created by the enlightened leadership of past corporate giants. And that would be a good thing.


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Ritch K. Eich, Ph.D. (Michigan), is president of Eich Associated, a marketing and public relations consulting firm. He is the author of numerous publications in the field of leadership, organizational behavior and management. He is the former Chief of News and Public Affairs at Stanford University Medical Center and is the author of Real Leaders Don’t Boss (Career Press, 2012) and Leadership Requires Extra Innings (with Second City Publishing Services, 2013).

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