I believe that nothing matters until you know your heart. It all starts in an Austin Session.

Why You Won’t (or Can’t) Opt-In

By | Leadership, Life, Self-Worth | No Comments

A few years ago, my business/creative partner Emily Soccorsy and I coined the term “Opt-Iners”. We use this term to describe the millennial-minded mature leaders (40+ years old) that are opting into the new way of doing business – what we call “being human”. Opt-Iners are self-aware, heart-centric, spiritually curious, tech savvy and adventurous. All very necessary traits in building and growing 21st century brands.

Emily’s recent post entitled “The Most Terrifying Question You Can Ask You” got me thinking – which lead me to this question … why wouldn’t someone opt-in? The evidence is clear that the era of command-and-control leadership, treating humans as capital and treating consumers as idiots is over. Why hold on to any vestiges of that era?

Here could be why …

  1. Industrial-Age Mindset What made a leader a successful in the Industrial Age wrecks organizations and people in the Human Age. From health benefits to workloads to performance metrics to safety, all the ways a company treated people in the Industrial Age are over. You can no longer hurt people, discriminate, suppress, wreck the environment, etc (not that there aren’t still more subtle ways of doing these). Yet much of the Industrial Age thinking remains. A great example is this … in the Industrial Age, you moved the people by moving the numbers (quotas, performance bonuses, productivity metrics, etc). In the Human Age, you move the numbers by moving the people. If you have an Industrial Age mindset about what moves people, it is impossible to opt-in.
  2. Linear Thinking. This is very much related to above. The Industrial Age produced straight lines to improve efficiency, productivity, output. Marketing was a straight line between product and target market. Recruiting was a straight line between job and skillset. In the Human Age, everything is spherical. It’s messy. It’s unclear. It takes a leader to see the patterns and rhythms – and linear thinking is the enemy of spherical thinking. If you see everything as a Point A to Point B activity with a series of processes and checkboxes, it is impossible to opt-in.
  3. Hours in the Office. It’s no longer viable to be addicted to work. Yet thousands of leaders wage a war of attrition with their minds, bodies and souls around how many hours they spend in the office, how they are never disconnected. A cynical view is that vacation time for most leaders is a time to recover enough to go back to grist mill of their role and job responsibilities – like a military leave from a combat zone. In the Human Age, Opt-In leaders measure things through energy acquired and spent. This is partially why EQ and mindfulness are such a hot topic in the business world lately. When you measure things through time spent, it is impossible to opt-in.
  4. Lack of Self Care. Addiction, depression, anxiety and suicides are tragically at an all time high. Too many leaders treating themselves and their people like rental cars or disposable razors. Too much of a massive gap between the real person and the job person. In the Industrial Age, you kept your emotional and spiritual (and often literal) wounds to yourself. You showed up. Because you had to. In the Human Age, these wounds, if left untreated, will wreck your career and hurt the people around you at work and at home. In the Human Age, if you aren’t taking care of you first, its impossible to opt-in.

Each one these areas are a choice. No one can make you do, think or feel anything. So if these resonated with you as reasons why you haven’t opted-in, I encourage you to examine your attachments, beliefs and fears. These three are the root of why we don’t grow, don’t change, don’t evolve. For those of us that have opted-in, it’s essential that we show compassion to those leaders that haven’t. This is not some character flaw. These are not dumb people. They are simply afraid and need some encouragement.

Embracing the Low Tide Moments

By | Life, Self-Worth | No Comments

 

In a year plus of massive transition and upheaval, this week has been especially so. In light of those dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, none of it was life-threatening or cataclysmic. But it still was a force multiplier of emotions that left me weary and raw — but also hopeful and grateful.

Here’s a summary of the week:

  • Our older son Logan and daughter-in-law Sarah moved from Austin back to Portland.
  • Our younger son Caden moved into his own place here in Austin.
  • Lynna and I moved to a new place and spent our first night as “empty nesters”. (An aside, I really dislike that term. Any suggestions on a better descriptor?)
  • Several other key relationships were full of tension, testing and conflict. These are relationships that have been a lifeblood to me so to have them disrupted was especially painful.

Oh … and I still had a business to co-run, clients to coach, spiritual practices to continue, adulting to do.

All of these combined to create a sense of low tide. I had previously hated these low tide moments: when our first son moved out, the passing of my grandparents — plus many other low tide moments in relationships and situations. In each case, I tended to go numb during the low tide moments. I felt exposed and vulnerable. Like everyone could see my scars, the debris, the hidden wreckage. I wanted to hide, lash out, cover up.

At best, these low tide moments were something to endure, something to overcome. So I tried to rush through them — like rushing would bring back the high tide. The low tide moments caused me to harshly judge myself for feeling the way I felt. They also carried a series of triggers that caused me to be hurtful to the people I most love.

This week was different. But I didn’t realize how different until sitting in my new thinking/reflection spot in our new home. In this week of upheaval, my mantra was “find the joy in each moment”. For the most part, I did. There were moments of feeling exposed, but I expressed them. There were moments I lashed out, but I asked for forgiveness. In the process of finding joy in each moment, I had three epiphanies:

  1. Yes, the low tide exposes scars and debris and even some death. But it also exposes treasure, nourishment, discoveries. All of which are impossible in high tide.
  2. No two low tides are the same. The natural process of drawing back and being exposed always appears differently. Yes, some of the same landmarks. But always different treasures and different debris.
  3. The high tide always returns. Always.

My intention is to continue my new-found embrace of low tide moments. I want to use them to practice gratitude, awareness, patience — especially in the low tide moments of relationships. I am certain these are the treasures that the low tide brings every day.

Becoming a Producer Brand

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For the sake of a unified definition, a Producer is anyone that makes a living primarily off commissions and fees. This would include commissioned sales people, financial planners, realtors, CPAs, attorneys – to name a few.

If you are a Producer, you have a brand. Its a combination of the energy you bring into the room, the compiled experiences your clients have with you and the way you interact with others on-line and off-line.

None of that is new information. Most Producers have been avid consumers of books and tips on how to work a room, how to create influence, how to nurture a reputation. What may be new for you if you are a Producer is that you have so much more potential within your brand.

Here are 4 simple but effective ways to boost your brand as a Producer:

  1. Start Speaking. Not about your success as a Producer or about your area of expertise, but your experience as a human being. Each of us have overcome a lot to get where we are at. Within this overcoming is likely your mission – and a series of stories that the world needs to hear. Most audiences have plenty of information. What they need is inspiration. By sharing your sorrows and triumphant, you are showing the world your true self – not a construct designed to just hit your numbers.
  2. Take a Stand. Most Producers have learned that doing good in the community is good for their brand. Most are quite generous with time, money and energy with causes they want to get behind. What if you took it up a notch? What if you took a stand for an idea or purpose that’s intrinsically important to you. We Producers have been taught to fit in, don’t rock the boat, don’t be controversial. This leads to sameness. Instead, find that thing that sets your soul on fire and get behind it.
  3. Write. And Write Some More. The most untapped area of a Producer’s brand is around consistently crafting content in order to become a thought-leader. Whether you use LinkedIn, Medium or some other platform, writing original, thoughtful content about your industry, your area of expertise, your mission, your story are all force multipliers that contribute to your brand as a thought-leader.
  4. Invest in You. The Producer’s life is intense and high pressure. We pour out ourselves to our clients, to prospects, to partners, to family. We don’t live in the magical world of getting a salary every two weeks. This leaves very little left for yourself. When a Producer gets emptied out, they lose their passion and drive. This is when depression, anxiety, addiction sneak in and start running your life. Taking a pause – even if just a day – to re-connect to yourself, examine your thoughts and feelings, to think about the future will make you a better, more reliable Producer.

If you are a Producer, I’m very curious to hear from you about what you do to work on your brand. Reply below or drop me a note at justin at rootandriver dot com.

5 Ways Thought-Leaders Hurt Their Brands

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We are all thought-leaders at something. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a buzz word, but it’s still true. If you are a corporate leader, you are also a thought-leader on your areas of expertise in the business. If you are a small business owner, you are a thought-leader in your industry and/or community. If you are a solo entrepreneur, you are most definitely a thought-leader. In fact, a good portion of the clients we serve at Root + River are solo coaches and consultants with thought-leadership as a business model.

Regardless of which bucket you might fit best in, there are a number of ways you can inadvertently hurt your brand as a thought-leader.

Here are five to consider:

  1. Poor Visuals. This is rampant in thought-leadership – especially with solo brands. Just take a scan through Twitter headers and web sites and you will see a torrent of bad design, stock photos, low resolution graphics. Just to name a few! How does this happen? It’s an ego blindspot. Many people believe their expertise is enough to trigger attraction and how they look doesn’t matter. But poor visuals instantly trigger resistance and suspicion – causing you to immediately fail what we call the Brand Test.
  2. Split Lives. Many of us who started our careers in the 20th century adopted the practice of living split lives. We had a work version of us and a home version of us. While this practice may have been a necessity in the industrial age, it is a brand diluter in the Human Age that we are in now. By building your brand around a construct rather than your true self, you are maintaining a movie set rather than inviting people to your real story – which is much more interesting!
  3. Mis-Use of Social. Like the community pool, gyms and other ways of life, social media has its own set of rules. In attempt to get attention, earn business and other wise stand out, many thought leaders hurt their brands by repeatedly breaking these rules. Examples: over-promoting your offerings, pitching strangers with direct messages, canned content, poor visuals (see #1). All of these are a steady erosion of your credibility and believability.
  4. Being a Cliche Machine. If you don’t know what I mean, follow this guy on Twitter. Or use this handy tool to listen to yourself as you have conversations and give presentations. The use of cliches, buzzwords, acronyms is a blend of insecurity and efficiency. When are you are not confident in your original ideas, your mind will trigger you to fill in the blank with a known term in order to be accepted. We all do this now and again, but when you do it repeatedly, you turn your brand from thought-leader to karaoke singer.
  5. Unresolved Emotional Wounds. We often say at Root + River, we don’t actually work on your brand. We work on you … and you work on your brand. This is because who we are as a human has a huge influence on how we are perceived as a brand. Our brands essentially become projections of our beliefs, habits, world views – and, yes, our emotional wounds. Untreated emotional trauma can create a fog of delusion or despair that erodes your confidence and self-worth.

This list is reflective of what we call “Intrinsic Branding” – the inner work necessary to create a vibrant, awake brand. For business owners and leaders, this inner work includes the culture, customer experience, innovation, differentiation. When you are striving to be a thought-leader, this inner work means working on you – inside and out.

The Seven Thieves of Modern Life

By | Leadership, Self-Worth | No Comments

Despite the headlines, all the data shows that we are in a great age of prosperity and abundance. Probably the most prosperous and abundant era in the history of the human race. Yet if that’s true, why is there still so much suffering and unhappiness — especially in the US?

I believe it’s because we’ve allowed a set of thieves to steal our energy, attention and connection to self. I call these the Seven Thieves of Modern Life. Here they are and what to do about them:

  1. Worry. Worry is highly addictive unnecessary waiting. It’s ego attaching happiness and peace of mind to an external condition or outcome. Worry hijacks our natural coping mechanisms and makes us obsess over the trivial and insignificant. Worry robs us of present moment. Worry warps our lens of how we see ourselves and others.
    Solution: The only solution for worry is action. The first action being awareness of the worry, then a willful decision on what to do about it.

  2. Distractions. We receive 5000–7000 behavioral requests a day. People, alerts, advertising, emails, outside stimuli — all demanding our attention. It has made our minds weary; effecting our decision-making, ability to prioritize and our sense of what is important and what is not important.
    Solution: We all need occasional sacred space — a walk, nature, reading, meditation … whatever is uniquely your recovery space. Even 5–10 minutes of uninterrupted stillness goes a long way. But we must demand it and create it because it can’t be given to us by others.

  3. Comparison. Our economy runs on comparison — improvements, upgrades, status. We compare our lives to each other — often through the lens of social media. We compare our own performance as a human to some impossible ideal that we agreed to. All of this comparing just feeds the ego’s never-ending appetite for more. It robs us of gratitude and self-worth — and puts us in a perpetual state of There or That.
    Solution: The cure for comparison is clarity. Clarity about who you truly are, what you believe, what matters to you. This clarity protects you from internal and external comparison. It allows you to interact with humanity as your true self. It brings discernment to what you give your value and attention to.

  4. Attachments. Attachment is part of the Human App. We naturally attach our happiness to ideals, goals, other people’s behaviors. The list is endless. Attachment becomes a thief when our identity is completely tied up in what we’re attached to. A great example is a career or title. We are not that career or title, but because we are so attached to either, it informs our world view, sense of worth and decisions.
    Solution: The solution to attachments is self-examination. Some would call this “awareness” but I believe it’s deeper than that. If you are honest, self-examination will reveal what you are attached to and how it is driving your decision-making. Self-examination reminds you of your power to trace the root of the attachment to its source — then either say “yes” or “no” to the attachment.

  5. Options. We have too much choice. Closely related to comparison and distractions, we are inundated with options — all designed to consume our attention and value. Comfort, short-term gratification and distraction are plentiful — and just a few clicks away. We create preferences based off these options — and don’t pause to ask if we truly want (let alone need!) that particular preference.
    Solution: The Power of Choice is the solution for options. No one can decide for us. No one can make us do anything. It’s all choice. By reclaiming the power of choice, we are also re-claiming our yes’s and no’s. We are re-establishing what is essential and necessary vs comforts of life.

  6. Information. Similar to options, we have too much information. We search and Google and read reviews and consume “news” — all to feed our ego’s need to know. This robs us of being grounded, centered and present. It also creates the angst that we are missing a key piece of information that we need. And that it’s just around the corner.
    Solution: Context is the solution to too much information. Context is the ability to use reason and logic to discern what’s important and what’s not important. Context breaks the ego’s lock on information and returns it to being a tool rather than a master.

  7. Isolation. So many friends and followers, yet so little actual connection. Many blame social media for this. Social media is just an amplifier of real life. We have found it easier to maintain a cordial, surface distance from most people — even within the walls of our homes. This disconnect from others leads to isolation. A sense of deep aloneness where you lose your sense of self and of humanity. Distractions, coping tools and information just make it worse.
    Solution: Connection is the key. Actual, real soulful connection to other humans. We are designed for solitude (not isolation) so that we can more fully connect to others. This requires a lot of spiritual nudity; showing your true self without the aforementioned attachments. When you can connect on a daily basis, these conversations become little rest stops on the otherwise wearisome road of life.

I’m certain there are more thieves of modern life. And I’m certain that many of these are over-lapping — even feeding off each other. But my key point is this: every one of these thieves enters by invitation. This is why I believe so strongly in sovereignty, self-love and personal liberty. You don’t need to build walls or stronger locks. You just need to stop inviting them to enter your lives.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

By | Self-Worth | 2 Comments

How often do you show up to situations and events as your true self? I have done poorly at this in the past. My pattern was either put on a performance (in order to be accepted) or retracting into a shell (to protect my ego). But that has begun to change.

As I’ve written about frequently here, the last several years have been a time of massive — and often terrifying — transformation. One particular area is this matter of knowing your true self. I had to strip away all that I was taught (directly and indirectly) about myself. And even the ideas and definition of “self”. I’ve had to examine my attachments — and what those attachments do for my identity. I had to strip away veneer and sandblast the remnants of old movie sets and old roles.

Beneath all that, I found someone I love unconditionally. Then, and only then, was I able to show up as me.

The discipline to show up as your true self feels very exposing and vulnerable — a sort of spiritual nudity. Showing up as your true self is full of risks. It may cause many people in your life to turn away. It may cause you to take an unplanned path that doesn’t fit your plan. It will most definitely lead to temporary hurt.

Recent experiences have taught me that showing up as your true self does not eliminate the risk of being hurt or rejected. In fact, it increases those chances. After all, if you have been showing up in costume, you may be unrecognizable out of it. But I did it anyway. I showed up as me. I expressed my fears. I spoke from the heart. I eliminated all pretense. It was terrifying, purifying and exhilarating.

On the other side of all that is this truth: when you show up as your true self, you learn even more about yourself. And that makes it totally worth it.

So … allow me to (re)introduce myself with this …

I am Justin. I am …

  • A living soul
  • God’s unique creation
  • A Sovereign being
  • A whole and complete man
  • A Believer
  • An overcomer
  • A father
  • A friend
  • A leader
  • A Warrior
  • A Messenger
  • A primal, sexual creature
  • A man of simple pleasures
  • A man with high standards
  • A man with a complex mind
  • A truth-seeker and teller
  • A free thinker
  • A learner
  • A Coach
  • A writer
  • A presenter
  • Brave
  • Defiant
  • Sensitive
  • Awake
  • Generous
  • An adventurer

Treat me with respect. Communicate with me with directness and specificity. Don’t stifle my feelings or words. Don’t ask me to modify to make you feel better. Forgive me when my intensity is too much.

This is me. Who are you?

BOOK JUSTIN FOSTER

“I believe nothing matters until you connect with your heart.”

BOOK JUSTIN

BOOK JUSTIN FOSTER

“I believe nothing matters until you connect with your heart.”

BOOK JUSTIN