Category

Leadership

Why You Won’t (or Can’t) Opt-In

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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.

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

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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.

Thoughts on Independence

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Independence Day is my favorite of the official US holidays. It is the only one that celebrates the individual. Sure, we use it to celebrate the forming of a nation, but that effort was lead by individuals who valued (mostly) the power of individuality; of personal liberty. When enough individuals get together and decide they want to be independent, it creates a revolution. This is still true in societies, businesses and in relationships.

According to psychologist and college professor Jared Peterson, all societies and tribes go through a cycle of order, corruption and chaos. Each phase produces antagonists (primarily apologists and institutionalists) and protagonists (primarily messengers and warriors). Our nation’s short history shows that we were birthed in the corruption phase and have been through the cycle of all three several times since. Businesses go through the same cycles, but call it something different: innovation. Individuals go through the same cycles, but call it something different: enlightenment.

I believe the US is in between the phases of corruption and chaos. That we are governed by two of the most broken, least trusted brands (Republicans and Democrats) is evidence enough of this. But there’s more …

We are in the age of extremes; with there currently being two sides of these extremes.

On one side, the so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) with their obsession with labels and moral relativism — deciding what is offensive and what is acceptable according to their own biases. They are their own religion — preaching the gospel of Worship of the State. And this circular error of logic: everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.

On the other side, the New Right. This is actually two sub-groups: 1) Evangelical “Christians” and 2) the Alt-Right. The Evangelicals are actively seeking to make their brand of Christianity a state-sponsored religion. They judge people on their sexuality, places and methods of worship, and not looking or acting in an “appropriate” way. And this twisted ideology: America is a great country but its citizens are all sinners that need saving.

Here’s the irony. These two extremes are essentially the same people — they just hate different things. They are both narrow, judgmental, exclusionary, easily offended and spiritually asleep. They both shut down discourse and disagreement. They have both sold their souls and their ability to reason to achieve power and status. And most of all, they are both terrified by the power of the individual. Which leads us back to Independence Day — the celebration of individual liberty.

Ayn Rand says it best …

It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement — and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders’ motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world.”

To step away from the extremes is to embrace individualism and personal sovereignty. It takes tremendous conviction and courage to do so. (Remember, every movement is started by a tiny minority.) It also takes three specific skills to master:

  1. Know Your Intrinsic Beliefs: These are beliefs arrived at through discovery and enlightenment not beliefs taught or dispensed. We all have them if we seek them. Its these intrinsic beliefs that fuel our purpose to preserve our individuality. It is within these beliefs you will find your mission.
  2. Seek and Speak Truth: Truth exists but it must be sought. Ignore those that say there is no truth. Ignore those that say they have the truth to give (or sell) you. Within this truth is your message. Once discovered, you must speak this truth. It is your #1 weapon — a fire that destroys pretense and specious behavior.
  3. Express, don’t Explain. You don’t need to explain yourself. You just need to express truth. When the extremes demand that you explain or defend yourself, it would be good to remember something every great spiritual teacher embodied: the use of questions and the use of silence. Become adept at both.

I firmly believe that the desire to be free and to express our individuality are both inherent features of our human app; a strand of source code that we can re-connect to as a bulwark against extremism, sameness and distractions. When we connect to our own sovereignty, we transform into reluctant heroes — thinking differently, speaking differently and living differently.

5 Signs You Aren’t Spiritually Curious

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Just as emotional intelligence (EQ) has become a more respected leadership measurement than IQ, I think spiritual intelligence (SQ) will eventually transcend both EQ and IQ — especially related to leadership. While there are assessments for both IQ and EQ, I’m not sure if there will ever be an assessment for SQ. But I am certain that being spiritually curious is the starting point.

What do I mean by “spiritually curious”? It might be easier to explain by reverse engineering from these 5 signs you ARE NOT spiritually curious …

  1. You don’t ask “Why?” enough. This is the most obvious one. Asking why is an indicator of healthy skepticism. From the Apostle Thomas to Galileo to the Wright Brothers, free thinkers have listened to the voice that asks why and used it as fuel to discover, invent and innovate.
  2. All of your beliefs were taught to you. One of the questions we ask prior to a Root Session is “What is something you’ve always believed?” This question is intended to prompt the participant to go inward and examine the difference between always-been-there beliefs and beliefs taught to them by religious figures, parents, teachers, talk show hosts, etc.
  3. You use belief terms for science. Do you “believe” in evolution, global warming, quantum physics, etc? These are theories to prescribe to, not things to believe in. By using belief terms for scientific theory (or facts), you make science a form of religion.
  4. You use scientific terms for beliefs. A sure sign that you lack spiritual curiosity is that you want scientific proof of the unexplained and the unexplainable. To be spiritually curious means to have at least some level of faith in the unknown. It means having the intellectual humility to accept that not everything can be known.
  5. You are threatened by people who don’t believe what you believe. If you are afraid to listen to, study or expose yourself to people with alternative belief systems, you are encasing your soul in an atrophy-inducing pod where nothing grows. This type of religiosity not only creates a barren life, it creates fear-based tension between peoples.

Here is a free #6 sign you aren’t spiritually curious … if this post offended you.

A Question from a Young Entreprenuer

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One of my great joys in life is mentoring young entrepreneurs. One of the young entrepreneurs I’ve been mentoring sent me an email with the subject line “Being real”. In her note, she expressed battling doubts, fears and uncertainty as she moved forward with her venture. With her permission, I’m sharing a portion of her email and my response to her.

A snippet of her note:

I am okay that this is a part of the process and I am ultimately growing. I just don’t want to get stuck in a phase of this process due to fear. I think I am still struggling with actually believing in myself (not my inherent worth, but my capabilities as the container/messenger of this movement.) I have this fear that no one will follow me or be interested as I pursue this.

So my question is, what did you do when you were in a time of life where you didn’t believe in yourself? Are there any activations that I can submit myself to in order to be strengthened to trust the container that I am?

My response to her:

First, thank you for being so vulnerable. As Brene Brown says, “vulnerability is the greatest act of courage”. So being vulnerable with how you feel is already a sign of bravery!

The entrepreneur life is the acceptance of fear, not the absence of it. This took me a long time to understand. I used to say that I wake up terrified everyday, then talk myself out of it! Then I realized how foolish that was and how much energy it was sucking up battling fear. Now, I just accept FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) as part of the entrepreneur’s life.

Fear is always there because our ego loves to be in survival/scarcity mode. It wants you to feel safe and secure – even when it’s not all that safe and secure! The real safety and security is moving forward with a calling to do what is asked of you. Nothing is more secure than that unbreakable rope of faith!

The only cure for doubt and fear (any form of a lack of confidence) is action. As you take steps forward in action, your confidence will grow. In short, you don’t wait for confidence. You act and confidence follows.

A few specific tools for dealing with fear:

  • Acknowledge their existence but treat fears like a fog not a barrier. This allows you to pass through the fog to the other side.
  • Challenge fears and doubts. Ask them questions like “What is the source of this?” and “What are you doing here?” If they are real fears, you will be able to take action on them. If they are false (which most are), they will dissipate.
  • Express your fears. Find someone you trust and pour out to them. When expressed, all fears shrink or disappear. Like warm sunlight erasing the fog mentioned above.
  • Be aware of where you feel the fear in your body. If it’s in your head, it’s 99% not real. If it’s in your heart or another part of your body, you need to tune in and listen for a bit. There may be a hidden lesson in the fear you have been missing.

In the moments of heightened levels of anxiety, there’s a great Navy SEAL exercise to do:

  1. Calm your breathing – this will get you present and empower you. What’s more powerful than control your own life force!
  2. Visualize success – create a picture in your mind of what’s on the other side of the fear, anxiety, doubt
  3. Use positive language – words are extraordinarily powerful; especially self talk. So change your language you use with yourself and others.
  4. Take action – determine the next 3 – 5 steps and then act on them!

Most of all, go to the heart. That’s where your calling is stored. That’s where you will find courage and strength.

5 Ways to Be Miserable

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The above image is from the bathroom scene in “Liar, Liar” — the last Jim Carrey movie to actually be funny. Here’s the clip of the scene. If you don’t want to spend 3 minutes laughing, the money line is this: “I’m kicking my ass. Do ya mind!?”

With that headline and clip, this post may seem like I’m in a dark mood. I’m not. I’m actually optimistic and hopeful you can actually learn to stop kicking your own ass by reverse engineering behaviors and mindsets that cause misery. In short, by dismantling suffering, you can create happiness.

Here are 5 ways to be miserable (and 5 things to do instead):

  1. Systemic Beliefs: These are beliefs taught to you by someone else — parents, teachers, churches, politicians, celebrities, bosses. They’ve all poured beliefs into you that were intended to shape in you a some way. Usually in the form of religious or political doctrine. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr refers to this as “domestication”. Systemic beliefs cause misery because they aren’t actually your beliefs. This triggers comparison (see below) and induces a stream of guilt and shame. And the ego gets addicted to guilt and shame like the body gets addicted to sugar. Besides guilt and shame, the surest sign of systemic beliefs is stunted spiritual growth. So do this instead: understand your Intrinsic Beliefs. These are the beliefs that you’ve always known to be true. They weren’t taught to you. They are also beliefs revealed to you through a spiritual journey or transformation. You will find that these intrinsic beliefs are guideposts for your mission and purpose.
  2. Extrinsic Obsession: This is my term for having attachment issues; of attaching your happiness, self-worth and value to people and outside conditions. This is the root of materialism and the cause of the rampant addiction to comfort and ease. When combined with systemic beliefs, it becomes a dark voice that says “You aren’t enough. You don’t have enough”. It is also the root of creating additional suffering through already difficult times. Extrinsic obsession robs you of your power of choice over your perspective. Concentration camp survivor and author Viktor Frankl says this: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Frankl offers us an alternative to extrinsic obsession: Intrinsic Focus. This is focusing on the things you have actual power over: mindset, words, reactions and the most powerful tool, breathing.
  3. Lack of Self-Care: This corrosive habit comes in many forms — lack of care for the body, mind, soul and heart. Usually under the auspices of not wishing to appear selfish (extrinsic obsession!). So many people go about quietly kicking their own asses by poor nutrition, lack of exercise, not settling the mind, addiction to technology, lack of sleep, pretense in relationships and many more. They slowly empty out and never take action to fill back up. This puts the ego in charge and creates a near-constant mindset of scarcity and survival. There are thousands of ways to do this differently, but I will give you three you can do every day: 1) Spend 5–15 minutes in solitude. This doesn’t include your car ride to work. 2) Eat clean. You will be amazed about how much better you will feel. 3) Move. Walk, yoga, lift weights — just move.
  4. Comparison: The meaner cousin to assumptions, comparison conspires with all of the above to put you in a constant state of benchmarking yourself against others. Comparison is so powerful it is the #1 advertising manipulation tool. But when left unchecked, it wrecks careers, relationships and identities. Other than values mis-alignment, I also believe it is the root of most conflict. Consider a recent spat you had with a partner or co-worker. Chances are high that it was because one or both of you were in comparison mode. The opposite of comparison is Standards. These are an internal set of expectations for performance and quality — without all the guilt, shame and doubt. Standards allow you to set success points for growth to trigger accomplishment and increased self-worth. Standards teach you what to say yes or no to. They teach you discipline, discernment and healthy detachment.
  5. Trying Too Hard: This might be the summation of the first four, but it feels like a stand-alone misery trigger. This is primarily an issue with over-achievers who are trying to feed the soul through frenetic activity. More, more, more! Go, go, go! It’s a striving to make things exactly how we want them to be. Yet despite all the effort and busy-ness, nothing ever turns out the way that we planned. And if it does, we aren’t really happy because in trying too hard, success, joy and situations becoming manufactured not discovered. I’m not saying you should stop trying. I’m saying there are better ways to use all that energy. The antidote to trying too hard is Taking Action. This is a simple planning and execution exercise: set a short-term measurable, achievable and reasonable goal then determine the next 5 actions (not activities) that you are going to take. Then do them and start another next 5. Of course you will have work, life and self maintenance, but these next 5 are the ONLY thing to focus on as it relates to effort.

The lesson from all of this is that MISERY IS OPTIONAL. It has nothing to do with other people, outside conditions, our past, who is President, who is not President, who did or did not win the Super Bowl. By understanding that misery is optional, we can learn that we control the human app. It doesn’t control us. And we when control it, we learn that this very moment contains everything we need to be happy.

How to Kill Your Culture

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Call it a buzzword if you want,”culture” is still the hottest topic in organizations. Senior leaders of global companies talk about it. Small business owners talk about it. Start-up founders talk about it. Employees talk about it. Vendors talk about. And customers talk about it.

There is a plethora of writing on creating/growing/preserving a culture. I am going to take a different tact of reverse engineering cultural decay. In short, I am going to teach you how to kill your culture.

  1. Stop Telling the Truth. Make sure that you spin everything to be perfect and neat. Encourage feedback but don’t do anything about it. Punish or suppress those who point out problems. Manage the narrative. Make sure that truth is pushed into whispered hallway conversations, over beers afterwork or anonymously shared on social media. When you receive data that you don’t like, be sure to twist it to fit your world view.
  2. Pretend There’s No Hierarchy. Talk about creating a flatter, more nimble organization. Get rid of org charts, traditional reporting structures and performance reviews. But don’t change any of the managers who have their position because of hierarchy. Be sure to promote people into leadership positions who know how to talk about modern business practices but are immersed in 20th century thinking. Pretend that all opinions and views are equal. Most of all, talk about “servant leadership” without ever actually serving anyone.
  3. Practice False Enthusiasm. There are no problems. Everything is great! Sure, we have somethings to work on but all is wonderful. Gather your teams and lead them on cheer sessions with repetitious sayings. Bring in motivational speakers to motivate everyone because you don’t know how to do that. Be sure to label people who point out problems as “not team players.” When facing employees, the media, shareholders or customers, paste on a big smile and use folksy terminology.
  4. Preach Diversity; Practice Tyranny. Talk about how everyone should be free to be themselves. Heck, get rid of strict dress code policies. Even have a Hawaiian shirt day! Get everyone to start expressing their true selves and then … monitor cubicle displays for anything that might be consider offensive. Tell people to cover up their tattoos. Make sure everyone speaks the same language and uses the same lexicon.
  5. Properly Allocate Resources. Use HR as an internal affairs department to root out any problem employees. Use your Marketing team to create rosy narratives and snappy ad campaigns. Use your Dev/Research team to create products that hurt the planet and rob consumers of their identities. Use your Customer Service team to manage complaints. Use your Finance experts to keep the funding flowing for your self-made problems.

Oh, and one more thing …

Spend plenty of time for yourself in retreats, spa days, golf excursions. After all, managing the process of killing your culture can be draining.

Or …

Be an awake leader and do the opposite of all these and build something amazing that produces happiness, value and meaning for all involved.

5 Questions for Year-End Pondering

By | Leadership, Self-Worth | No Comments

These are the 5 questions I’ve been asking myself and sharing with my various circles.

  1. What is something you learned about yourself in 2016? Use your beliefs and behaviors as a starting point.
  2. What is something you wished you would have learned about yourself in 2016? This might be something you’d like to work on in 2017.
  3. One year from today, what do you want to be celebrating? Think in terms of tangible success — i.e. holding up a Super Bowl trophy.
  4. What is the top success factor/measurable for reaching the above goal? Often referred to as the “number”; the one number that determines success.
  5. What current habit, behavior or bias could prevent you from reaching your celebration goal? We are our own biggest obstacle.

In the spirit of transparency, here are my answers.

  1. In 2016, I learned how to surrender. By “surrender”, I don’t mean surrendering my beliefs, sovereignty, or values. I mean surrendering to the things that I don’t have control over — especially related to other people’s behavior and decisions. It took me all year and I still feel like I have to re-learn it daily.
  2. I wished I would have learned active patience. 2016 has been a year of waiting in almost every aspect of life. During the waiting, I would frequently let the waiting turn in to obsession; which would turn in to anxiety. The good news is that I had previously learned to create space between emotions and actions — so I had the wisdom to not be brash. That said, I could have used way more of the waiting time for “active patience”: growth, productivity, creativity.
  3. One year from today, I want to be celebrating the publishing of three books. One will be a book of my #musings from Instagram. The other will be the last of the “Bacon” books (working title: “Soul Bacon: How to Have a Life that Sizzles”). And the third will be a book co-authored with my Root + River partner Emily Soccorsy. 
  4. The #musings book is essentially written and just needs layout and print. So the top success factor is the discipline to schedule writing time and actually write. Specifically this number is 10 hours per month.
  5. The top habit/behavior/bias that would prevent success would be getting overwhelmed and living in Covey’s Quadrant One of urgent-and-important. This is unsustainable and robs me of the energy, joy and discipline to create.

If inspired, take a run at answering these questions. And if feeling brave, share your answers in the comments or drop me a note a justin@fosterthinking.com.