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Self-Worth

5 Questions for Year-End Pondering

By Leadership, Self-WorthNo 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 [email protected]

 

What I Read in 2016

By Self-WorthNo Comments

In 2015, I re-discovered the passion for reading I had when I was younger. In 2016, I made reading a focused, specific habit as an essential part of my personal growth. As the year winds down, I have been reflecting on what I read the past years. Of course, there were the hundreds and hundreds of blog posts, news articles and enewsletter subscription content. As well as a daily stream of Instagram and Tumblr poems, quotes and micro-stories. I also occasionally indulged in contemporary fiction and even made a thrift shop run to buy a pile of Louis L’Amour paperbacks. While all of that reading entertained and informed, it was the reading of books that produced the most growth. Real books for holding in the hand, marking up with a highlighter and snapping the most moving passages for social media.

Here’s what I read in 2016 (in no particular order) – along with a key lesson from each book:

“Blessed are the Weird” – Jacob Nordby. The second book by this amazing thinker and author … and close friend. This is the book to read if you feel like you don’t fit in to modern society, yet want to find your way to contribute value and meaning to the world. Key lesson: I am exactly what and who I’m supposed to be in this time and place.

“Heretics to Heroes” – Cort Dial. A friend and client, this is Cort’s debut book. An incredible memoir on increasing value and creating actual change by pushing back against dogma and being brave in the face of political pressure. Key lesson: Change begins by controlling what you say yes and no to.

“Unbeatable Mind” – Mark Divine. Penned by a modern day warrior, this book blends Navy SEAL methodology with martial arts and some of the best mind hacks I’ve ever read. Key lesson: Everything I need to be excellent is already inside me.

“Power of Now” – Eckhart Tolle. I started this book in early 2015 but it took me an additional year to finish it. Every page is packed with nutritional value about being present, creating space between thoughts and feelings and understanding that our body is a receptor. Key lesson: everything you need to be happy is in this very moment.

“The Last Shaman” – William Whitecloud. Another highly readable fable featuring the same main character as in “The Magician’s Way”. Not just a great story, but an allegory of challenging what our eyes and minds see. Key lesson: a slight change of perspective reveals the magic around is.

“The Four Agreements” – Don Miguel Ruiz. A truly transformational and simply profound book that was recommended to me at just the right time. I devoured it in three days and know that its lessons will stay with me forever. Key lesson: this book helped me reconcile my past as well as create a framing structure for the future.

“Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday. Packed with excellent historical examples, thoughtful quotes from generations of thinkers and his own insights on ego, this book by fellow Austinite Ryan Holiday is the perfect read for our “selfie” culture. Key lesson: Level of ego is not a personality trait.

“A Manuscript Found in Accra” – Paulo Coehlo. An author who never ceases to impress and awaken, this fable about Jerusalem being under siege came along at just the right time. Key lesson: it taught me one of the most valuable gifts of 2016- to surrender.

“Traction” – Gino Wickman. A business planning book that was so good that it became our guidebook for planning 2017 and beyond for Root + River. Built around the concept of an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), it provides a detailed map for sustained growth. Key lesson: My grit and self-determination will eventually become growth inhibitors.

“Switch” – Chip & Dan Heath. The best book I’ve ever read about organizational change and transformative leadership. It blends scientific concepts with compelling examples to show you how to change things. Key lesson: change is a code that can be hacked.

“Warrior of Light” – Paulo Coehlo. A gift from a close friend, this companion piece to “The Alchemist” is the closest thing I have to a daily reader other than the Bible. Key lesson: I am a Warrior of Light.

“The Bassoon King” – Rainn Wilson. A funny, heart-stirring, thought-provoking memoir by the actor most famous for playing Dwight Schrute on The Office. He accidentally introduced me to what is now one of my favorite poets: Rainer Rilke. Key lesson: all useful journeys evolve to a level of spreading joy in the world.

Roles of a Lifetime

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There are two roles that we are taught from almost day one:

Actor

Victim

Both are part of the human app — there as a part of a coping mechanism for times of great pressure. The issue is that one or both becomes our identity and distances us further and further from our true selves. I’m convinced that that the gap between actor/victim and being our true selves is the root cause of most of the world’s emotional and spiritual suffering.

Each has their own triggers, voice and language. Consider the language of each …

Actor

  • “Why are you acting that way?”
  • “Act your age!”
  • “I need to act more like a leader”
  • “Get your act together”

Victim

  • “Why did this happen to me?”
  • “I don’t deserve this”
  • “It’s your fault”
  • “It’s their fault”

These two roles roles often conspire to become our identity -a form of devious yin and yang. When they become our identity, they get triggered and fed over and over again by the extrinsic: people, conditions, situations. Each incident reinforces either role. Eventually, actor/victim drives us to to be the sum of our experiences rather than the sum of our beliefs.

Our psyche/ego quickly becomes addicted to these two roles and keeps our mind in survival and scarcity state. This puts us in hyper-awareness mode where we become overly sensitive to, well, everything. Then how we act and how we are treated by others rises to a whole new sad level. We tend to only be around people who benefit from our act or don’t see it all. We isolate in groups of other victims — all feeding each other the unfairness of life.

Using the language of the stellar book The Four Agreements, we agreed to these roles years ago. We agreed to “act” a certain way to get parental approval or to avoid punishment. We agreed to be a victim when we began to buy in to the idea that we are inherently flawed. We agreed to act a certain way during times of stress. We agreed to respond to situations with a victim mentality.

These roles permeate our career and our relationships. They influence in-the-moment decision-making as well as long-term planning. They warp the lens of our world view towards fear, doubt and anger. They make religious people unloving. They make secular people dark-hearted. They make leaders soul’s die. They make employees zombies. They make key relationships a two (or more) part drama.

Like I said, I believe these two roles are the root of most suffering. You will not be able to eliminate these roles (as mentioned, they are part of our “app”) but you can gain dominion over them.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Go inward. Ask yourself: “What do I truly believe?” Consider what has always been there — beliefs, values, convictions you weren’t taught by others or by experiences. You will find that most of the actor/victim issues come from trying to adhere to systemic beliefs rather than what you actually believe.
  • Go inward again. When you feel the actor or victim voices, behaviors, etc start to kick in, go inward. Notice your body. Notice your breathing. Go to the moment that triggered the actor or victim reaction and freeze it. Examine the trigger. It will always be some sort of response you were taught. Which means it can be unlearned.
  • Flood your heart. Like a submarine filling its ballast tanks to dive below the surface, flood your heart with love, gratitude, thankfulness. No actor or victim role can withstand this outpouring. This flow will wash out resentment, assumptions, expectations, preconceived notions, unforgiveness — all tools of the trade of being an actor or victim.

Over time, you will learn how to properly utilize these traits as tools. In a high pressure and/or unexpected situation, you will learn how to act calm and collected. When interacting with an unreasonable or mentally ill person, you will learn to be still and logical. There’s even occasions where it’s ok to temporarily be a “victim”. This can be a trigger for self-care: getting some rest, eating some food, having some fun. Tuning into the “victim” also helps you practice empathy for others. You can truly understand how they feel because you’ve felt it too!

3 Reminders About Your Gift

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I am more convinced than ever that each human is born with a unique gift or talent. To fully access and actualize this gift requires sacrifice, suffering and setting aside of the life you were told to live. Few people are willing to choose the travails of discovery over the allure of stability — so the journey and saga to find this gift is rarely accepted.

When you do discover your gift/talent, a new set of challenges emerges. The voice of your ego (usually in the form of doubt) begins to question your discovery. “This is isn’t real”, “What are you doing?” “This wasn’t the plan” and several thousand other whispers and accusations. Often fueled by the addition of outside voices of doubters, your elation of finding your gift is replaced by an uneasiness. A feeling of being half-way between what you were and what you’re becoming.

Here are three simple but powerful reminders to access when you find yourself in these conditions:

  1. Your story is more important than your knowledge. A frequent source of doubt and insecurity about a gift is that you aren’t “qualified” to have this gift. This sends very gifted people on endless forays into additional education, certifications, workshops, etc. All an ego-fueled attempt to replace the feeling of doubt and insecurity with additional knowledge. I am not saying to not pursue knowledge. I am saying that returning to your own story of awakening, awareness, discovery, suffering and expansion is SO much more powerful and credible than your knowledge.
  2. Your gift is not about you. “What if I don’t have the right answers?” “What if people don’t believe me?” “What if my gifts aren’t valuable?” These doubts are the ego’s direct attack on the value of your gift. But all gifts are given to be shared. So it’s not really about you. In fact, as soon as you think your gift is about you, your ego is winning. Instead, remember that all that you have gone through — and even the current feeling of unease- is about sharing with others. Adding value. Loving more. Being empathic.
  3. Go create witnesses. If no one knows you have a gift, is it still a gift? The most powerful thing you can do to allay fear, uncertainty and doubt (and silence haters) is to go do your thing. Do it in front of people, for people. Give, give, give of your gift to others. View every conversation, every interaction as an opportunity to create a witness. Then when the voices of doubt rise, you can simply counter with the voices of your witnesses. This is the power of word-of-mouth combined with the law of reciprocity. Let others speak for you.

Finally, the voices of doubt never fully go away. So the best short-term tactic? Ignore them. Go to your heart. Live your conviction. And go be.

3 Signs Your Ego is Trying to Kill You … and What To Do About It

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Like Xerox, Kleenex and Post-Its, “ego” has been genericized to mean a variety of things — not many of them flattering but also none of them really capturing the essence of ego. So I prefer Ryan Holiday’s definition: the toxicity of self-absorption.

An inflated ego presses up against your soul’s optic nerve and makes you see the world differently. This world-view is presented through the lens of self-absorption — a toxic blend of intrinsic insecurity and extrinsic distraction. An inflated ego has a debilitating impact on the few areas where we have 100% dominion over: perspective, language and actions.

An inflated ego poisons the water supply of reason.

An inflated ego converts sadness to resentment.

An inflated ego makes you think, say and do stupid things.

In short, your ego is trying to kill you.

I am my own case study on ego. I battle it every day. Not to defeat ego, but to master it. Over the past year or so, I created a sort of mental dashboard on monitoring my ego. Below are the three gauges that I check frequently — in an ironic twist, my ego often hides this dashboard from view 🙂

Didn’t Do vs Did Do. Our ego loves to torment us about what we didn’t do. This is the whoulda/shoulda/coulda recipe of regret that leaves us twisting between our past and our present. It also provides a fertile ground for shame and guilt — two key chemicals in ego’s mad scientist lab. So I focus on what I DID do. This is all that matters. Even if some of the decisions I made were ego-based. But reconciling with what I did do, I can improve and use this data for moving forward. Focusing on what I did do also holds me accountable to commitments and goals. Finally, it also allows me to see the value in the actions and celebrate the victories.

Happening vs Unfolding. “Why is this happening to me?” is the lament of ego. Our ego loves to convince us that, to paraphrase Willie Nelson, we have our own special brand of misery. Ego makes us see things as happenings — as occurrences outside our control. This is a distinctly human condition. As the gazelle is being eaten by the lion, it does not think “Why me!?” Another trait of the ego is what I call in my bookHuman Bacon, “Uncle Rico Syndrome”. Inspired by the dysfunctionally nostalgic uncle in Napoleon Dynamite, “Uncle Rico Syndrome” is resent-based attachment to what did not happen in the past. When our ego is mastered, we understand that most things simply unfold. We then understand that we are not really the author of our story, but more the main character. While certainly our actions, conditions and world-views influence this unfolding, it removes the fear of change and the excuse of a lack of control over circumstances.

Comparison vs Standards. I don’t know who said, but boy is it true: “Comparison kills.” It kills your vision, self-worth, relationships, potential and more. And it’s all the result of an inflated ego that sells you a ponzi scheme of trying to be like someone else. Or worse, buying in to the resent-based mythology that your life sucks because someone else is successful. The ego also loves to pit you against an internal comparison between the past and the future. It takes the #1 ingredient of the DID NOT DO list and compares it to your today. It takes the #2 ingredient of HAPPENING and tells you that your current story doesn’t match the story you told yourself about your future. Similar to getting rid of a bad habit by replacing it with a good habit, the only solution to comparison is the establishment of a set of standards. A set of standards becomes a benchmark for your perspective, language and actions in the NOW. We can have a big-picture set of standards for our life or simply jot down a set of standards for a particular decision or situation. Personal example from my list of life standards: Be Around People Who Give Energy. This standard drives relationships. Example of smaller standard: Keurig is not coffee (not a joke!)

Final thought: One of the best ways to master our ego is to remind it that does have a purpose and a role. It is not something to kill off. That would be like losing the ability to feel physical pain. When mastered, the ego is a high functioning, highly important tool for making decisions in the now from a database of experiences, information and knowledge. It’s only when the monster turns on its maker that we have a problem.

Challenging the Voice of Doubt

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We all have a Voice of Doubt. Sometimes it is the voice of someone who had an unhealthy influence over us in our past. Sometimes it is an oily whisper from the darkness. Sometimes it is the shrill, incessant voice of accusation.

For entrepreneurs and leaders, the Voice of Doubt can be debilitating. It creates an addiction to anxiety and promotes insecurity. It can drive us to over-react — or to deflate us into a numbing doom-loop of doing nothing. It convinces us that an opportunity is a distraction or that a distraction is an opportunity. It robs us of seeing our value and the value of others. It is a time and energy thief.

The origin of this voice is much debated amongst theologians, philosophers and psychologists. Regardless of the source, this voice always backs down when challenged. It always shrinks when exposed to truth and light. But left unchecked, the Voice of Doubt becomes a Board of Directors of one. So it must be confronted. We must control it. So how do you do that?

1) Challenge it. As mentioned, the Voice of Doubt shrinks when challenged with truth. Often the best way to challenge with truth is to ask questions: “Why do you say that?” “Is that true?” “Where did you get that information?” These questions confront the irrationality of doubt; injecting reason and wisdom where both are needed. This same approach also helps us challenge the outside voices of those who feed off our doubts.

2) Create space. Similar to a basketball player creating space for a jump shot, we need to create space and distance between us and doubt. This space is found between thoughts and ego, feelings and emotions and reactions and responses. By creating space between thoughts and ego, we will learn that the Voice of Doubt does not originate with us. By creating space between feelings and emotions, we can detach negative labels from what we feel (guilt, shame, etc are favorite labels of the Voice of Doubt). The space between reactions and responses shows us that we have always dominion over our actions.

3) Don’t mistake fear and doubt as the same. As I have written about, entrepreneurs don’t have less fear than non-entrepreneurs. We just have learned how to harness our fear. Often the Voice of Doubt will try to hijack our fear mechanism because it such an immediate driving force. This is the definition of panic. We then make a series of rash decisions and poor choices. By understanding that fear and doubt are distinctly different, we maintain control over fear.

Speaking of control …

When faced with the Voice of Doubt, I have found it to be extraordinary powerful to remember what we do have control over:

  • Language: We control everything we say to ourselves and what comes out of our mouth. This doesn’t necessarily mean to swallow our words or over-think our responses. It simply means that words have power. By selecting our language, we hold the power to speak truth, be vulnerable and ask for help — all of which silence the Voice of Doubt.
  • Perspective: We control what we see. In Andy Andrew’s excellent fable“The Noticer”, the main character shares this: “In desperate times, much more than anything else, folks need perspective. For perspective brings calm. Calm leads to clear thinking. Clear thinking yields new ideas. And ideas produce the bloom…of an answer.” When we control our perspective, it silences the Voice of Doubt.
  • Action: We control our own actions. No one can make you do anything. This choice is ours. The difference is that doubt fills us with doing and courage inspires action. In William Whitecloud’s book “The Magician’s Way”, he provides this simple, but game-changing truth: “There is always nothing to do but action to take.” While we have our to-do lists for the day, being reminded of our of our larger ability to act silences the Voice of Doubt.

I am curious. If you are an entrepreneur or leader, how do you challenge the Voice of Doubt? Has this voice changed as you’ve gotten older? Has this voice changed as you’ve grown as a person? Comment below.