When I was 60K in debt from a failed business, depressed and low on hope I invested my time in something that made no financial sense…
I became a spinning instructor.
I had always wanted to be one since high school. I loved the combination of DJ, coach and speaker. So much time was spent on training and making mixes that I lost money. And yet, I had so much fun that I was able to use all of the energy to launch my next career. Again, it did not make sense from a practical perspective, but I followed the energy.
For me, it’s often a distinction between what looks good versus what feels good…
It’s a date who looks amazing, but I don’t feel myself around her. It’s a house I’m looking at that has all the amenities, but doesn’t feel like home. It’s a speech that delivers on paper, but I don’t care about it.
It takes courage to follow the energy, but more importantly it takes curiosity and a sense of wonder.
All of this applies to culture as well, since culture is simply a bunch of people together. If the group is following what “should” matter (results, revenue, profit, new manager program du jour), and not what they’re passionate about (the customer, the values, the product, or even each other), then the culture eventually goes south.
Veteran pilots still use checklists. Yoyo Ma still plays scales. And the best athletes practice for hours.
I’m always amazed by how much it’s the basics that make the difference.
On the personal level it’s really about getting great food, sleep, exercise and meditation. I heard that neurosis is the result of denying our animal nature, and I can tell you if I don’t get exercise I anxious and neurotic. In fact, if I do boxing or martial arts I’m so peaceful I don’t even have thoughts in my head afterward.
On the corporate level it’s about meetings. Most companies are terrible at meetings. They’ll take on multi-million dollar change initiatives and yet everyday meetings are dysfunctional.
When I work with teams I start with the basics: Can you be on time? If you show up late and run over then you’re prioritizing your own personal agendas over the culture. But if you’re on time, you’re honoring commitments. There’s no point working on values if you can’t even be on time.
Flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” (1) It’s when athletes are “in the zone.”
I have a million things on my to do list, and trying to multi-task is a joke. It just adds stress. I continue to learn that lesson. But focus is heaven. It feels like a luxury.
Getting totally absorbed with a task (even if it’s one I don’t like) is a pure joy. A friend of mine who survived drug addiction started his life again by cleaning chandeliers. He said it was one of the most joyful times of his life because it was so simple.
Looking back on this list I see the lessons could also be re-written as temptations:
1. Follow the Energy
(Temptation: Choosing what “should” be done, or what looks good instead of what feels good)
2. Get back to the Basics
(Temptation: Going for the new shiny object)
3. Focus is Flow
(Temptation: Multi-tasking, letting texts, emails and facebook interrupt me)
Hacks ,Personal Exploration ,Vision
“It’s either a Hell Yeah, or it’s a No.” – Derek Sivers.
I’ve found this quote to be a great decision making tool. We have so many choices of how to spend our time, money and energy. So why do anything less than a “Hell Yeah!”?
Not only can it be hard to say No to things. It’s not always easy to evaluate an opportunity and understand if it’s really a Hell Yeah.
So here is a decision-making framework I developed.
It starts with, is this my unique ability? (a concept pioneered by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach). A unique ability is a talent that you have passion and skills for, there is a need for it, and most importantly, you feel it gives you energy.
Next, I’ve found that amorphous opportunities can lack a clear end goal and a first next step. This key to know what we’re committing to.
The last two are my favorites. “If I know for certain this will fail, is it still worth it?” If the answer is yes, it means the journey and the learning make it worth it. If it’s no, then be careful of the ends justifying the means. Can you pick opportunities that are inherently worth it?
And then, “If I know this will be much more work than I thought, is it still worth it?” Projects look so easy when they start, and then all the details come in and we spend far more time than we expected. Do you look at that possibility and say, “Yes! I love working this on anyway, so bring on more of it!” Or do you say, “I’m doing this because it’s fast and quick”?
If your opportunity or idea passes all of these questions, then you’ve got a Hell Yeah! If not, just remember that leaving space in your life or schedule will allow you to focus on what you already care about, or leave space for something new to come in.
Since my post on the end of guru culture, I’ve been thinking about emerging models for speakers. What would be engaging, interactive and dynamic that will go beyond the keynote speech?
I didn’t find it, but it found me…
Pearson asked me to have a conversation on stage with their Chief Communications Officer. The format worked so well, I was floored.
It was all organic, fun, funny and highly relevant to everything they cared about. Why? Because she and the company (in Q&A) were guiding the conversation.
This “Fireside Chat” format (when it’s done right) feels like seeing a live show where you’re also participating. There’s a sense of a story emerging (as opposed to scripted).
I’m playing with this live interaction format. Beyond my adventure in stand-up comedy, I was just asked to consider a role as an MC at a corporate party.
I’m still all for keynotes, especially when there’s a great story that needs a proper amount of time, and visuals. I’ll be a keynote at an all CIO event for Gartner and I’m excited to share the evolving story of how tech has driven culture and where it’s taking us next.
This was my answer to the question, “Do you have ADD?” I could not have Adult ADD. That’s a fake disease for people who can’t get things done. But the man asking the question was Dr. Norman Rosenthal, an icon in psychology. He was the man who wrote the book on S.A.D, St. John’s Wart, and Transcendental Meditation. So when he said, “Just humor me and take this test,” I did.
“You are off the charts, ADD,” he said after scoring my test.
I was in shock. I could not believe it.
“And it affirms my theory about you,” he continued. “I know you came here to treat depression, but I think there is a deeper root issue. You have a lot of ideas and projects and you don’t get them done because of ADD. That causes you to stress, so you get very anxious and you work even harder without focusing. Then when you run out of energy from being anxious, you get depressed.”
Then there was the medication test. Ironically, stimulants slow down the brain of someone with ADD. If you don’t have ADD, they feel like having too much coffee. But if you do have ADD, it’s very calming. When I took the medication, it felt like I was relaxed and breathing for the first time.
The long term effects of using stimulants were too risky for me to continue for long, but now I had a new lens – one that I need to remember from time to time as this cycle starts up again.
I have found a very surprising tool for how to deal with the stress of having a lot of ideas. I’m actually using it, right now as I type this. In fact, you’re reading the product of it. Let me explain.
I was listening to Kayne Mantyla of WeFloat.net who has a great definition of stress:
Very simple: Stimulus come in (in the form of anything – conversations, phone calls, problems, challenges, ideas, tasks, requests, entertainment, news). If we have the resources to process them, there is no stress. But if they build up and we can’t process it all, then we get overwhelmed. Then the system is overloaded and we get stressed, sick, annoyed, angry, etc.
The opposite of stress is Integration. That’s what happens when we have strong resources in the form of balanced emotions, healthy bodies, systems to process information, methods of getting things done, etc.
Now I’m sure you can think of many resources such as yoga, meditation, healthy foods, exercise, systems of getting things done, etc. I have another to add. First, more on the problem.
I have so many thoughts, theories, ideas, and projects that I can’t integrate them. In fact, for this year-end review I went through my idea notebook (below) and can’t believe how much I’ve come up with but never really did anything with all these ideas. And I have so many blog post ideas I wrote, but I never actually wrote them. And now my energy is not in them and some of my notes don’t even make sense now.
It’s easy to see why…
We have so much input, especially with media consumption. Think about it this way: How many books, shows, articles, and movies did you consume this year? Now, how many did you create? This is the energetic equivalent of constipation – eating a lot but not processing it all. No wonder so many people are so stressed out!
What we need is to balance the ratio. Less consumption, more creation.
And there is a fantastic manual on it:
This little $7 book is pure gold.
It’s a basic idea, explained beautifully with many examples: Show what you’re working on, show what you’re thinking about. It makes it real. It takes it out of your head, you get feedback and most importantly, you get what’s probably the most rewarding value of all: Contributing to someone else’s life. His other book Steal Like an Artist, is also great. Here’s what he found after writing it:
“Almost all of the people I look up and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine. These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties; they’re too busy for that. They’re cranking away in their studios, their laboratories, or their cubicles, but instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they’re open about what they’re working on.”
It’s just so easy to share. That’s what I’m doing with this blog. And it’s surprised me how my posts have lead to new business that I did not expect.
A friend of mine went to a conference and he said it changed his life. I said, you must share it now. Publicly, openly. It can be a blog post, a podcast, a video recording. Each of us literally hold a complete recording studio, editing facility and broadcast unit within our smart phones. There is no excuse not to share.
This is one of the principles in my new book, The Culture Blueprint.
When I was managing Zappos Insights people would ask, “How can you guys spend so much time giving tours of your company and still focus on your own success?” But that’s exactly it – sharing keeps you accountable and call it spiritual, but what you give comes back around and Zappos’ loyal customers are proof.
We would give away culture books (for free) and still make money. You can still get one here. And we monetized the interest by selling corporate training on culture and service.
That’s why I’m giving away the audio version of my book.
Integration is having the resources to deal with stimuli. Integration is taking the parts of life that seem to run in different directions and connecting them so they fuel each other. Integration is my theme for 2105. More on that in future posts.
An innovation hack is an action that is “low input, high output.” That means it takes very little investment, but the gains are tremendous. I watch for the hacks of effective CEO’s and this one is shared by both the late Steve Jobs and Tony Hsieh.
Yes. That simple. They go for walks, a lot. Whether it’s for meetings or just taking time for themselves, they take long walks.
Research is proving the common sense idea that sitting for extensive periods of time is very unnatural. One even called sitting the smoking of our generation.
I took an hour long walk today, with a 3×5 card and a pen. At first I listened to an audiobook with headphones while I walked. Then I noticed I stopped listening to the book and started listening to my own ideas. I would walk for awhile, let the ideas simmer, then write them down and repeat the process.
Some might call it taking the time to listen to our own intuition. Others may say there’s a spiritual element to it all. Whatever it is, it works. Try it right now. It may be the cheapest most effective innovation tool.
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