Happy birthday to me

Today is my birthday.  45 years old today.  My business, Wolski Success Partners – a Business/Life Coaching business, is less than 6 months old.  It  is a young but growing business where I have been able to help people Live More.  Laugh More.  Earn More.

The best gift you could give me is to let me help you reach your next goal.  Let me help you focus on you.

If you are living your life to your fullest already or simply aren’t ready to step up to the challenge, the next best gift you could give me is to spread the word about my business.  You can do that by liking, sharing, commenting or reposting on any of my blog posts.

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False pride a.k.a. the damage participation awards cause

I volunteered for a local middle school’s after school program, First Lego League competition.  This is a great program were middle schoolers from across the world compete in a series of events including a research program and a robotics program.  In the research program, the kids research a problem and propose novel solutions.  In the robotics program, the kids build and program a robot to solve a series of challenges prescribed by First Lego League.  We lost.  My kids did well but not great.  Other teams simply out performed us.

After we found out that we didn’t win, I asked the kids, “so . . . . . what did we learn?”  Yes, that is a question I ask anytime someone doesn’t achieve their goals.  It is also a question I ask when someone does achieve their goals.  Basically it is a great question.  I ask it of myself more than I ask anyone else.  In fact, once this is posted, I’ll start asking myself what did I learn.  Could my title have attracted more readers?  Could my writing have inspired more shares, likes or comments?  Could I have promoted this piece better or harder or more effectively?

These questions should be answered honestly and without blame.  Simple matter of fact answers that allow us to learn and grow.  Simple matter of fact answers that allow to do better next time.  This is where I got into trouble with the kids.  The kids answered, “To always try your best.”  While on the surface that is a good answer, kids have learned that if they say “try your best” adults will typically move along.  Unfortunately for them, I’m not your typical adult.  “So,” I asked, “did you try your best?”  “Yes!”

“Actually, you didn’t.”  The looks on their faces were priceless.  It is not a comment they hear in our participation trophy culture.  I listed a few simple matter of fact points to highlight my claim.  “You met once a week for about 90 minutes.  We know that the other middle school’s team met four times a week for three hours.  You were tasked with writing your script for your presentation as homework.  You didn’t do it.  Instead, you showed up and practiced it for the first time on the morning of the competition.  I’m not assigning blame.  I’m showing that the effort that WE (and I really stressed “we”) put in didn’t add up to a win.”  Perhaps I went on a bit more.  Yeah, ok I went on a lot more and that is something I’m asking myself what I learned.  That is a separate post.

That was when they pushed back.  “Don’t you want us to feel proud?”  I’m not sure how to even describe their tone.  It was whiny and combative at the same time.  I guess that is how to describe it.  My answer?  “No.  If you had put in the effort and lost, I would say feel proud.  If you want to feel proud for putting in 1/8th the work of the other school and doing ok but not winning, go ahead.  It matters what your goal is.  Did you do this to just have a little fun with a little effort?  If so, we had fun but fun is not pride.  If you wanted to win, the fact is the effort you put in was insufficient.  You had the ability to win (they really are a bright group of kids) but you chose to not put the required effort to win.”

They didn’t like it.  I’m not sure that understood it but it needed to be said.  I know they hated it but I hope it will help them make better decisions about putting in effort in the future.  Too many times we strive for mediocre.  Aiming for mediocre is a sure way to never be great.

I want to say that again:  Aiming for mediocre is a sure way to never be great.

Please share with us.  Where have you aimed for mediocre?  Why?  What will make you strive for greatness next time?  (And of course)  What did you learn?

Nice your way to health, wealth and happiness

Am I saying that being nice will lead to health, wealth and happiness?  Well, no.  I’m not saying it.  Science is.

Dr. Hamilton sums up The Five Side Effects of Kindness here: http://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness/

He claims the five side effects are that we are:

1.) We are happier: This isn’t simply at a feel good level.  It gets physical.  Studies show that doing acts of kindness raises our levels of endogenous opioids.  If “endogenous opioids” doesn’t mean too much to you, let’s just say these are the natural versions of morphine and heroin produced by your brain.  These opioids lead to elevated levels of dopamine which causes a natural high.

2.) Healthier hearts: This isn’t the paper cutout type heart either.  Acts of kindness actually release oxytocin.  This starts a process that leads to expanding blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.  Sure time on the treadmill helps but helping that little old lady cross the road helps as well.

3.) Slows aging:  Oxytocin also lowers levels of free radicals and inflammation, two factors that lead to aging.  What would you rather do, a kind deed or eat a cup of kale?  Compared to kale, putting out a little extra effort to be kind doesn’t seem so bad after all.

4.) Improves relationships: Well duh.  Being kind to people improves your relationship with them.  When relationships are stronger, people work harder for each other and they are more productive.  People also go out of their way to promote kind people.  From my own life, I can testify to this.  A co-worker and I were presenting to our boss’s boss.  The co-worker and I got along but didn’t normally associate with each other.  I went out of my way to be sure that our boss’s boss understood how hard my co-worker was and how important his efforts were to my successes.  At our next several meetings, my co-worker went out of his way to make sure the executives understood that MY EFFORTS were important part of his successes.

5.) It is contagious: People are more kind when they witness kindness.  Kindness does pay forward.  Acts both small and large cause others to be kind.  Those people do acts of kindness to others and so on and so on.

It is important to do these acts of kindness simply for the act of kindness.  Don’t expect others to pay you back.  Don’t expect recognition.  Simply be nice, feel good and let kindness work for you.

So what acts of kindness have you done recently?  How did it make you feel?

Evil goals

Let me state first, I am a big believer in goals.  Big goals.  Small goals.  Health goals.  Careers goals.  A goal focuses your attention and efforts, enabling efficient and effective pattern of accomplishments.  If that isn’t clear enough, let me say, “Goals are good.”

I am a voracious reader of all things related to success.  This includes goals, motivation, determination and processes.  There have been a growing number of articles pushing back at the usefulness and healthiness of having goals.  Now, I don’t claimed that all you need are goals.  A broken organization or an underperforming person needs more than a good stretch goal.  And no, daydreaming about wandering through a field of clovers 20 minutes a day will not magically lead to wealth.  (Not only did I actually read that theory, someone actually wrote it.)

There are some legitimate issues with unquestioning dedication to goal setting.   For example, Audrey Daniels claims that people who repeated fail to reach their stretch goals have a decline in productivity.  (Oops!  13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money).  Another study suggests that stretch goals have “bad side effects,” such as unethical behavior, narrowing focus, poor risk analysis and a toxic organizational culture.  Others have suggested that goal setting actually forces people to focus on short term objectives over long term goals…….Ummm, goals are by nature a longer term nature.  If your goals are forcing a short term focus problem, you are doing it wrong.  Throw those away and try again.  These goal studies were more on organizational goals but personal goals are not without critics as well.  For example, people who set and fail to achieve their goals may feel badly.  That is kind of like saying some people who fall in love will get their hearts broken, so no one should go on dates.  Goal setting can create a myopic view where people may not go after a better outcome that arrises later it doesn’t fit with the original goal.  The example was someone who had a goal of getting their boss’s job might pass up a promotion in another department or a better job in another company . . . . . . really?  This is what we have to worry about.

Ok, the research does call out things we need to be concerned about.  Unfortunately, most of the research seems to focus just on stretch goals and poorly written goals.  Let’s go over a few healthy goal setting rules:

1.) Know why you want to accomplish your goal.  What is your vision?  What is it that you are trying to accomplish?  Your goals should be in alignment with your ultimate vision.  Goals that do not take you toward your goals are not valid goals.

2.) Goals need to be flexible.  Review your goals and your vision on a regular basis.  Very long term goals (e.g. a high schooler with a goal of becoming a brain surgeon) need to be reviewed at least annually.  Closer in goals need to be reviewed more frequently, for example, an annual goal needs to be reviewed monthly.  When you review your goal, don’t just see if you are on track but check if that goal still fits your vision.

3.) Celebrate every win.  You may have an awesome, motivating goal.  Losing 100 pounds.  Doubling your business.  Whatever.  Something big and powerful.  If that goal got you moving and working, it is a win.  Every pound shed and every point of growth is a win.  Yes.  Losing 80 pounds is not losing 100 but it is still an amazing accomplishment.  Growing your business by 50% is not doubling it but it is worth a celebration.  Even if your business didn’t grow at all but you learned and personally grew, then it is a win.  Focus on the positives.  If you learn from the negatives, there are no negatives, just education.