Tag Archives: Tips

And it was sweet

In High school English, our teacher had us read dozens of Indian Animal Parables. You have probably heard the one about the blind men and the elephant. That’s a classic. There is another one I’ve always remembered that was more meaningful to me. It goes:

A man was walking in the wilderness and realized he was being stalked by a tiger. He was near a cliff with a vine hanging down to the ground, so he starting climbing down the vine, knowing the tiger could not follow. He was about halfway down with the tiger staring at him hungrily when a lion at the bottom of the cliff noticed him. The man was trapped dangling on the vine, a lion below and a tiger above. Two mice, one black and one white, started to crew through the vine above him. There was nothing else for him to hang onto. It was then that he noticed a strawberry plant growing on the cliff with one ripe strawberry on it. The man picked it and ate it and it was sweet.

Yes. That is the end of the parable. We leave the man hanging from a cliff over a lion with strawberry juice dripping down his chin. I always assumed he died shortly after the story ends but that isn’t the point of the parable. The man, even in the midst of a calamity not of his own making took the time to stop and enjoy that which was sweet. The strawberry was probably even sweeter to him knowing the doom that awaited him. While we may not find ourselves dangling from a vine with two predatory cats looking to make a meal out of us, at least not twice, we all find ourselves obligated to times and places we don’t want to be and doing things we don’t want to do. We should pull as much joy, learning and growth from those situations as we can.

I told this parable to my class the other day. My course (marketing foundations) is a required course and the majority of students aren’t marketing majors. If it were up to them, they wouldn’t take ANY marketing classes. Unfortunately for them, it is required. While I try to make it as interesting and valuable for them, I encourage them to taste the strawberry while they are there.

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Discover vs Defend

I’m reading “How to have a good day” by Caroline Webb. It is too early in the book for me to be able to recommend it but I do enjoy her initial philosophy, namely relying on research and science. While the book title makes it seem like it is about making any day a “good day,” it does seem to be focused more on business professionals and how to have a good day at work.

One thing that jumped out at me early on is her discussion of the discover-defend axis. Basically, this is a manifestation of a primitive part of our brains. We are either in discover mode or defend mode. Discover mode is when we our brains are looking for opportunities for reward. Defend mode is the classic fight-flight-freeze response. Generally speaking, when we are afraid, our brains stop looking for opportunities. Instead it looks for safety.

How does this relate to having a good day? When workers are afraid and are in the corporate version of fight-flight-freeze, they become less creative and unwilling to take risks…….even risks as small as speaking up in a meeting. I can see this in my own work. When there is one or two senior people in a meeting who are intimidating or have a tendency to forcefully challenge other workers, many people in the meeting go into fight-flight-free mentality. People are less likely to explore creative ideas. Solutions become “safer” but not better. People are less likely to point out holes in the plan for fear of being singled out.

So how to turn this information into a “good day” and to make your company more creative and efficient? Carefully choose when to challenge people and when to be supportive. The goal for some meetings, especially early in a project, benefit from risk taking and creative output. For these meetings, don’t let the tone become intimidating or challenging.

New plan

How I work with my clients has evolved over the last couple of years. Originally, I only offered weekly hour long sessions with a mix of live and virtual interactions. However, we covered too much in an hour so that many of my clients felt overwhelmed with the homework they had to do.

I started offering a biweekly hour long call, only via phone. That gave my clients more time to do their homework. Unfortunately, that also meant a loss of accountability. To help with that, I added text and email support between calls. Some clients go for the weekly offering, especially in the beginning but most prefer biweekly.

Now, by client request, I’m adding another option. I’m offering a weekly 30 minute call supported by text and emails in between. The thirty minute format will require that we really stay on task and will help prevent my clients from taking on too much in between sessions. The text/email also adds accountability. I’m really excited about this new option.

Reach out if you are stuck and need someone to help push and drive you out of your slump.

Please share this post. You never know who in your life is floundering and needs a hand or a boot on their behind.

Reinvent your life in four steps

Some times it takes the world slapping us in the back of the head (hopefully figuratively speaking) to realize what we are doing isn’t working anymore.  Who we’ve become isn’t who we want to be.  Losing a job, having spouse leave or just watching something amazing you’ve worked for fall apart can be scary.  It can also be an amazing period of self-realization.

So what do you do when you, the real you down deep in your psyche and not the “you” everyone else in your life sees, has become the square peg being shoved into the round hole of your life?  Realize it is less about reinventing yourself and more about reinventing your life.

1.) Do no harm – The first thing you need to do is to stop the damage, if there is any.  Sometimes we’ve been shoved so far into that round hole, damage is being done.  This could be over spending or pushing away loved ones or even just copious amounts of self-medication.  If you are doing anything that could cause lasting harm to yourself, your life or anyone else, work on that first.

2.) Make a little space – Life and habit conspire to keep us doing the same thing we’ve always done.  Change takes effort and effort takes time.  Odds are pretty good that your life is full.  Now it may not be full of what we want it to be full of but nature abhors a vacuum.  Decouple yourself from something.  Say no to a commitment and walk away.  Carve out a little time where you can work on you.

3.) Understand what you want/what you value – It is very difficult to find or create your own square hole if you don’t know what it looks like.  This can be a major step.  Talk to different people.  Read different books.  Keep a journal of things that excited you today.  Do the 20 in 20 exercise.  Make a list of things that you value and keep it handy when you are making decisions.

4.) Take action – Start small but start making changes today.  You don’t necessarily need to change cities or quit your job to start having a new life that fits you.  Remember, it is as important to stop doing things that aren’t right for you as it is to start doing things that bring meaning to your life. Progress not perfection.

What is your story about reinventing yourself?

20 in 20

I’m sure I’ve written about this tool, trick, hack before but it definitely is worth repeating. It is probably the most useful bit of homework that my clients enjoy. Well “enjoy” might not be the right word. Maybe “productive”.

Basically it is a free writing exercise with a few bounds. It can be used to push for creativity or for honesty. It can bring world peace. Ok, that might be a little hyperbole but it is a great tool that can help you push back limitations.

Go to a quiet place with few distractions. Put your cellphone on silent. Set a timer for twenty minutes. On a piece of paper (yes I recommend paper for this task) write across the top the problem you are trying to solve. Well it could be a problem or a challenge or an exploratory question. Then for the next twenty minutes write out as many responses as you can. Aim for twenty responses. To get twenty, you don’t have time to judge, edit or criticize your responses. Don’t put a lot of thought into any response because the clock is ticking. Remember you are not looking for quality responses, just a lot of them.

After the alarm rings, put the paper away without reading it. Let a day pass. Do things that allow your thoughts to flow. Really how many great ideas come to you in the shower or waking from a dream. Then go back to the paper. Read over your responses without editing or judging them. Set the timer for another twenty minutes. Try to add more responses or flesh out the responses you’ve already wrote down. At this point, you are adding, not editing. No criticism.

Let one more day pass. Go for a walk. Now reread all of your ideas. Circle anything that speaks to you. Pick the three best responses. Also pick the wildest response and the most “out there” response. Set your timer on last time. Now take those final five responses and add as much to them as you can. Include things you circled on responses that didn’t make the cut.

This is a great tool for “questions” like:

1.) What do I want to accomplish this year?

2.). Why do I hate my job?

3,) How could I get more customers?

4.) Why is my boss acting like a jerk?

5.) Why should I take this job?

6.) What would make me happy?

As you can see, it has a wide range of uses. It helps you tap into your subconscious and trap your underlying thoughts in writing.

Pleasure with Pain

If you break motivation down into it’s simplest form, we are motivated to either seek pleasure or avoid pain.  Now I know many of you are rejecting that, saying that you are much more complex than that but stick with me for a minute.  Pleasure can include everything from a taste of a delicious juicy hamburger with tempura fried bacon on it (yes, tempura fried bacon exists, I’ve had it and I’m obsessed) to love.  Pleasure includes security and peace.  Pleasure can also include spirituality.  Pain on the other hand isn’t just limited to physical pain.  It can include fear, embarrassment, social rejection, insecurity, hungry, loneliness, etc.  The list can go on quite a while.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t so simple as that.  How do you stack up pleasure that will happen six months from now vs. pain happening today, for example dieting and exercising for six months so that you can look good for the upcoming high school reunion?  How do trade off one pain vs. another, for example my back hurts right now and I know 30 minutes of stretching will help…..but I don’t really like the stretching either?  How do you exchange one pleasure for one pain, for example spending on a big celebration when money is tight?

It is ok to allow our subconsciousness to handle these decisions of which pleasure to seek and which pain to avoid as long as we are ok with the outcomes.  Really, your subconscious is making hundreds of decisions a day and you don’t want to get stuck in trying to analyze each and everyone.  When you are not happy with your situation, whether it be financial, relationship, health, etc., stop and consider which decisions are leading you in the wrong direction and why you are making that decision.  It might be helpful to try to frame those decisions in a trade off between pleasures and pain.  You might have to ask yourself “why” a few times because most people are slow to admit what is really going on in their decision making.  Once you understand the tradeoffs, then work to enhance different pleasures, minimize different pains and (frequently) work to pull future pleasure into the moment.

Examples help.  I was telling the truth, my back is killing me right now.  It is a chronic issue that comes back a few times a year.  This one is as bad as it has gotten in probably the last five years.  Nothing to do but stretches.  My wife has a yoga video that does wonders for my back…….but I really don’t enjoy it.  So I have a literal pain, my back.  Seems like I should be able to jump up and fire up that video.  Why aren’t I?  Well, I know from experience the yoga tape won’t make my back feel better right away.  So the pain avoidance isn’t really an immediate pay off.  I find yoga to be pretty boring.  I know my yoga loving friends tell me I’m not doing it right if I’m not loving it but I don’t love it.  There is a certain level of mental pain that comes along with doing yoga for me.

So how do I motivate myself to go do those stretches, well in this case I brought in another pain, social embarrassment.  By writing and posting this, I sort of have to go do the yoga.  If I don’t, I’ll be a bit embarrassed that I let my laziness and procrastination let me sit here in pain.  Alright.  I’m going to go do some downward dogs.

Comment if you need some help affecting change.  Please share.  Imagine the pleasure you’ll get if this helps someone you know.

“Just stop,” the most useless advice

Ever try to break a habit?  It isn’t as easy as simply not doing the habit.  It is incredibly difficult to “just stop” but why is that?  Habits are actually hardwired into our brains.  According to Ann Graybiel and Kyle Smith in Good Habits, Bad Habits explain how the brain builds a closed loop.  Simply choosing to NOT do the task is actually you working against your brain.  Even motivation isn’t that helpful.

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To stop doing a habit, it is important to understand the environmental triggers and create work arounds.  First, try to minimize triggers.  Second, start with the easier to eliminate habits first.  Third, build strategies to distract yourself.  Even making a habit 20 seconds harder to do can make a big difference.  Fourth, measure your actions and the results.  Fifth, be realistic.  It probably took you years to build a habit.  It will take time to eliminate it.  You will have setbacks.  That’s ok.  Just restart the process and keep moving forward.