Once Upon A Time In a Land Called Failure…

There was once a man who was an entrepreneur and inventor.  He had big ideas and dreams, but struggled for some time to get any of his ideas off the ground.  He experienced failed attempt after failed attempt.  Finally, after failing to get multiple businesses and product lines off the ground, he had a success.  He took on a partner and created a business that slowly began to increase in profitability and influence in his chosen market.  Yet, after just a few short years, he had a power struggle with the Board of Directors and was forced out of the company he had created.  Faced with yet another failure, he got back on his feet and founded yet another company and began to grow it.

The entrepreneur was Steve Jobs and his powerful relationship with failure led him to become one of the most influential inventors and businessmen in history. His perseverance allowed him to leave a legacy unmatched by few others in the world.

Jobs did not allow himself to wallow in self pity or defeat when he was forced out of Apple. He never stopped. No matter the failure, he put it behind him and moved on. In 1985, Jobs left Apple and founded NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in the higher-education and business markets, most notable because Apple later bought it. Jobs struggled to make Pixar a hardware company and failed miserably, until finally selling it to Disney for $7.4 billion. Jobs brought Apple from near bankruptcy to profitability by 1998 and revolutionized the computer industry as well as bringing us products like the IPod, IPad and IPhone. He knew we needed things we had no idea we needed.

He was a visionary… and a failure. But the thing that set Steve Jobs apart was his ability to learn from his failures, tweak, and try again.

I love the quote: “Failure is simply stopping before you have reached success.” Steve Jobs is a perfect illustration of this point. He succeeded because he never stopped trying. We don’t remember his first failure, or his fifth one that went belly-up. Remember Lisa? Neither do I… it was his first go at designing a personal computing platform. We remember him for his successes. We remember him for his legacy of an unstoppable innovator that change the personal computing market.

In a country that thinks there are things “too big to fail,” we often cheapen our ability to transform because we never get the opportunity to learn from our failures. Failure is your friend.

CALL TO ACTION: What do you want to be known and remembered for? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Where do you need to STOP stopping and push ahead to success without looking back? Put a plan in action today to keep moving forward.

Too Much of a Good Thing is Still Just TOO MUCH

With technology moving faster than the speed of light these days, we can get answers, and information faster than every before. We have computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Any information we want is LITERALLY at our fingertips. Answers are a good thing, right? …not if the answers and information come faster than you can sort, process or use it.too much

A recent workplace productivity survey from World One reveals that the biggest contributor to employee ineffectiveness is information overload. No matter your position, your level, you location or your workload, over 75% of employees feel overwhelmed and demoralized.

Over 1,700 white collar workers in 5 countries were surveyed regarding their experiences and attitudes toward information in the workplace. The study revealed that information overload is a remarkably widespread and growing problem among professionals around the world, and one that exacts a heavy toll in terms of productivity, performance and employee morale.

As professionals get too much information, too quickly, they get driven to an “information breaking point” where they can no longer process the information and, instead, they shut down. Since they can’t stop the flow of information, the pace continues, leaving them to feel insufficient to manage the information. This attitude leads to poor performance and morale on the job. As a result, their production suffers and the quality of their work diminishes over time.

Furthermore, this information overload leads to a constant “plugged in” condition in our personal lives. We are rarely without our smart phones, electronic devices or computers. When was the last time you were completely “unplugged” for more than 24 hours?

When looking at professional, and personal, productivity, we must consider the very real impact that information overload is having on our state of mind and quality of our work. Sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.

CALL TO ACTION: Consider where you might be experiencing information overload–on the job and in your personal life. What are some strategies you might use to manage the information better at work? Set up a day, or weekend, where you “unplug” at home. What did you notice about the quality of your life, “unplugged?”


The POWER of Integrity

integrity powerEvery day I harp on my clients about the most important quality one needs to flourish in the world:  INTEGRITY.  I don’t mean just the kind of integrity like telling the truth, keeping your promises and avoiding committing crimes.  I mean integrity like you are living a life that is CONSISTENT with who you say you are in the world.  Integrity that changes your circumstances.  Integrity that, literally, creates the world around you so that it is consistent with your vision and goals.  This is true integrity.

This kind of integrity requires you to be clear about who you are, have an action plan to get there and be committed to (and in action on) having conversations in your community about your vision. I don’t know who said it, but I love the quote: “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

There is a tool that I like to teach that I call INTEGRITY EXCELLENCE. The foundation for this kind of integrity is transparency: telling the truth, keeping your promises, having tough conversations, doing what is collectively viewed as “right” in our world. Once you have that kind of integrity, you take it to the next level. You commit to ACT and leave everything you touch better when you leave it. This means EVERYTHING. Every person, every place, every THING that you come in contact with, you improve in some way. You go to the bathroom and there’s water around the sink, you wipe it up. You see someone with a flat on the interstate, you stop and help. You literally become the change agent for improvement of quality of life around you.

But what does wiping a bathroom sink have to do with integrity? Well, human beings are at their best when we serve. And, if you are committed to being at your best, you are not in integrity if you do not serve.

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

CALL TO ACTION: For the next 24 hours, take the INTEGRITY EXCELLENCE challenge–make everything you touch, better. What did you notice about doing it? What opened up in your life because you were so intentional about integrity in your life? I’d love for you to come back and share your results!




How to Cram 48 Hours Worth of Work into a 24-Hour Day

There is NO way to cram 48 hours worth of work into an 8 hour day.  This mindset is actually the source of your problem.  We all have the same 24 hours in every day.  You get no more, and no less, than the guy next to you.  However, if you use your time wisely through delegation and time blocking, you can be more productive than most people in the world.  The secret of the most successful people: prioritizing.

In order to be at the top of the effectiveness game, you have to be a master of prioritizing. You have be willing to make tough choices and figure out what is most important to accomplish in your day. Delegate the rest, or let it go. The fact is that one person can only accomplish the work of one person… the secret is prioritizing such that the most important work gets done.Cram

The best way I have found to prioritize your daily tasks is NOT a to-do list, a Franklin-Covey system or an electronic task reminder. The best way to manage your effectiveness is to manage your daily schedule with timeblocking. Timeblocking is a system whereby you assign every task a time in your time, like an appointment. You start by scheduling all of your routines (showering, eating breakfast, commuting, lunch, etc.) in your calendar first, and then scheduling your tasks around them.

When you first start timeblocking, you will be shocked at how little time you actually have in a day for productive work, but as you continue on in the process, you get better at your effectiveness. You also get better at prioritizing, thus you are more productive.

CALL TO ACTION: Read the “Timeblocking 101” handout and related worksheets in the “free tools” section of my site. Implement this technique for one month and come back and let me know how it impacted your level of productivity and satisfaction in your life.

Operate In the Miraculous

How many of you, growing up, would say to yourselves “When I get older, I want to be mediocre!”  None of us… we all wanted to be heroes– doctors curing cancer, firemen, teachers, inventors, even adventurers.  Yet most of us get older and get less motivated, more beat down by life, and settle for being less than what we are capable of.  How easy it becomes to trade in our dreams of great accomplishments and a passionate life for being satisfied that our Mastercard bill is paid down to only $300.  Every day is an opportunity for you to change this.  Each day, you get a clean slate to invent yourself anew; to WAKE UP!  You get a chance to get present to who you are and invent what you want to become.  Each day you can begin to create the future you have always dreamed of.

I met with an interesting woman yesterday who reminded me of this lesson.  In spite of experiencing a very difficult life, she has kept her dreams in tact.  Early in her life, Debbie (not her real name) had been diagnosed with a muscular diseases that had her wheelchair-bound; doctors said she would never walk again.  Then, twelve years ago, doctors found a brain tumor and she was given a terminal diagnosis, immediately after which, her abusive husband of 10+ years left her broke and alone to raise their 9-year-old daughter; he just couldn’t deal with her health pressures.  In the past  15 years, she has even beat lymph node cancer.  Yet, during these 30+ years of trial, she has never lost her sense of hope and purpose.  She has relied heavily on her faith in God and her vision for her future.  That focus has her walking, completely cured and currently starting a new printing business, which has always been a dream.  Her daughter, now 19 years old, is attending college.  This woman is an amazing example of the power of keeping a vision–your dreams–out in front of you.  She has used her vision to propel her through the hardest of times so that she could rise to the occasion of her life and make her dreams a reality.  When I asked her how she got through, she responded, “I operate in the miraculous.”  She has been simply UNWILLING to be a victim of her circumstances and allow drama to be bigger than her dreams.

How many of us are confronted with trials and roadblocks that are not even 1/10 as dramatic as Debbie’s events, yet we get stopped short and never return to the path of pursuing our dreams?  How many of us remain unconscious to the opportunity that each day brings to reinvent ourselves, only to keep trudging along our predictable path to mediocrity?

Debbie’s story is a testament to her tenacity and a lesson for those of us who are easily stopped.  The lesson is that life is unfolding in front of you, you can either create your dreams, or move aside and suffer the consequences of human potential unfilled–continue simply trying to survive your mediocre life.

Today is your first blank slate, YOUR opportunity to operate in the miraculous… what are you going to do with it?

CALL TO ACTION:  If you are not sure how to start, you might consider enrolling in 90 Days to Success: Closing the Gap Between Your Life & Your Dreams.  It starts THIS Monday, so you must register TODAY!  There is no more time to waste!

You ARE Powerful: Isn’t it Amazing?

Part 3 of a 3-part Series

Urge surfing gives us power.  It gives us power because it makes us conscious.  When we use Marlatt’s SOBER technique mentioned in Wednesday’s blog, we begin to see the automatic ways of thinking and behaviors that covertly control our lives and direct us.  These bad habits eventually disappear when properly attended to.  When we are conscious, we are disengaged from the auto pilot that gives us so much of our lives, and thus, no longer defined by our bad habits.

When we are not living a life on auto pilot, we can actually choose to live our lives consistent with what we say we are committed to.  This is my definition of integrity: being exactly who you say you are and doing what you say you are committed to.  The only way we can experience happiness and true satisfaction in life is to live in integrity.

“Choice implies consciousness–a high degree of consciousness.  Without it, you have no choice.  Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present.”    ~Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

I work with people every day who are almost completely unconscious in their lives.  They go through tasks day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled.  While we all have moments of joy and achievement, if we remain unconscious, those moments are few and far between.  I have found that the key to feeling more joy and happiness in life is being present to the moment.  The biggest thing that stops us from being present in the moment is our past.  Our past is often the place where we were conditioned with the thought patterns that trigger our urges.  These urges give us an auto pilot way of doing life that simply feeds our unconsciousness.  Urge surfing it your first line of defense for this auto-pilot way of life.

Author Eckhart Tolle is one of the pre-eminent experts in the world on being present; being in the “now.”  Marlatt’s work was all about how to get present to the now.  Both experts identified that being present starts with surrendering to the moment.  Whether it is an urge or an event, if you surrender to it and be with it, you can live a life that is directed by your commitments, not your feelings and urges.  The result of a life lived inside of this kind of integrity is fulfillment, joy and true happiness.

“When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power.  You do not need it anymore.  Presence is the key.  The Now is the key.”    ~Eckhart Tolle

I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2007.  As one would expect, it was a horrifying diagnosis that was followed by surgery, months of chemotherapy and awful drugs.  Yet,  as one would NOT expect, this was probably one of the most blessed times in my life.  Three days after the diagnosis, I surrendered to it.  Breast cancer was mine, there was no escape or point to resisting it.  There was no way out; only through.  I chose in that moment to embrace the diagnosis and make the “best” out of it.  I decided to use the forced “bed rest” and down time as a cocooning time.  I used it as a chance to reinvent myself, my business and my attitudes about life.  I had fun with it: I got a pink mohawk before my hair fell out and stayed present to all of the support I was getting from family, friends and my community.  I was not alone and I didn’t have to suffer through the disease.  I loved myself and I loved the moment… I learned every lesson it could teach me with a heart full of gratitude.  This was my lesson in surrender and this was, surprisingly, a very happy and joyful time in my life.  Now, I can hardly remember the difficulty of it; I mostly remember the joy.

CALL TO ACTION:  Take urge surfing to the next level.  Where can you surrender to WHAT IS in your life and be with it?  Where can you bring the power of conscious living to your every day life?


Breaking Bad: Simple, But Not Easy

Part 2 of a 3-part Series

Most of us have tried to overcome bad habits in the past, so we all know how hard it is to quit smoking, avoid junk food, or be better organized.    But have you ever considered that breaking a bad habit, though not easy, is simple.  The solution is to just be with it… learn to surf that urge.

In Monday’s blog post, I talked about research done by psychologist Dr. Alan Marlatt.  Though his work focuses on what we commonly think of as addictions, such as drinking and smoking, it it very useful to look at any bad habit as an addiction.  What if all compulsive tendencies are really unaddressed addictions, of a sort?  After all, we call them BAD habits; they are things we do that we know we shouldn’t, but for one reason or another, we cannot stop ourselves from continuing the actions.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines addiction as “a persistent, compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”  If you substitute the word “habit” for the word “substance,” you can begin to understand the power of these bad habits.

Take self-critical thinking as an example.  The inner critic can be persistent and compulsive, and we know it doesn’t serve us.  You can plug any of bad habit into this equation.  What is yours?  Is it procrastination, fear, being a martyr, holding a grudge, busyness, or being continually triggered by someone who annoys us?  The list of bad habits that plague us all is endless.  Any pattern or behavior that perpetuates unconsciously is ultimately hurtful.  As we live inside of these habits, they use us, and we get stuck and frustrated with real happiness and satisfaction just out of our reach.  Bad habits keep us from fully being expressed and alive!

The first step to any problem is naming it.  We must identify our bad habits and look for the urge that precedes that actual action.  An urge is often triggered by an emotion (fear, lack, desperation, physical tension, emptiness, hysteria.)  It is the feeling that we need to begin to engage in the bad habit.  It is like an itch demanding to be scratched.  And just like an itch, the more you ignore scratching it, the bigger it becomes.  Urges escalate when ignored.  Yet, this is the tool most people try to use to fight off the urge: ignore it.  Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what actually works.  If we can be with the urge, feel it, but not act on it, it will dissipate.  Marlatt described this as “urge surfing.”

Urges are just like our feelings; they come and go (like the weather.)  They are triggered by a variety of things.  There is always a beginning, a middle, and, most importantly, an end.  If we want to surf the urge, we must first learn to recognize it and know how it “attacks” us.  This is challenging because it is so uncomfortable.  Often times, bad habits are created as a way to avoid the feelings that preceded them.  When we learn to be with those feelings, we can free ourselves from the bad habits that avoiding the feelings have kept in place.  Marlatt coined the acronym SOBER to help his patients surf their urges:

  • S means stop. Don’t move.  Notice your thoughts and stay there with them.  Don’t let the urge move passed the feelings.
  • O is for observe. Notice what thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations are present in your body.  Observe as if you are watching from the outside.  Don’t get sucked into the drama of the feelings, just observe them.
  • B refers to breath. Focus on inhaling and exhaling.  Take deep, long breaths and continue to notice as the urge moves along.
  • E means expand. Marlatt suggests that we expand our awareness to consider the consequences if we act on the urge. If you succumb to it, how will you feel?  What damage might it cause to your big picture commitments in life?
  • R means respond mindfully.  You’ve made it passed the automatic response of succumbing to the urge.  So, now, your response is a choice.  What response will support your commitments in life?  What response is consistent with who you say you are?  You can now choose to let go of the urge and do something else, or continue to let the urge use and define you.

CALL TO ACTION:  Practice surfing your urges this week.  You’ve identified them, now sit back and be with them.  When a bad habit starts, stop yourself and go through the SOBER steps.  Shed light on that urge by going back a step to the feeling that triggered it.  Notice how you feel and just be with the feelings.  See what happens to the urge and you sit with it.  Come back Friday for the final part of this series!


Are You ADDICTED to Your Bad Habits?

Part 1 of a 3-part Series

Bad habits are addictive, and not just the ones that obviously harm you like drugs, alcohol and severe risk-taking.  Really, as funny as it sounds, one of the most prominent and “popular” bad habits is procrastination, and it has a lot in common with addiction behavior.  Procrastination is all about sacrificing long term benefit for a short term feeling.   “I don’t feel like it” – a mantra for procrastinators is the same excuse that gets people with chemical addictions into trouble: they NEVER feel like being sober.  Procrastinators NEVER feel like being productive.  So if we apply some techniques used to interrupt addiction, we can successfully interrupt bad habits that are currently running us.

Procrastination, and other bad habits, come from urges.  A habitis a link or association between a stimulus (cue) and a response.  Your response becomes a habit when you give in to the cue (urge) repeatedly and it becomes automatic.  Urges rarely last for very long.  In fact, most feelings, in general, last no longer than about 30 minutes before the “weather” changes internally in our bodies and minds.

In recent studies, people who had substance addictions admitted to a high quality detoxification where there was no access to their drug of choice; they reported finding it remarkable how little craving they actually experienced.  Their urges disappeared when there was no choice other than sobriety.  If there is no opportunity to use, then there is no internal struggle.  Just like with addiction, it is actually your internal struggle that feeds your bad habits.  Trying to fight urges or desires is like trying to block a waterfall.  Resisting a task or behavior causes us to become inundated and consumed by the desire to avoid it, yet we actually build the desire by resisting it so hard.  If we can approach our bad habit with mindfulness, we learn to step aside and watch the water (cravings, impulses & urges) just go right past.  Once the feelings clear, we are free to follow through with our true commitment.

Urge surfing is a way of being mindful.  It is a term coined by psychologist Dr. Alan Marlatt as part of a program of relapse prevention he developed for people recovering from addictions, but it is a technique that is of great use to procrastinators, as well.  Mindfulness helps us stay focused on the big picture of our lives.  It helps us to make choices that are based on our commitments, not our feelings.  It is a technique that interrupts the habit by responding to cues (urges) in a new way.  Urge surfing allows us to recognize our feelings, but not be controlled by them.

Urge surfing gives you the ability to stand back, observe what is happening and think about what you are doing rather than being on automatic pilot.  It helps you to see your feelings and then be aware and make a conscious choice, which opens up the opportunity for you to choose what you are committed to.

 “Whatever the present moment contains, accept is as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”     ~Eckhart Tolle

CALL TO ACTION:  Notice your bad habits, and don’t resist them.  Just identify them and notice how they use you.  Come back Wednesday for part 2 of this 3 part series!

Create UNADULTERATED Communication in Every Conversation

Unadulterated communicationOne of the biggest limiting factors in a human being is our unwillingness to have straight conversations with each other.  Instead of honoring one another through open, truthful communication, we dance around what is really going on by being “nice,” not telling the full truth, or by simply spinning our conversations to avoid taking responsibility for our failure to produce a result.  Therefore, the simplest way to produce better results in your company, and your life, is to talk straight to people and require them to do the same.

If you are a business owner who is committed to remotely managing your business, this  type of UNADULTERATED communication is crucial for your success.  Even if you are simply committed to raising profits and productivity in your office, communication is truly the key.

Unadulterated communication is defined as a conversation not diluted or mixed with any other elements; emotions, opinions, or tempering.  It is a straight conversation that is complete and absolute, with EVERYTHING communicated.  When communicating like this, there is literally NOTHING left unsaid.  Both players walk away feeling complete and clear about the other’s position(s) and expectation(s), as well as what their promise(s) are in regard to the matter discussed.

The first place to start in generating this level of communication in your office, or your life, is to be clear about your promises, and hold people accountable for the ones they make to you.  Every time that someone makes a promise to you, ask “by when?”  These “by whens” equate to a managable deadline to which you can now hold them accountable.  Make note of them, and do the same for the promises that you make.  Don’t allow things to remain unclear… ever.

Realize that these communication issues are easy to resolve, it’s just a matter of changing people’s habits in respect to email usage and communication patterns.  If you get very rigorous with the ‘by whens’ and follow ups, everyone else in your office, or your life, will follow suit.

Finally, make a note of your deadlines for other people in your calendar so that if you ask an employee for a response on the 17th and you get nothing, you can provide accountability on the 18th.   This kind of accountability would look like an email or phone call saying something like “Hey, you said you would do x by yesterday, but I didn’t get your response.  Can you let me know, as soon as you get this message/email, by when you will have X done?”  If you get no response by the end of that work day, make another phone call (no email now) and leave the same message adding “This is now my 3rd request.”  Continue the phone calls until you get a response.  Rigorous management gets rigorous response… and rigor is what produces extraordinary results that equate to increased profitability!

CALL TO ACTION:  Choose one relationship that you will “experiment” with unadulterated ccommunication over the next few weeks.  Hold them accountable and manage their promisses with rigor, as well as managing your own.  You will be amazed at what the increased level of integrity brings to your business, your relationship and your life!


3 Necessities for the Remote Management of Your Business

tropicsAs I said last week, inadequate communication is the biggest source of frustration for most managers and business owners.  Poor communication is also the biggest source for lack of productivity in the work place.  Lots of entrepreneurs have the dream of working what productivity guru Tim Ferriss has deemed “The 4-Hour Work Week.”  Yet they don’t have a sufficient structure in place to manage their team remotely.  If your dream is to be able to travel, to be “disposable” in the daily operation of your business, you must be sure to have 3 things in place.

1.  A replacement.

You must have someone who can do your job better than you can.  Your replacement needs to be someone smarter and more efficient than you are.  They need to own their results and feel as if they have a stake in your company’s success.

2.  Full, unadulterated communication.

It is impossible to manage someone remotely who is not in full communication.  “Unadulterated” means not mixed or diluted with any different or extra elements; complete and absolute.  Your replacement must be an expert in communication.  They must know what and when to communicate; both in success, as well as in failure.

3.  Standard protocols for every job.

You must have systems in place.  How your company runs must be clearly defined and outlined such that ANYONE could walk in to ANY POSITION and do the job, following your protocols.  Every system must be mapped out in black and white.

How you put these three things in place is a whole other issue.  It takes preparation and vision to create a business that runs without you.

CALL TO ACTION:  If you want your business to run effectively without you, consider: Who is YOUR replacement?  Begin to train them to take your desk.  If you don’t currently have a replacement, poise your business such that you can hire one in the next year.  What will that take?  Make a plan and get in action!