Rethinking Your Path To Your Potential

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most impjuortant thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, twice a month I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being by Shawn Achor.

Summary of Book:

Shawn Achor is a world-renowned speaker and author. He is most well known for his expertise on happiness and how it relates to success. A Harvard graduate, Shawn has become one of the leaders in positive psychology and outside of his book has published many studies on the subject.

In his book, Big Potential he discusses the idea that as a society we have this thought that to reach one’s potential it requires you to do it on your own. Luckily, this is not true. Based on his research, Shawn discovers that success is not accomplished by individuals alone, but together with the help of others. He lays out many research studies and shares with us practical advice on how potential is not about how smart or gifted you are, but how well you connect with others. Today, I share with you what I learned after reading his book.

Lessons I learned from this book:

The Difference between Small Potential and Big Potential

As explained in the book, there are two types of potential small and big. Shawn teaches that small potential is the limited success you can achieve alone, and big potential is the success you can achieve only in a virtuous cycle with others. We all have the ability to achieve things on our own, but when you ask for help or let others help you the potential to reach success multiplies. It’s not just you that gets a boost but everyone around you feels the impact. And so, with data to back it up, Shawn discovered that as humans we are all connected and to fully reach your big potential you need to stop focusing on yourself and focus on the power of everything around you.

Create your own Virtuous Cycle

Most people believe two things:

  1. Pursuing “success” will lead to happiness
  2. I must reach my potential first and get to the top of my field before I can help others achieve their potential

Well, as Shawn found out those two things are simply not true. Most of us think about it backwards, and we just need to flip it around. To reach your potential and achieve “happiness” you must create a positive feedback loop within your own ecosystem. Simply put we need to utilize the people around us as a force to create an environment in which we can all thrive together, not alone.

In Shawn’s, research he found in many studies that reaching your potential is about creating what he calls is a virtuous cycle. He defines this cycle as an upward spiral of potential whereby with each success, you garner more resources, which, in turn, allow you to achieve greater and greater success. Instead of trying to do it all on your own, utilize the resources around you to help you achieve success. By creating this cycle you will find that it won’t just be you fighting each day to reach your potential, but you will have others standing by your side helping you along your journey.

Survival of the Best Fit NOT the Survival of the Fittest

As laid out in many studies in the book, Shawn found that success is not about how smart you are, or what you accomplish on your own. It is about how connected you are to others, and how well you maximize your relationships with others to help you achieve your potential. So, what he discovered was that it is not about who is most fit, but who can be the most connected. How you become super-connected is by helping others reach their goals, in turn, they will help you. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

5 Stages of reaching Big Potential = SEEDS

Surround: Create a network of positive influencers in your life who will help you reach your potential

Strategy 1: Tap into the power of positive peer pressure

To reach your full potential you must surround yourself with positive people. Simple concept, but yet very difficult for people to do. In fact, the great Jim Roan, states. “We are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Could you name those five people? Write them down and then write down how they make you feel and how you both can benefit from each other. You will be surprised to see that some of them might be the reason that you are struggling to achieve your potential.

Strategy 2: Create Balance through a variety

In a Harvard Business Review study, they tested six teams to understand the cognitive diversity between them. What they found was that the team with the most cognitive diversity was the highest performing teams. This tells us that the more diverse your network of personal and professional people will help you reach your full potential. Three types of people you should be looking for:

Pillars: Those who are a rock for you in tough times

Bridges: Connectors to new people or resources outside of your existing ecosystem

Extenders: Positive Influencers who push you out of your comfort zone

Expand: Increase your power to create positive change within your network by helping others realize they can lead from any seat

Strategy 1: Develop your Elevator Pitch

As explained in the book, a elevated pitch is a quick talk track or way you can frame a conversation with people to convince them to be positive forces for change. It’s hard to change people, so similar to what they call an “Elevator Pitch” in sales you can create a 30-second pitch to a person in need of a quick positive pep talk

Strategy 2: Use Progress as fuel

When trying to accomplishing something individually or as a group a great way to motivate is to focus on the small wins or as Shawn puts it “progress”. Instead of celebrating the outcome it can be even more impactful to focus on the action or effort being put in. This will remind yourself or the group that you are making progress and will rejuvenate your energy to get the job done.

Enhance: By helpers reach their potential you ultimately help yourself reach yours

Strategy 1: Stop Comparison Praise

How many times has someone told you were the best at X? Have you ever thought about what the person is saying? It is most likely not their intention, but they basically implied that you are better than everyone else in the room and ultimately instead of praising they are simply comparing you to others. When we do this we might be thinking we are praising someone, but at the same time we are putting others down. Without realizing it you set a limit on what that person can achieve because now they believe they are the best (Why try any harder if you are told you are the best), and you created the opposite of a Virtuous Cycle.

Instead of saying, “you were the best at” or “you are the smartest”, say something like “You did a great job, or you put in an incredible amount of effort which was the reason you won”

Strategy 2: Don’t just praise the outcome, praise to an outcome

A way to enhance someone towards their potential is by helping them realize what they could achieve in the future, vs. focusing on what they accomplished in the past. By making statements like, “You’d be such a great leader here because you care so much about the company” or “If you continue to put the effort you put in every day you will be in line for that promotion next day.” allow you to help someone realize what they can strive for in the future.

Defend: We face good days and bad days, but we must build an inner fortress to help defend against the negativity that will stop us from reaching our potential

Strategy 1: Build a stronghold within your mind

  1. Daily practice of gratitude is one example of a mental stronghold
  2. Think of three good things that have happened over the past 24 hours
  3. Change the way you think about failure – Use it as a source of motivation and energy
  4. Pay attention to the way you talk about stressful things at the end of the day. Remove all the negative words and thoughts and try to replace them with positive words

Sustain: It’s not easy to constantly be helping others along with trying to help yourself, so from time to time remember WHY you are doing it

Strategy 1: Tours of Meaning

Every once and a while stop and remind yourself of “why” you do what you do. Instead of thinking about your job or life as a duty. Flip it around and think about your job and life as having a purpose. As Shawn puts it, “Meaning is that “unbalanced force” that keeps us going, especially in busy or stressful times, and “Tours of Meaning” help us sustain this momentum by connecting us – or reconnecting us – to the meaning in our work.

How this book has impacted me:

It reminded me to take a step back each day and remind yourself of how I got to where I am today. No matter what your idea of success is or how successful you have become or will become you need to remember who will and has helped you along the way. It is a fact, no single human has ever reached their potential without the help of others.

Now Wake Up! It’s Day One. Start the day by being grateful. Let someone know how much they have helped you on your journey. And if you are truly ready to take yourself to the next level buy the book here!

Leadership Lessons I Learned from Bill Walsh (Hall of Fame NFL Coach)

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, today I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh and Steve Jamison.

Brief Summary:

Bill Walsh was most famous for his tenure as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. In his time, he transformed the 49ers from a below average franchise into a NFL dynasty.

After his coaching days, he gave Steve Jamison (Author – most notably wrote a ton of books on John Wooden) an exclusive interview to learn about his principles and techniques. This book walks us through Bills entire coaching career with real life stories, practical tips, and step-by-step leadership advice directly from Bill Walsh.

Leadership Lessons I learned:

One Team = One Mind

In the very first chapter of Bill’s book, he discusses an idea that teams and organizations have a conscience. For the 49ers, Bill believed from the receptionist to players like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana everyone should think and act in the same way. No matter your role or title within in the 49ers organization you were held to the same standards. Here is a direct passage from the book:

“Beyond the mechanical elements of doing jobs correctly, I assisted coaches, players, staff, and others in assimilating the values within my standard of performance, including what I believed regarding personal accountability among the organization and its personnel. This is consistent with my conviction that an organization is not just a tool like a shovel, but an organic entity that has a code of conduct, a set of applied principles that go beyond a company mission statement that’s tacked on the wall and forgotten. In fact, we had no mission statement on the wall. My mission statement was implanted in the minds of our people through teaching.

Great teams in business, in sports, or elsewhere have a conscience. At its best, an organization – your team – speaks the values and a way of doing things that emanate from a source, that source is your – the leader. ” – Bill Walsh

Create Your Standard of Performance

When Bill took over the 49ers organization it was one of the worst franchises in sports. Within a few years he took them from the bottom of the NFL into a NFL dynasty (winning 3 super bowls and became of the most legendary coaches of all time). The great thing about his story is that he did the most simple thing from day one on the job. His very first day he set the tone and expectations of how is players were going to act and think. He let everyone know exactly what he expected, and no matter your role or title you were responsible to uphold the standards set forth by Bil. The standards became more than just guidelines to follow. They embodied what it meant to be a 49er.

Here is how he went about building out his standard of performance.

  1. Identify and list out the specific actions and attitudes that will make your team successful
  2. Be clear in communicating your expectations of effort and execution towards your the actions and attitudes you identified above
  3. Let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area of responsibility
  4. Beyond standards and methodology, teach your beliefs, values, and philosphy.
  5. Teach connection and extensions. The team must work as one cohesive unit and hold eachother to the standard of performance set out by the organization or team.
  6. Make the expectations and metrics of competence that you demand in action and attidue from personnel the new reality of your organization.

Everyone Is Connected

Bill Walsh always wanted to teach his players and coaches that they were extensions of each other. When Jerry Rice (hall of fame wide receiver and star on the team) caught a touchdown pass Bill always reminded him and the team that he was not solely responsible, but that everyone from the offensive lineman, practice squad, etc were responsible in helping. This type of thought process made his players focus on the most important thing which was following the standard of performance. Bill made it clear that talent alone was not going to win the super bowl, and a sense of connection towards one common goal (following the standard of performance) was going to be the key to ultimately winning the super bowl.

Stay Focused on Improving, Not Winning

As the coach of the 49ers, Bill was determined to implement his standard of performance whether his team ever won or lost a game.

A staff member of his in his second season as head coach confronted him about how crazy he thought Bill was for not having a definitive plan on how they were going to win games, and super bowls. That staff member was fired immediately after his conversation with Bill. Bill had one goal and that was to ensure that everyone in the organization was focused on themselves and abiding by the standard of performance he put in place for the 49ers organization.

As Bill put it in his book, “I directed our focus less to the prize of victory than to the process of improving – obsessings, perhaps, about the quality of our execution and the content of our thinking: that is, our actions and attitude. I knew if I did that, winning would take care of itself.”

Be Careful Not to Push to Hard

As tough as Bill was as a coach he was very conscious of not pushing players to hard. His belief was that if the organization followed the standard of performance and solely focused on improving their actions and attitudes that in high pressure situations “trying harder” would not be the solution. The only solution would be to trust each other, and if everyone followed the standards that they practiced, the score would take care of itself.

Teaching Defines Your Leadership

Passion, expertise, communication, and persistence were the four things a coach needs to be able to teach their players according to Bill Walsh. In his book, he lays it out each trait in detail here is a summary:

  1. In order to be passionate about teaching someone you must love what you are teaching.
  2. You must obsessed over this specific topic and become as knowledgeable as anyone about the specific subject matter.
  3. The most powerful way to communicate is through showing enthusiasm and excitement about what you are trying to teach people. The goal is get the individuals or team as excited as you are. If you can’t get excited about what you are teaching than your team will follow suit. You set the tone.
  4. Key to teaching someone something is persistence. Bill would run the same drills over and over again, and say the same things over and over. The point of this is to ensure that things became automatic even in the most stressful moments.

How Has is book impacted me:

It was a fresh reminder of the importance of how by creating a set of performance expectations for yourself (a personal standard of performance) can help me stay focused on what I can control: my actions and attitudes. If you find a way to master this concept, than you know you did everything in your power to achieve your goals.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. You have the opportunity to wake up today and create your own standard of performance. May the choice be with you.

Develop Influence: Habit #5 of High Performers

So far we have discussed Brendon Burchards 4 first habits of High Performers (Seek Clarity, Generate Energy, Raise Necessity, Increase Productivity). Today, I share with you #5: Develop Influence. Before we dive into the practices of becoming a more influential person, let’s start with what it means to be influential and what makes high performers more influential than most.

According to Brendon Burchard, he states in his book that “having influence” means: the ability to shape others peoples beliefs and behaviors as you desire.

What does that look like? How do people shape beliefs and behaviors?

They just ask for what they want more

According to studies referenced in the book the most simple way to get someone to follow or buy-in to your idea is to ask them. Many studies show that people are more willing to say yes up to three times as often as people thought they would. And other studies show that people overestimate at to which point they will be judged for their ideas. So, it’s simple. The people who ask for what they want have two things in common that are highly correlated to high performance – They are clear on what they want and are willing to take a risk that will them learn and grow.

They give and do not look for anything in return

High performers have a giving mindset. They rarely give and ask for something in return. They are constantly looking to find ways to give to others.

They are a champion of the people

Appreciating people is the first step to becoming a champion of the people. The second and more difficult step for most is learning about others with whom you lead, work with, or our friends with. By understanding their passions and goals you can beyond appreciating them, and become their champion.

Now, think about the most influential person in your life? When you come up with that person ask yourself these questions:

  1. What, specifically made each person so influential to you?
  2. What was the greatest lesson each person taught you about life?
  3. What values or traits did they inspire you to embody in your own life?

You most likely will find that they share some of the same qualities discussed above. To become like that person I share with you three helpful practices that you can take action on to start to be more influential:

Practice One: Teach people how to think

No matter if you are a leader of a large organization, individual contributor, or just simply a human being, we all have the ability to teach someone how to think. The good and bad thing is that there is no right or wrong way to teach someone how to think because each one of us sees the world in our own way. This presents a challenge for trying to influence or change the way someone thinks about something. An easy way to do it is by using a phrase like the ones listed below:

  • Think of it this way
  • What do you think about
  • What would happen if we tried
  • How should we approach
  • What should we be paying attention to

By using phrases like that you are effectively teaching others how to think and influencing their behaviors by opening their perspective. To further help you think about ways to influence others, ask yourself questions like this:

  1. How do you want them to think about themselves?
  2. How do you want to them to think about other people?
  3. How do you want them to think about the world at large?

Practice Two: Challenge people to Grow

No surprise here, but high performers love a challenge. It is so deep rooted in their habits and behaviors that they easily find ways to challenge others. They typically focus in three areas when trying to challenge someone:

Character

  • By giving feedback, direction, and high expectations to live up to the best version of themselves. Here are some ways to challenge others characters in a non-direct way:
    • Ask people, Looking back, do you feel you gave it your all
    • Are you bringing the best of you to this situation?
    • What values were you trying to embody when you did that?

Connections

  • Asking people how they treat and add value to others is a way to challenge their relationship with others. High performers believe in teamwork, and treating everyone with respect. They tend to say comments like this in social settings or 1 on 1:
    • Listen to one another more
    • Show each other some respect
    • Support each other more

Contribution

  • Push people to add value whether you are having a good or bad day. This is not a one size fits all approach. Depending on the person you should tailor your conversation with them so you can help them add the most value in their own way.

Practice Three: Role Model the Way

High performers spend most of their days thinking about how to be a role model to others. They have a laser-focused intention on how they can act in a way that helps others become who they want to be, and help them achieve specific outcomes. To become a role model, you can use these thoughts and questions below:

  • If I were going to approach my relationships and career as an even better role model, the first things I would start doing are……
  • Some who really needs me to lead and be a strong role model right now is….
  • Some ideas on how I can be a role model for that person are……
  • If ten years from now, the five closest people to me in my life were to describe me as a role model, I would hope would say things like

If you felt like these were helpful feel free to purchase the book here or check out this blog, podcast, and website here for other helpful insight on living your best life. Remember, making the choice to read through the practices is the first step. The second step is putting action towards implementing them into your day.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One.

Increase Productivity: Habit #4 of High Performers

Over the past 3 weeks, I have shared the first three habits of high performing people from Brendon Burchard’s book High-Performance Habits (Seek Clarity, Generate Energy, and Raise Necessity). Today, I share with you the #4 Habit Increase Productivity.
Brendon Burchard defines the basics of productivity as this: “Productivity starts with goals”. The most productive people know where they are going, give all their energy towards the end goal, and feel as if they have no other choice but to reach it. Sound familiar? That is the first three habits of high performing people. So, this habit is all about taking action after you mastered the first three habits.

Brendon shares with us three practices that I find to be really helpful when it comes to taking action and increasing our productivity.

Practice 1 – Increase outputs that matter

High performing people focus on the outputs that matter. This is the simple idea of focusing on the fundamental things that make you better. Brendon calls this mastering your PQO (Prolific Quality Output) which is measured by seeing how much high-quality output one person puts in over the long term. Outputs are different for every person, however, the outputs typically lie within the most basic parts of your job. The type of things you typically don’t see an immediate reward with or have to repeat on a daily basis. Think about Micheal Jordan, Tiger Woods, Lebron James, Tom Brady – the greatest athletes of all time. When you research them and understand how they become who they are today, all you ever read is that they focused on the fundamental things that improved their overall physical and mental skills.

Now, how do you start to increase the outputs that matter?

Ask yourself, a few simple questions:

    1. What are the outputs that matter the most to my personal or professional career?
    2. What is distracting me from focusing on the things that matter?

Practice 2 – Chart your five moves

High performers always have a plan, and they are wired to spend more time thinking before acting. Reminds me of the famous quote by Abraham Lincoln ”Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Charting your five moves is simply focusing on the things that actually matter and condensing them down into five things that will help you reach your goal.

As Brendon puts it, “Let’s pause here and remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” What Brendon found is that High performers know what their goal is and have charted at least 5 moves that can help them get where they want to go.

You can do the same. First, ask yourself:

  1. What is the biggest goal or dream that I want to achieve right now?
  2. The five moves that would help me progress swiftly toward accomplishing that dream are?
  3. The timeline for each of my five moves will be…
  4. Five people who have achieved that dream who I could study, seek out, interview or model are…..
  5. The less important activities or bad habits I’m going to cut out of my schedule so that I can focus more time on the five moves in the next three month includes…..

Practice 3 – Get Insanely good at key skills

You can learn anything you choose to learn. To get insanely good at the skills required for you to be a high performer you most practice what Brendon Burchard calls “progressive mastery”. In his research, he found that high performers excel because they progressively improve each day to ultimately achieve the skill needed to accomplish their goals.
Here is are the steps to progressive training:

  1. Determine a skill you want to master
  2. Set specific stretch goals on your path to developing that skill
  3. Attach high levels of emotion and meaning to your journey and your results
  4. Identify the factors critical to success, and develop your strengths in those areas
  5. Develop visualizations that clearly imagine what success and failure look like
  6. Schedule challenging practices developed by experts or through careful thought
  7. Measure your progress and get outside feedback
  8. Socialize your learning and efforts by practicing or competing with others
  9. Continuing setting higher-level goals so that you keep improving
  10. Teach others what you are learning

If you felt like these were helpful feel free to purchase the book here or check out this blog, podcast, and website here for other helpful insight on living your best life. Remember, making the choice to read through the practices is the first step. The second step is putting action towards implementing them into your day.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One.

Raise Necessity: Habit #3 of High Performers

Today, I share with you the #3 habit of High Performers: Raise Necessity from Brendon Burchard’s book High Performance Habits. This is an important habit to build on because necessity is one of the ultimate drivers of motivation and achieving excellence. While interviewing high performers, Brendon asked them “why” they worked so hard, and how they stayed so focused. Their responses:

  • It’s just who I am
  • I can’t imagine doing anything else
  • This is what I was made to do
  • People need me now, They are counting on me
  • I can’t miss this opportunity
  • If I don’t do this now, I’ll regret it forever
  • I feel a deep emotional drive and commitment to succeeding, and it consistently forces me to work hard, stay disciplined, and push myself

People who agree with the statements above scored high on every high-performance test they were given along with studies showing they showed great confidence, happiness, and most importantly success over a long period of time.

So, what does Raising Necessity mean?

It is all about feeling emotionally committed to whatever you want to do in life, and reaching a point where it becomes necessary that you will excel at all costs.

To start to build this habit your first course of action is understanding the driving force behind what makes you feel that necessity and motivation to perform at higher levels. Brendon shares with us the four forces of necessity in his book.

Four Forces of Necessity

Identity (Personal Standards of Excellence)

As we discussed in the first habit of high performers they know exactly who they are, how they want to feel, and what is meaningful to them. With all those areas so clearly defined, High Performers set very high standards for themselves.

Obsession

High Performers have high intrinsic motivation because they strive to learn about things they find interesting, enjoyable, and personally satisfying. Obsession is a strong word and often has some negative connotations around it, but high performers simply are just more curious than others about their specific primary field of interest. They get to the point where they become so passionate about something that it can feel obsessive, and they feel this need or desire to master a specific subject matter.

Duty

High performers often feel that someone else is counting on them, or that their purpose is much greater than anything they personally want to achieve. They feel a duty to someone or something beyond themselves. Brandon found that for the top 15% of high performers it is not rare to hear them use words like legacy, destiny, divine timing, God, or a moral responsibility to other generations as primary motivations for their performance.

Urgency

A survey of 1,100 high performers revealed that their underperforming counterparts get pulled into fake urgencies or deadlines three and half times more often than they do. High performers feel the necessity to get something done because it affects other people.

Three practices on how to raise necessity in your life:

1.Know who needs your A game

A simple practice can just be reminding yourself if you are giving it your all today. Brendons research found that high performers are human just like you and me, so often they can find themselves in moments of self-doubt. To get them back on track they use tricks like this below:

Keep a post-it note, or set an alarm and write down these questions:

Who needs me on my A game the most right now?

This will force you to think and ask questions like these:

What is my A game?

Am I bringing my A game today?

Think of someone else which will hold you at a higher level of accountability

2. Affirm your Why

One of the differences between a high performer and low performer is the ability to share with others and themselves their goals, secrets or “why” they do the things. By affirming something you are confirming it and you say it with confidence assuming it will happen. High performers have confidence in their goals, and they feel proud to tell you about their purpose.

High performers tend to be more open about their goals and purposes to others because it raises their accountability in getting it done. They know that by telling others, they have to follow through. One of the main reasons high performers share their goals with others is because they actually don’t believe they are always right. They do this to be open to other processes and help from others to get to where they want to go.

So, this practice is simple. Open up to people who you are close to and tell them about your goals. If you don’t, ask yourself what are you hiding? What if you need help? Do you truly care about your goal to the point that you feel it is a necessity to get done?

3. Level up your squad

This has been proven time and time again – associating yourself with the most positive and successful people in your personal or professional network can help increase your performance. First, you need to evaluate who in your life causes you frustration, negativity, and limits your ability to be the person you want to be. Then you must remove those people out of your life, and simply focus on building relationships with people who are positive and successful.

If you felt like these were helpful feel free to purchase the book here or check out this blog, podcast, and website here for other helpful insight on living your best life. Remember, making the choice to read through the practices is the first step. The second step is putting action towards implementing them into your day.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One.

Generate Energy: Habit #2 of High Performers

Last week I discussed the first habit of high performers: Seeking Clarity. Today, I share with you the second habit of high performers: Generate Energy

According to Brendon Burchard, high performers learn how to generate energy which helps them perform at a lnhigh level over a long period of time. Now, to be clear Brendan in his book defines energy as the “holistic kind that includes positive and enduring mental, physical, and emotional vibrancy. “

Why is energy so important? Well, no surprise here but low energy is highly correlated with low performing success, and high performance is tied to high energy. People with high energy achieve much more success in their primary field of interest than their peers. The great thing about energy is that it is not something that you are born with. Energy comes from transforming the way you think and feel about any given situation. To help generate energy throughout your day Brendon shares with you practices in his book. I discuss below the two practices that I found to be really helpful:

Practice One – Release Tension, Set Intention

The easiest, fastest and most effective way to help increase energy is to teach yourself how to master daily transitions according to Brendon Burchard. A few examples of daily transitions are when you wake up in the morning from sleeping to waking, when you go from commuting to walking into work, and finally, the most obvious transition is when you come out of that meeting that didn’t go as planned and you have to hop into another one. We all experience many transitions throughout the day which impact our energy levels.

To start increasing your energy levels you need to recognize how you feel throughout certain situations and how you interact with others. A good way to start would be to write down all the transitions you go through on a given day. After you do that you can ask yourself these questions to help you understand how you think and feel throughout each one.

  • Do you ever carry over any negative energy from one activity to the other?
  • Do you ever feel depleted but still plow into your next activity without a break, even though you know you should take a breather?
  • What if you could change the way you think before each transition throughout the day? What would the impact be? How would you be able to do that?

Now, since you have a good understand of the daily transitions and how you feel and interact with them you can use Brendon’s technique which he calls release tension, set intention.

Here is how it works:

  1. Before walking into the next transition of your day close your eyes for a minute or two.
  2. Now, say the release in your mind over and over again. As you do command your body to release all the tension in your shoulders, in your neck, in your face and jaw.
  3. After you have felt all the tension being released, now you can set your intention for the next transition.

Practice Two: Bring the Joy

As you know one of the greatest joys of being a human is that you have a choice, and you can choose how you feel at every moment throughout the day. High performers recognize this and choose to “bring the joy” to their day by implementing habits that allow them to focus on positive thoughts and feelings. Here are six habits high performers try to implement into their day to day according to Brendan’s research:

  1. They spend time thinking about how they want to feel in advance of a key event.
  2. They strongly believe that their actions will be rewarded.
  3. They prepare themselves for moments when things go wrong. Remember their high performers are no different then you and I. They are human.
  4. They want to interject challenge into their day.
  5. They steer social interactions into positive emotions.
  6. They reflect on how grateful they are.

What better way to practice “bringing the joy” then starting your day with simple questions:

  • What can I be excited about today?
  • What or who might trip me up or cause stress, and how can I respond in a positive way, from my highest self?
  • Who can I surprise today with a thank you, a gift, or a moment of appreciation?

If you felt like these were helpful feel free to purchase the book here or check out this blog, podcast, and website here for other helpful insight on living your best life. Remember, making the choice to read through the practices is the first step. The second step is putting action towards implementing them into your day.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One.

Seeking Clarity: #1 Habit of High Performers

A few months ago I was recommended a book called High-Performance Habits: How Extraordinary people come that way. It is written by Brendon Burchard a high-performance coach who is widely regarded as one of the best in his field. Over the past 20 years, he set out to understand three fundamental questions:

  1. Why do some individuals and teams succeed more quickly than others and sustain that success over the long-term?
  2. Of those who pull it off, why are some miserable and other happy on their journey?
  3. What motivates people to reach for higher levels of success in the first place, and what kinds of habits, training, and support help them improve faster?

These questions led him to speak with some of the highest performing athletes and business professionals the world has ever seen. He was able to uncover a ton of research and data to help him understand the answers. With all of this information, he was able to write this book.

Instead of doing my traditional review of the book, I felt like this book was really helpful and insightful to the point I wanted to break down each part to make sure you can really grasp his concepts since they can be really life-changing.

Brendon discovered that there are six habits of high performing* people. For the next six weeks I will post about each one:

  1. Seek Clarity
  2. Generate Energy
  3. Raise Necessity
  4. Increase Productivity
  5. Develop Influence
  6. Demonstrate Courage

*For the purpose of his book, high performance refers to succeeding beyond standard norms, consistently over the long-term.

Today, I will be sharing with you his first habit of high performance: Seeking Clarity

Let’s, start by answering this question: What does it mean to seek clarity?

It is remaining focused on today, and the present moment, while thinking about tomorrow and the future. Really tough to do, and balance your time between being present and thinking about what is next. Brendon’s research showed was that High Performers have figured out how to do it, and they centered their focus on the future into these core statements:

  • Who they are
  • Why they are here
  • What they wanted
  • How they were going to get there
  • What they found meaningful and fulfilling

Seems like pretty easy things to know, but you would be surprised that very few people have spent time thinking about those statements above.

To understand further into how Brendon went about his research on seeking clarity he interviewed people asking them questions like this:

  • Which things are you absolutely clear about that help you perform better than your peers?
  • What do you do when you are feeling uncertain, or undirected?
  • What aren’t you clear about, and how does that affect your performance?

By asking these questions he was able to identify how high performing people use clarity as the #1 habit for performing at levels that are so much higher than their peers.

Using all of his data and experience he lays out three simple practices for you to use to help you seek clarity in your life:

Practice 1: Envision the future four

  1. Self – You must know who you want to become. Have a vision for your future-self. An easy exercise to help you:
    • Think about yourself in daily situations with co-workers, your kids, and your wife. Is that person you want to be? If you do not like how you are, then ask yourself how would I want to be. Now, write down three aspirational words that represent how you want to be and use them as your guide
  2. Social – Understand how they want to treat other people
    • Write down each person name in your family and professional life that you see regularly
    • Imagine it is 20 years from and each person is describing why they love and respect you. If they had just three words, what would you want those words to be?
    • Next time, you are with them use that time to demonstrate those three qualities.
  3. Skill – Think about what you want your future to be like. Then understand the skills needed to get there, and obsess over obtaining those skills.
    • Think about your primary field of interest and write down three skills that make people successful
    • Under each skill, write down what you will do to develop it. Will you read, practice, get a coach, got to a training? Set up a plan to develop those skills.
    • Now think about your primary field of interest and write down three skills that you will need in order to succeed in that field five to ten years from now.
  4. Service – They care more about their service towards others than themselves.
    • For example, low performers ask themselves questions like this, “How can I get by with the least amount of effort” and high performs say, “ How can I serve with excellence”

Practice 2: Determine the feeling you are after

High performers define the feeling they are after. They know exactly what that feeling is and they do whatever it takes to there. They ask themselves, what is the primary feeling I want to “bring” to this situation and what is the primary feeling I want to “get”? As Brandon, shares from his studies he finds that underperformers shy away from the feelings they want.

Practice 3: Define what’s meaningful

High performers tend to take in four factors when describing something as meaningful.

  • They feel enthusiasm towards that project or goal. For example, most high performers wake up and ask themselves “What can I get excited or enthusiastic about today?
  • They factor in their connection and value challenges over comfort. They want to be around peers and family who challenge them not make them feel comfortable.
  • Satisfaction: High performers said they feel relate satisfaction with meaning and an equation Brandon puts together is this:

Passion + Growth + Contribution = Personal Satisfaction

  • Life Makes Sense: High performers want to know that everything happens for a reason. They want to feel like their effort is helping them or others work something greater than themselves and that their life has a purpose.

If you felt like these were helpful feel free to purchase the book here or check out this blog, podcast, and website here for other helpful insight on living your best life. Remember, making the choice to read through the practices is the first step. The second step is putting action towards implementing them into your day.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One.

Life Lessons From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Letters from a Self Made Merchant to his Son by George Horace Lorimer.

Brief Summary:

George Horace Lorimer shares with us a fictional story about letters written between a father John Graham, the head of the house of Graham and Company, Pork Packers in Chicago to his Pierrepont who around the age of 18 is going off to Harvard. The letters span out over years from Pierrponts college days to getting his first job. The book consists of only the responses by John, so we get to see his advice back to his son about the different situations his son is facing. I share with you the lessons I took away from the book below.

Lessons learned from the book

Improving your character is more important than improving your IQ

John writes to his son, “The first thing that any education ought to give a man is character, and the second thing is education. There are two parts of a college education – the part that you get in the schoolroom from the professors, and the part that you get outside it from the boys. That’s the really important part. For the first can only make you a scholar, while the second can make you a man.”
When you think back to college or high school where did you learn the most? Was it outside or inside the classroom? As John tells Pierrepont knowledge comes from all different sort of places and most of what we learn and who we become has nothing to do with what we learned in the classroom. School is not about where you went or what you learned it is about what you did while you were there. It made me think about how we might need to rethink the saying “knowledge is power”. I better way to say it would be knowledge + action = power.

Always be sweeping

John writes to his son that he is worried that his head is getting too big at Harvard, and he is being a foolish college kid wasting away his money. As Pierrepont is about to graduate John wants to make sure he understands what is going to take to be successful.
“The only sure way a man can get rich quick is to have it given to him or to inherit it. You are not going to get rich that way – at least, not until after you have proved your ability to hold a pretty important position within the firm. It doesn’t make any difference whether he is the son of the old man or the cellar boss – that place is the bottom. And the bottom in this office is a seat at the mailing desk.”

Always be learning is one of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received. The best part about having a mindset where you are always learning is that it is a skill that everyone has the ability to do. No matter where you went to school, your title, or how “successful” you are. The one thing that separates the good from the great’s is their ability to continue to learn. While reading this book it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

“Training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we‘ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.”

If you are really smart, don’t make the same mistake twice

Johns advice to his son about learning from mistakes is a classic reminder of how powerful mistakes can be. He writes “when you make a mistake, don’t make the second one – keeping it to yourself. Own up.”
You don’t learn from what you are good at. When you are good at something you just keep being good at it. The simplicity of that is scary because it causes people to do two things: To be afraid of failure and feel ashamed to discuss them. When we shy away from mistakes or failures we stop growing and learning. No matter how good you are at something, you are not perfect. It is an important piece of advice to remember because if you truly want to reach your potential you must be ready to learn from your mistakes.

Life is about the little things

John writes to his son about how important it is to not judge a book by its cover, “Just here I want to say that while it’s all right for another fellow to be influenced by appearances, it’s all wrong for you to go on them. Backup good looks by good character yourself, and make sure the other fellow does the same. ” John teaches his son that the little things in life are the most important things and that 2/3 of success is making people think you are all right.
To me, who cares what car you drive, clothes you wear, and how big your house is. None of those things tell anyone what type of person you are. What matters it the little things. Smile and laugh with others, give to others, contribute to society, help people, and just be a good person. That is what makes people think you are all right.

How has the book impacted me

When I went to college my dad told me the exact same type of advice that John told his son Pierrepont – it doesn’t matter where you went to school, it only matters what you do when you get there. Though this is a fictional story, I will be sharing the same piece of advice to my son one day when I send him off to college.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Please feel free to buy the book here!

How to Manage Your Ego

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.

Brief Summary:

Ryan Holiday is an accomplished author, entrepreneur, and marketer. He is most recognized for his work as the head of marketing for American apparel and is very popular for his blog: ryanholiday.net.

Ryan shares with us stories from people who reached the highest level of success and how their egos either made them or destroyed them. He claims that there is three stages of your career: Aspire, Success, Failure. No matter whether you are early in your career, a super successful professional, or finding yourself failing at the moment, your ego will be there. Ryan shares with us how you can combat it at each stage of your life and turn it into one of your biggest assets.

Things I learned from this book:

Aspire – How to manage your ego while you aspire to be great

Talk Less:

How many people do you know who regularly talk about these big ideas or big goals they have? Or say I am going to do this? Or this is such a great idea? Where are those people today? Are they are actually following through on what they said? The answer for most is no. In the early stages of a career, or idea our ego makes us think that talking is more powerful, then silence and action. The issue is while you are talking up a storm telling everyone how great your idea is, the other person is working, learning, and taking action.

To be or To do:

This is a straightforward and compelling question. Do you want to BE something or do you want to DO something? Yes, there is a difference. And it’s a big one. When it is said and done, you will be remembered for what you did NOT what you said you were going to do. Pretty easy to guess which answer your ego will tell you to go with.

Become a Student:

A great way to keep your ego in check is to always be learning. I will leave you with a quote from Epictetus (Ancient Stoic) and additional thoughts from Ryan Holiday:

“It is impossible to learn what one thinks they already know” – Epictetus

“You cant learn if you think you already know. You will not find the answers if you’re too conceited and self-assured to ask the questions. You can not get better if you are convinced you are the best.” – Ryan Holiday

Have a purpose

“Passion is about. I am so passionate about X.”

“Purpose is to and for. I must do X. I was put here to accomplish X. I am willing to endure for the sake of X.”

If you believe you are truly an ambitious person, then ask yourself: Do you feel excited about what you do or do you feel like that this is what you are supposed to do?

Early Pride

Every night before he went to bed John D. Rockefeller wrote to himself in his diary. Here is one of the many entries:

“Because you have a got a start. You think you are quite a merchant, look out, or you will lose your head – go steady.”

Success – How to manage your ego when you made it

Keep learning

Success is a double edge sword. Our ego loves to feast on success whenever it gets the chance. It is so easy to fall into this trap of forgetting what made you successful. All that hard work, hours spent, and constant learning helped you reach your success, not pure talent.

When we reach success, we can go one of two ways. We will either strive to continue to learn and improve, accept harsh feedback. Or we will always assume “We know the way.”

“No matter what you have done to this point. You better be a student. If you are still not learning, you are already dying.”

What is important to you?

“According to Seneca (Ancient Stoic), the Greek word euthymia is one we should think of often: it is the sense of our own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it. In other words, it’s not about beating the other guy. It’s not about having more than others. It’s about being what you are, and being as good as possible at it, without succumbing to all the things that draw you away from it. It’s about going where you set out to go.” – Ryan Holiday

Failure – How to manage your ego when shit hits the fan

Effort is good enough

In our society winning is everything. We only remember and celebrate the champions. This is what can make failing so difficult for so many. When we fail we feel as if it was not worth it to even try. Next time, remind your ego that if you gave your full effort that is good enough.

Maintain your own scorecard

The best part about failure is that no matter how much you succeed you will always learn the most from failing. The most celebrated minds to ever walk this planet have one secret weapon that most humans fail to utilize. Their internal scorecard. We all have one. It is simply how we perceive success through our own eyes. When you face failure, your ego will try to take over, but you always can fight back. Just turn to your internal scorecard.

Always love

You failed a test. You failed to hit your quota. Your business idea failed. You lost your job. The best response is to the find the positive in everything. I know its hard, but at least try to laugh at it all. Anger never solves anything. Life is short, don’t take everything so seriously.

Alive or Dead Time

Robert Greene who mentored Ryan Holiday taught him there are two different types of time. Alive or Dead. Dead time is when you are sitting passive, accomplishing nothing. Alive time is when you are learning, and growing. Every time we are faced with failure or self-doubt we are presented with a choice on how we spend our time. Alive or Dead. You might not control the situation, but you do control your choice on how you spend your time.

How this book has impacted me:

This book made me realize two things: We all have an ego, and your ego is a very powerful tool that can help you achieve success in life. The term ego has a negative connotation, but honestly, ego is neither good or bad. To me, your ego is simply knowing who you are, but it should never define you. There is nothing wrong with believing in yourself or feeling special. I believe that is important. You are unique, so you might as well show off your talents. Just make sure you keep it all in check.
To ensure you do remember this:

“Training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we ‘ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.”

Now Wake Up! It’s Day One. I believe that this book is one of the most important books of our generation. Please read it.

How To Open Your Mind To The World of Possibility

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

Brief Summary:

Benjamin is a conductor and teacher at the Boston Philharmonic symphony while Rosamund is a psychotherapist. Together they share with us their 12 proven practices to opening up your life to the world of possibility.  Today, I share with you 7 of the 12 practices that I found most helpful:

It is all Invented (Practice 1):

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,

SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES

The other write backs triumphantly,

GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES

Each of us sees things in our own unique ways, and when we do, we tell our version of the story, as did these two marketing scouts. Why? As we experience life one moment at a time our brain is processing sensations and quickly providing us with a mental map to help us assess our next move. Basically, all of our experiences help us invent our own version of the world which creates the stories we tell and they things we see. This causes us to see the world the way we want to see it, not the way it truly is. If we could see the world as it really is, we would realize that everything is just invented.

What if we could see the world in a new way and generate a new or different map in our mind, a way to flip the script that is already written for us. Benjamin and Rosamund call this the practice of remembering “It is all invented.”

They give you a helpful set of questions to ask yourself to practice this concept:

  1. What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see?

When you answer that ask yourself this:

  1. What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me other choices?

Stepping into the World of Possibility (Practice 2):

We live in this “world of measurement” where everything we do is measured. We continuously think about how to survive, how we compare to others, and how we can be better than our competition which leads us to feel anxiety, self-doubt and gives us the natural instinct to look out for only ourselves. 

What if we thought about the world differently? What if the world was not about yourself but about becoming part of all being, and the focus was not on competing with others but finding joy in believing we could all succeed? Why not a world of possibility where we focus on being joyful and letting ourselves be who we truly want to be?

To practice this, ask yourself “ How are my thoughts and actions, at this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

Giving an A (Practice 3):

As a teacher, Benjamin Zander starts every student with an A to start the semester and makes them write out how they see their future selves succeeding as an A student in his class. He believes that if you think from the get-go that you are an A student, you will act as such. In his mind, you and your peers will hold you accountable to a higher standard because now you are officially an A student. You will be freed from the vicious cycle of worrying about comparing yourself to others which will allow you find out what you need to do to achieve the desired outcome.

Being a Contribution (Practice 4):

If anything, always find a way to contribute. This mindset can help you tremendously when trying to remain positive or trying to get through a bad day. If you ask yourself the simple question each morning, or during a moment of struggle.

Today or in this moment, how can I just merely contribute?

Lead from any chair (Practice 5):

As we live in this world of measurement, we assign titles to each person, and we believe only a CEO, Manager, Teacher, Parent, or Coach can be the only leaders in the room. These titles give people false misrepresentation of what leadership really is. No matter who you are or what your claim is, remember you are a leader. Here’s why:

“Today was exceptional in that I learned leadership is not a responsibility – nobody has to lead. It’s a gift, shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters. It’s in the eyes, the voice, this swelling song that warms up from the toes and tingles with endless possibilities. Things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love and give it everything.” – Quote is taken from a middle school student of Benjamin Zanders

The question to ask yourself is “How much greatness are you willing to grant people.”

Rule Number 6 (Practice 6):

Rule number 6 is simple and something you should never forget, “Don’t take yourself so god-damn seriously.”

The way things are (Practice 7):

Being present to things as the way they are is NOT the same as accepting things as they are.  Now, it doesn’t mean you should pretend you like what happens and act as if you always take the high road. It is OK to feel negative or disagree with a certain situation.  But practicing the idea of being present with the idea that things are the way they are allows you to not build up any resistance to being present. The practice of being present allows you to see the situation objectively and take the best course of action.

How this book has impacted me:

After reading this book, I learned how crucial remaining objective in every situation can help guide you in the brightest and darkest moments. I try my best every day to remain as present and objective as I can to try to see the possibility in every situation I am faced with. A few months after reading this book and practicing the things I learned I came up with my own way to deal with day to day situations. It is a straightforward guide I follow, but yet it has made an enormous impact on me:

  1. Remain objective.  Focus on what really happened or caused the issue, not what I want to believe happened
  2. Ask; what do I control? I control my attitude, my next move, ability to think differently, my willpower
  3. How can we resolve the issue? Invent a new way out of the situation, don’t fall back into the same preconceived notions that this is impossible

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Do you see a world of measurement or a world of possibility? Buy the book here!