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!

Leadership Lessons from Pete Carroll (My Spirit Animal)

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 Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play like a Champion by Pete Carroll with Yogi Roth.

Brief Summary:

This is an autobiography of Pete Carroll.  He shares stories and lessons he learned while coaching in the NFL and CFB along with his philosophy: Win Forever.

Things I learned from this book:

4 Important Leadership Lessons from Pete:

  • Your #1 job as the leader is to bring the energy. Whether it be practice, team meetings, or 1 on 1 conversations. You’re responsible for setting the tone. 
  • Every person on your team no matter what has the opportunity to compete at any level as long as they put in the work every single day. Experience does not guarantee the best spot on the team. All players compete every day to earn and keep their role.
  • It is extraordinary value to know your people, and it is worth a significant investment of your time. Pete is labeled as a “Players Coach,” and I hope when I retire my teams will remember me as a “Players Coach.” As does Pete, I lead people because I enjoy building a lifelong relationship to help them achieve their life goals.
  • The hardest thing for a leader to do is to NOT approach someone in a manner that may disrupt or shatter their self-confidence. It is our job as leaders to create an environment where we help grow people’s confidence not destroy it.

Pete Carroll’s Philosophy for achieving your potential 

“If you want to win forever, always compete” is the philosophy of Pete Carroll. To live this philosophy each day, you must focus on two things: always try to improve and do things better than they have ever been done before.

Competition in Pete’s mind is not between two individuals or two teams, but a mentality and way to approach each day. Typically, when we think about the competition, we think of competing against others. In Pete’s mind, he views the biggest competition you face is yourself and maximizing your ability to reach your potential every single day. Pete emphasis many times throughout the book that you must understand you have no control over what others do. You only have control of your energy and focus on trying to be your best.

Breaking down Pete’s Philosophy:27505b7319fea2d554763cb16492a2ba--life-coaching-seattle-seahawks.jpg

You must build your own philosophy to reach your potential:

To realize your potential, you must have a consistent philosophy. If you change who you are from year to year, you’re never going to be great at anything. If the goals, values, and beliefs you have laid out for yourself are true, then you will be able to stay on track with things get tough. The natural part will be building your philosophy. The tough part will be sticking to it, but if you do it will be your guide. 

Whenever Pete Carroll does speaking engagements about his “Win Forever” philosophy, he starts with asking the crowd someone to share their philosophy in 25 or fewer words. Majority of the attendees can never do it. Could you?

Practice is everything

Preparation and training should be designed, so your team is being trained for all potential outcomes. Each person on the team should feel as if they had seen every situation before seeing it in the game. By approaching and practicing this way, you build superior trust and confidence in yourself and your team to execute at any moment.

The second piece of practice is the environment, and it should always be promoting learning and building confidence. Pete believed that creating competition between teammates was a way to create this type of situation. He called it the “Competitive Cauldron,” and he established specific training for each day of the week:

  • Tell the Truth Monday: Review last week and make sure the entire team was aware of the good and bad of last week.
  • Competition Tuesday: A day filled with individual competition between players
  • Turnover Wednesday: If the offense kept the ball away from the defense all day. They won. If the defense created a turnover. They won the day. 
  • No Repeat Thursday: The goal of this practice day was to review the game plan and go over each play. The end goal is to never have to repeat any play.
  • Review Friday: Walkthrough game plan and paid strict attention to all details. 

How this book has Impacted me:

Towards the end of the book, Pete shares a story when starting as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He was asked which is better: Winning or Competing. It was a simple response to him…COMPETING.

When I read this, I knew two things instantly: Pete Carroll is my spirit animal, AND we share a similar philosophy on life and leadership. He believes no matter where you came from or what situation you find yourself in today, win or lose you can always compete and always improve. This is the exact idea of my mindset I call Day One. We all face many setbacks in life and have bad days, but it is always OK because tomorrow when we wake up, it is day one. You get the opportunity to compete again. 

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Time to make a choice: Are you going to compete today or not? Buy the book here: Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play like a Champion

 

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson

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 Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty. If you are a 90’s bulls fan. READ THIS BOOK. 

Brief Summary:

This book is a memoir of Phil Jackson’s time playing and coaching in the NBA. He shares his stories of playing with the Knicks, leading the 90’s Bulls to 6 rings and reviving his coaching career with the 2000’s Lakers to win 5 rings. Throughout the book, he ties into each story his 11 principles of leadership that he believes guided him to coaching his teams to 11 championships.

Things I learned from this book:

Lead from the inside out:

This is Phil’s first leadership principle. He believes that most leaders try to do whatever everyone else is doing, or the latest management technique. Instead, he says just lead from the heart and be authentic.

I found this as the single most important and most natural principle to master to become a great leader. Though I like to read and learn about leadership, nothing will stop me from just being me and leading with my heart. One of the things I have learned over time is that trust is an essential factor in leadership. Nobody wants to work for someone who is fake or acting like they are someone that they are not. When you lead from the heart people will trust you. It’s that simple. 

When I think about the people I lead at work, I don’t view them as employees or co-workers; I see them as humans that have given me the opportunity to help them reach their potential not only in work but in life. I care about their success and work as hard as I can to make them feel that we are in this together.  I hope that every rep I lead feels that we shared unique experiences and moments that will create a life-long bond. 

The road to freedom is a beautiful system:

As we all know, Phil Jackson was a big believer in the triangle offense. What he loved most about it was that it gave players a system in which to operate, but also let them use their own instincts and knowledge to decide what pass or shot to take in the heat of the moment.

What I took away from Phil was that you must train the entire team to use one effective framework/system that can help them do their job in the way you believe is best. How they operate within the framework or system is up to them. As a leader, I can quickly identify each rep’s strengths and weaknesses within the system to help them be better.  For example, I have a framework on how to run an effective demo. It is not a script or a word for word guide. It is a simple framework that helps guide the rep from beginning to end of a call. The rep has their own talk track that they can insert into the framework, and I believe that if they follow the process, they will be successful in the role. 

Focus on the spirit, not the scoreboard:

Teams are at their strongest when they give up self-interest for the greater good of the team. Here is a story Phil shares in the book about the importance of working as a team:

“The Samurai wanted to teach his sons the power of teamwork. So he gave each of them an arrow and asked them to break it. No problem. Each son did it easily. Then the samurai gave them a bundle of three arrows bound together and asked them to repeat the process. But none of them could. “That’s your lesson,” the samurai said. If you three stick together you will never be defeated.”

This taught me that if the team wins or lose, we win or lose together. From the first day I led a group of people, I made it clear that there was no individual person (including me as the leader) who was greater than the team. It seems like a simple concept to some, but Phil made me realize that it was one of the important things I had to make clear to my team as the leader.

I also learned the best way to hold an employee accountable is to have their teammates hold them accountable. Although I am technically the leader, my title has no meaning. In my mind, we are all teammates, and I am not the only one responsible for holding each employee accountable. The entire team is.

Tribal Leadership and becoming a stage 5 team:

In the book, Phil discusses the concept of “tribal leadership” and the 5 stages that every team must achieve to eventually reach their potential.  After reading it, I made stage 5 as my team’s vision statement (our end result). Below is my team’s vision statement:

We are dedicated to team pride and the overriding conviction that “we are great, not they are great, or I am great.” This team requires common beliefs and shared visions, and the bigger the challenge, the more powerful the team. Our long-term vision is to achieve a rare stage characterized in teams with a sense of innocent wonder and the strong belief that “we no longer are just great, BUT life is great.”

How has this book impacted me?

Phil made me realize that individuals can have all the talent in the world, but they will never achieve the level of success a fully cohesive team can accomplish. As a leader, your responsibility is to get a group of individuals to act as a team and believe in one common goal. If you can do that, your team will achieve success.

This was one of the first books I read when I became a sales leader, and to this day I incorporate the principles mentioned above into my day to day leadership (I only discussed 3 out of the 11 principles because they resonated with me most).  I still have a lot to learn, but thanks to Phil I have the foundation of my leadership philosophy. 

Now Wake up! It’s Day One. Buy Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success here

Playbook for Success – From One Millennial to Another – Guest Post by Kyle Maynard

Before I begin, I just want to thank Jeff for asking me to guest write for his blog. I’ve met a lot of people and worked with several individuals in my relatively short time on this Earth. If there is ANYONE who can motivate you to WAKE UP with a DAY ONE mentality…it’s Jeff Brandwein.

The point I want to make in this post can be summarized in two key themes. First, never trick yourself into thinking that where you come from determines where you’re going. And second, we are all capable of success, it’s your willingness to get serious and your ability to take the necessary steps that will ultimately get you there. Nothing in this post is groundbreaking by any stretch of the word; simply a set of principles and guidelines that I have applied to my life to get ahead.

Who am I?

My name is Kyle Maynard. I am a 25-year-old sales representative at a SaaS startup in Chicago. I come from a very small town called Cicero, Indiana with a population size of just under 6,000 people. Everybody knows everybody and not many people make it out of that bubble. Even though it was a very safe and comfortable place to grow up, I always knew I wanted something more. At 18, confused and eager, I graduated high school and started my collegiate career at Purdue University. Fast forward to 2015, and here I am; a young professional with not a clue what I was doing.

Since I can remember, I was told the same thing from all my elders: “do well in school, go to college, get a job, support your family, and you will be successful.” I also remember thinking to myself, “easier said than done.” These things can most definitely lead you to success, but how in the hell are you supposed to accomplish those things? And more importantly, is this even the path I want to take? This is an age-old tale and will always be a part of life we must go through.

I recently had a conversation with my brother, who is an extremely intelligent and talented 17-year-old. He has started to explore what he wants to do with his life and is struggling with finding what best suits his interests and strengths. It is a concerning time for him because he feels that the world hasn’t yet prepared him properly for what lies ahead and how to choose his path. What I tried to stress is that the world will never prepare you fully; unfortunately, you must struggle and make mistakes to figure it out. I had to figure this out the hard way, just as many of you had to. When I entered Purdue as a freshman, I learned very quickly that I was not prepared for what lied ahead. High school came so easy to me that I didn’t realize the amount of grit, preparation, and time-management that was demanded of me to succeed. Furthermore, it took me at least a year and a half to figure out what I was actually interested in pursuing as a major. This was a huge setback, as I switched majors twice. However, I finally recognized the importance of taking it seriously and laying out a game plan and took the necessary steps to get on the right path.

Here are the 5 things I have learned so far:

Find your “Somewhere”

We all have heard the phrase, “everyone’s gotta start somewhere.” This has been engraved on our brains since birth. The problem that most of us struggle with is, “where is my somewhere”? To start, you must first understand what you are chasing. Whether that is to own a three-story house, to be CEO of your own company, to become a famous athlete or musician, or to just be happy in life; you HAVE to determine what makes you get up in the morning in order to chase it.

Now sit down, take 20 minutes, and make a list of your top three goals. Don’t think intensively – just close your eyes and think of the first three things that come to mind. Write them down.

Goals vs. Commitments

Now that you have defined a few key goals or aspirations you would like to reach, it’s time to build on that. The first thing to recognize is that your goals CAN and WILL change. That is okay. However, it’s very effective to set annual goals to keep yourself on track. I prefer 3 personal and 3 professional goals. What’s crucial before laying these out is that you understand the difference between a “goal” and a “commitment.” One thing our team does at work is set a goal and/or commitment for the week. A “goal” is something that you wish to accomplish but isn’t fully under your control. A “commitment” is something that has a deadline, and you commit to accomplishing: no excuses. A great way to work towards your ultimate goal is to set 2-3 commitments that will help you reach that goal.

For example, one of my goals in 2018 is to learn to code on a basic level (HTML, CSS, JQUERY). 2 commitments I have set to accomplish this are:

1.) to schedule a half-hour block two days a week with my girlfriend (who codes and designs for a living) to work through a crash course

2.) to code and launch my own website for my music (I’m also a musician/producer in my spare time) by no later than December 31, 2018.

These two “commitments” I’ve made to myself are actionable and trackable, therefore enabling me to accomplish my “goal” of learning to code on a basic level. This principle can apply to your personal goals and is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

Small Victories are Vital

Now that you’ve laid out your goals and set your corresponding commitments, it is equally as important to celebrate those commitments as victories. Being in sales, small victories are vital. Dealing with rejection is a daily routine. To maintain a positive outlook and continue on your path to success, you must celebrate the small wins that ultimately lead you towards your goal. For example, every time we set a meeting at our company, we ring a bell. If we close a deal, we hit the gong. These things not only help with our company culture but on a personal level, allow you to celebrate the steps you’ve accomplished on the path to your ultimate goal. This can apply to anything: closing a deal, passing a test, reaching a certain body weight, finishing a painting, etc. The focus is to take time to celebrate those wins and know that you’re that much closer to your goal. Even further, instead of a gong, find a productive way to celebrate each small victory. It could be as simple as a “fist-pump” or as rewarding as a purchase you make to celebrate that victory. Regardless of the act, the outcome should provide you the confidence you need and inspire you to push on towards your goal.

Being Coachable

This may be one of the most important things I’ve learned in my life so far and one of the most valuable strengths I possess. Whether we admit it or not, we all have some sort of egotism in our DNA. We subconsciously shy away from advice or constructive feedback; whether it’s due to our fear of change, or our inability to accept when we are wrong. This is a cancerous and fixed mindset because it hinders our capability to grow as an individual. If you can swallow your pride and learn to implement advice from others who inspire you, it will change your world. For example, as a salesperson, my close percentage of meetings I conducted to deals I closed from January-March of 2017 was low. I wasn’t implementing advise I was given and therefore my performance suffered. I spoke with Jeff, who was my boss at the time, and recognized I needed to make some changes to my sales approach. After implementing these changes, my close percentage more than DOUBLED the next quarter and led to my now two promotions at my current company. If you take the advice given to you from people who have succeeded in your field, it will drastically improve your future.

Effort is Everything

Last, but definitely not least, it all comes down to EFFORT. You don’t have to be the smartest or most talented person in the room (believe me I’m not). All you must do is consistently put in the ‘incremental effort’ every single day or don’t bother getting up. If you apply these simple guidelines and make a conscious effort to use them, it WILL make a huge difference in the outcome of your future.

So the moral of the story here is: I’m not special, I came from a very small town and lived a very “normal” life. I had the same opportunities as my peers and am in no way someone who is a role model by any means. I have not cured diseases, and I am definitely not the most decorated salesperson at my company. However, instead of staying in a fixed mindset and wondering why the world hasn’t given me everything, I worked hard, accepted that I had to make some changes, and am striving every day to consistently use these principles to reach my goals in life. You don’t have to be the next Jeff Bezos or the next Elon Musk to be successful. We all have our own path, and hopefully, this helps you on your mission to find it.

Now Wakeup! It’s Day One.

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Grit

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  Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. What you will read below will not do this book justice. You must read it yourself. This is one of the most important books ever written, and it will change the way you think.

Brief Summary of Grit:

The author, Angela Duckworth, is a psychologist who has dedicated her career to studying the idea of grit. In her book, she discusses why grit is essential to achieving your potential and uses her research and interviews with people who she says are grit paragons (athletes, business leaders, etc.) to help solidify her findings.

She starts her psychology career while doing a study on West Point. She tries to understand why only 1,200 out of 14,000 are asked to enroll and how out of those 1,200 only 1 of 5 cadets make it to graduation. What she learned was that the scoring system that West Point uses does not accurately predict who the best candidates are. She finds that what predicts the best candidates is who is truly passionate and willing to persevere through the grueling task to become a cadet. Her research tells her that our potential is one thing, but what we do with it is another. She goes on to explain that what makes you successful is not about how “smart” you are, but how gritty. 

Things I learned from this book:

Effort Counts Twice

Duckworth shares an equation that is “Talent x Effort = Skill, and Skill x Effort = achievement which means effort counts twice. She shares a countless number of interviews and research studies of “Grit Paragons” who prove her equation. This equation tells you that while you can be the most skilled and talented person in the world at your craft, you can still fail because you did not put in the effort. A pretty simple concept right? How many people do you know who have all the talent, but fail? 

What is Grit and how is it measured?

Grit is not just as simple as working really hard. It is something you develop over time and actually grows with age. There are two parts to grit: Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth explains that grit is about working on something you care about so much that you are willing to stay loyal to it and strive for the same top level goal for a long period of time. 

How do you become Gritty?

You work to improve and develop the 4 physiological assets below:

Interest

The foundation for achieving your potential is rooted in what interests you. Duckworth explains that it takes time to find out what you are interested in, and most of us give up too quickly on things. She discusses the motto “Follow your passion,” and believes that we should rephrase it to “Foster your passion” because it takes time to find out what you are genuinely interested in. 

Practice

Most of us practice our craft and spend time working on our own personal or professional development, but why do we fail to achieve the highest standards in our fields? Well, Duckworth explains that the grit paragons she interviews didn’t just practice they deliberately practiced. To them, every day was a new day to improve from yesterday, and they were relentless with being better than yesterday.

Purpose

Duckworth describes purpose as a critical aspect of grittiness. To have a real passion for something you have to first be interested in what you are doing, but to deepen your passion you have to feel your work is important not to just you, but others.

Hope

To Grit paragons, hope means that if I give today all the effort I have, then I will be better off in the future. Duckworth shares a compelling statement that when I read it made me think differently:

Instead of “I have a feeling tomorrow will be better” you must say “I resolve to make tomorrow better.”

How to create a culture of Grit at work and for your kids?

1. Create your own life philosophy

This revolves around building out your core values, your vision, your purpose, your end result. Once you do you should talk about them, and live them every single day.  Every conversation you have with your kids or employees is centered around these items. 

2.  Duckworth developed a concept that she uses in her family called the “Hard Thing Rule”

  1. Everyone in the family has to do something hard
  2. You have to finish what you start
  3. No one gets to pick the hard rule for anyone else

How has this book impacted me?

This book changes the way I think about success and how I achieve it. If I make a career out of doing something I genuinely love, practice really hard every day, believe that this is my calling, and know that if I put in a full effort that I will be better off in the long run… I will achieve my own definition of success. Duckworth shared with me how simple achieving success in life can be and it has nothing to do with how smart you are.

As a parent, I have no greater responsibility than to teach and guide my son to his potential in life. I am going to use the ideas, stories, and concepts I learned in this book to be a better parent and that impact is extraordinary. As my son enters school, he will be taught that his effort is more important than getting an A, B or C on his test. Twenty to thirty years from now I believe this book will make the world a better place.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Are you ready to become a Grit Paragon? May the choice be with you. If you have decided YES, Buy the book here and also check out her non-profit Character Lab to find out how she is changing the way we educate kids.

We Are Our Choices – The Stories of Steve, Richard, and I

As I have discussed in my previous posts, reaching your potential is a long journey that will most likely last a lifetime. Your future is not necessarily in your control, but throughout each day we have the opportunity to shape it by the choices we make. At times you will be tested, self-doubt will creep in, and you will want to give up. In those moments believing in yourself is vital, but the next most important thing is the choices you make to continue to move forward.

Today, I want to share a personal story and examples from others on how much power you have at this very moment to make a choice that can alter your future for the good or the worse. 

Let me start by asking you this:

Do you ever wonder why some people in your group of friends in and outside of work seem to progress their life or career faster than you?

To be honest, it’s simple and truthfully outside of any external factors it has nothing to do with luck or fate. The answer lies in the choices they make.

Years ago, I was like most people. Waiting for others to help me reach my potential. I remember being at my first job out of college, sitting at my desk, waiting for the next 1-on-1 with my boss to get feedback or waiting for the leadership team to give me training. The classic line that every single experienced professional will tell you is “Be proactive, go talk to your boss. Ask if there is anything you can do more of”. We have all been there, sitting and waiting for someone to tell you how to get better.

One day, while I was waiting for my 1-on-1, I had this feeling like this moment had already played out so many times before. Now looking back, I realize of course it has. The feeling that I remembered was how I felt after a 1 on 1 with my boss or after training or doing what everyone tells me to do. I felt good, and at times I learned something. But I started to wonder: Is this the rest of my career, waiting for someone else to help me?

So I made a choice. Instead of waiting for my boss to give me training, or teach me something, I realized I must take ownership of my own development. If I couldn’t do that, then nobody would ever be able to truly help me reach my goals. I decided I would learn as much as I could about business, sales, and leadership by myself, and then record and apply my learnings to my day to day job.

What choice did I make to start to improve myself?

You have many different ways to learn and get better. I decided books were the first and best route at the time. Sales books, biographies, self-help, business, non-fiction, whatever I could get my hands on. The key was not necessarily in the books themselves, it was the choice I made to take control of my own improvement that was important.

For me, books were helpful; for others, they might respond more favorably to something different. Whatever it is, the point is that I stopped waiting for others to help me and took matters into my own hands.

How did this choice to read books impact me?

I wanted to be in sales since I graduated college, but due to the economic climate in 2009 I took the first job I got offered. My passion was sales but sales jobs were hard to come by at the time for entry level reps. After a ton of hard work, I was given the opportunity to join a top tech company in Chicago to do sales. My very first sales manager told me something that I will never forget. He told me he hired me because in the interview process he was so impacted by the amount of effort I put into reading books about sales. He had interviewed candidates who had more experience than me, but I used my knowledge that I acquired from the books I read about sales and business to show him that I could learn quickly and apply it. This made a lasting impact and helped me to get the job over others with more experience. Looking back, my decision to start reading was the best thing I ever did, because ultimately it launched my career.

One of the early books I picked up was Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin.” After reading it, I took away two stories that are now the foundation of my life, and my sales team. It is the stories of two men named “Richard and Steve” and how their choices will impact their careers.

The Story of Steve (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Steve works at the Stop and Shop near my house. He hates it. He works at the cash register, and it seems as though every ounce of his being projects his dissatisfaction with his job. Steve won’t make eye contact. Steve takes a lot of breaks. Steve doesn’t start bagging until the last possible moment. Steve grumbles a lot.

The thing is, Steve spends as much time at work as his co-worker Melinda. And Melinda is engaged, connected and enthusiastic. Steve has decided that he’s not being paid enough to bring his entire self to work, and he’s teaching all of us a lesson. Melinda has decided that she has a platform, and she uses it to make a tiny difference in every customer’s day.

The sad part for me is that while Steve is busy teaching the store a lesson, he’s teaching himself that this is the way to do his job. He’s fully expecting that his next job, or the job after that or the job after that is when he’ll become the linchpin. If he waits for a job that he feels deserves his best shot, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever have that job.”

The Story of Richard (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Forty years ago, Richard Branson, who ultimately founded Virgin Air, found himself stuck and most likely to be late for a business meeting in an airport in the Caribbean. They had just canceled his flight, the only flight that day. Instead of freaking out about how essential the flight was, how badly his day was ruined, how his entire career was now in jeopardy, the young Branson walked across the airport to the charter and inquired about the cost of chartering a flight out of Puerto Rico.

Then he borrowed a portable blackboard and wrote, ‘Seats to Virgin Islands, $39.’ He went back to this gate, sold enough seats to his fellow passengers to completely cover his costs, and made it home on time. Not to mention planting the seeds for the airline he’d start decades later. Sounds like the kind of person you’d like to hire.”

So, I leave you with a question: Who do you want to be? Richard or Steve? It’s up to you to decide. You are in control of your destiny. This world owes you nothing. You must take ownership of your choices. No one else will help you unless you start to help yourself.

Now WAKE UP! It’s Day ONE. May the choice be with you.

 

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Today We Are Rich

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 Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence by Tim Sanders.

Brief Summary:

Tim Sanders was an early stage member of Broadcast.com (think Mark Cuban), and he was a former executive at Yahoo! Today, he is an international speaker, consultant, and author. In his book, Tim shares with us his personal story of moving back home to live with his grandmother while he was going through some hardships. While back home, he learns from his grandmother the 7 principles of “confident living.” He shares personal stories about each principal and how they can be used step-by-step to overcome obstacles to become more confident and achieve your full potential.

Things I learned from this book:

Feed the mind

This is one of the easiest things to do but yet so difficult. Tim simply explains that we must reduce or eliminate the things in our lives like social media, news, and friends that gives you negative thoughts. No surprise here, but by doing this it will increase your overall happiness and positivity. Tim was way ahead of his time considering I read this book about 7 years ago which makes social media look like an infant. As we enter 2018, it is more vital than ever to try to eliminate the crap out of your mind. Here are some tips I learned from Tim:

  • Write down everything you read, listen to, and watch. You will be shocked at how much unnecessary crap you are wasting your time with.
  • Once you have seen all the crap, you can start reducing it one by one. For example, cut people out of your life who are negative, and delete friends on social media who are constantly creating drama and creating negative thoughts in your head.
  • Spend your time reading books, editorial pieces from credible authors, and watching credible shows which discuss solutions instead of problems. 
  • Avoid waking up and looking at your email or social media. The first thing you see every morning should be something positive.
  • Keep an ongoing journal in your mind or on paper of successful things that happen and use that as a way to combat negative or self-doubting thoughts.

Move the Conversation Forward

To me, this is an essential skill to have and the #1 principle you must be able to master. I personally took this principle as the idea of how to take a conversation with yourself or someone else and find the good in it. It reminds me of the many times, we get caught up in a conversation and drown ourselves in the problem instead of looking for a solution. I see so many people do this and it creates a downward spiral that leads to taking no action.  

Tips from Tim about how you can continue to move the conversation forward:

When processing the information it comes in four ways, and you should frame every bit of information:

  • Good – Either for you or for someone or something you have an interest in
  • Neutral – No direct effect on you or one of your interests
  • Get Busy – Adversity you need to respond to
  • Bad – A irrevocably negative effect on you or one of your interests

Use Willis Carrier’s (Founder of Carrier – Air Conditioning) advice to move the conversation forward:

  • Define the worst case scenario
  • Accept it as survivable
  • Make a good goal of beating it

Always be Prepared

  1. Become an expert in your craft:

A few easy ways to do this is to read books in your field, network with other individuals in your field and find a mentor or mentor an individual who works within the same industry. How many people do you know do any of those three things? To be honest, I know very few people.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice:

Run through the presentation as it actually will be. Every detail of the presentation should be precisely the same when you are practicing. From the setting to the running through the entire presentation it should all be done as if you were presenting live.

  1. Expect the unexpected:

Something I have learned time and time again is that nothing goes according to plan. We should always prepare for “objections” or potential challenges we will run into and assume the worst case scenario. It is very important especially for sales and business. I know personally that I have fallen into this trap thinking a call would go one way and I was not prepared for the objections that came up. Though my reps don’t like when I seem pessimistic on a deal, I am just trying to prepare for all scenarios so we can win the deal.

How has this book impacted me?

One of the particular ideas expressed in this book, “move the conversation forward”, really moved me. Ever since reading it as a young professional it made me rethink the way I communicate with others and the ways I talk to myself subconsciously. Over the years, I have been trying to understand and learn as much as possible about the human mind and how we can control our thoughts. It has led me to a philosophy called Stoicism that I now consider a big part of my life professionally and personally.  

I read this book twice in my life: once as an early professional, and again as a sales leader. I personally use three of the seven principles discussed in the book every single day and I credit them to a lot of the early success I’ve had in my career. The best part is that the principles can be implemented by anyone and when they are, they can change your life and your career.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Buy “Today We Are Rich” here and check out Tim’s other books, all of which are great. If you are not a book reader but enjoy great content, follow Tim’s blog here: http://timsanders.com/blog/

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – HARD Goals

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 Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Mark Murphy. This book will teach you an entirely new way to set goals, and when you do it will change your life.  

Brief Summary:

Mark Murphy is founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, which is a leadership consulting company. Mark and his team studied 5,000 workers from all different type of industries to understand what makes people and businesses extraordinary. He also shares stories from people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and many of our past presidents to discover what made them achieve things most dream of doing. What he learned was that they didn’t set easy or “SMART” goals, they set HARD goals. In his book, Mark walks us through what HARD goals are and how we can achieve them. 

Things I learned from the book:

  • You must be emotionally connected to your goal, able to see and feel as if this goal is necessary to your survival and when accomplished it is the hardest thing you have ever done in your life.
  • Forget about SMART goals, and focusing on tactical and analytical goal setting. The most important part of the goal-setting process is asking yourself questions like this: “WHY do I care to accomplish this goal,” What happens if I don’t accomplish it? How is this goal going to help me reach my potential?
  • The specific part of “SMART” goals is OK, but all you do to make it specific is focus on making the goal a number. Instead, why don’t you visualize the goal, and draw it out to make it specific? If you can draw the goal being accomplished, then your mind will be more invested in completing it.

Other things I learned:

You can set and achieve HARD goals because YOU HAVE DONE IT MANY TIMES BEFORE

We have all accomplished things we never thought possible. When we do, we all have the same feeling that makes us feel on top of the world. Unfortunately, as incredible as that feeling is we as humans tend to lose it so quickly. For most, they just completely forget, and it prohibits them from remembering how they achieved things once thought impossible. So, right now at this moment think back to the last time you did set a goal and achieved it. Now ask yourself these questions?

  • Did this goal challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone?
  • DId I have a deep emotional attachment to the goal?
  • Did I have to learn new skills to accomplish it?
  • Was my personal investment in this goal such that it felt entirely necessary?
  • Could I vividly picture what it would be like to hit my goal?

What are HARD goals and How do you set HARD goals?

Heartfelt

As mentioned above, the best question to ask yourself is “Why do I care about this goal.” This is a straightforward and easy question, but yet very powerful. And to further develop a heartfelt connection Mark explains you must focus on intrinsic, personal, extrinsic connections to your goal:

    • Develop goals around things that interest you, and you have expressed passion towards
    • Who are you accomplishing this goal for? It is OK if it is not just for you but for someone else
    • Ask yourself what the payoff is?

Also, Mark discusses the idea of discovering your “Shoves and Tugs” which are moments/things that pull you away from your goal or push you towards your goal. Once you identify what these “things” are you can be more aware of them and set goals that are tailored to the tugs more than the shoves. To help, ask yourself questions like this to help yourself identify shoves and tugs:

    • Describe a time when you felt really frustrated and wanted to give up?
    • Describe a time recently when you felt really motivated, and you were totally fired up?

Animated

This is a simple task that I think most people know how to do, but don’t actually do it. A great way to think about is to ask yourself “How do I think this goal looks and feels? Literally, Draw it out. (Shape, Colors, Lighting, Distinct parts, Emotions, Movement)

Required

Most of us set goals annually and never achieve them (80% of us to be exact). Why? We want the reward immediately rather than putting in the long-term work. When it comes to goals like losing weight, saving money, and trying to improve yourself, it is easier to just eat that cake, spend that money, or not pick up that self-help book in the moment. You say, ‘well I have time. I can start tomorrow, or next week’. You have no thought of the future implications. So, how can you try to turn the goal into being a requirement and ensuring it gets accomplished?

  1. Ask yourself this: If you don’t accomplish this goal, what happens? If the implication is something you can deal with, then I bet you will not be invested enough to follow through on accomplishing the goal.
  2. Spread out the costs and rewards over the present and future: Instead of taking on the brunt of the work now, and rewarding yourself right now. You can spread it out and have small wins to avoid burnout and gain confidence.
  3. Limit your choices: If you are trying to lose weight don’t go to a restaurant that has healthy and crap food. Just, change the habit not the reward to get you thinking about breaking your goal.
  4. Focus on each day, or as I like to put it say to yourself “every day is day one.” Just focus on accomplishing today.
  5. When writing down your goals or visualizing your goals make sure you tell others you want to “lose weight” say “6 months from now I will be wearing an X size” OR say “I will be wearing those pants that I have not worn since I was young”s

Difficult

To create a difficult goal you ask yourself  questions like this:

  • How is this goal going to stretch me?
  • What will you have to learn to achieve this goal?
  • How will you have grown and what skills will you have acquired?

How has this book impacted me?

The first time I read this book I thought it was dumb, no joke. I was all for the “SMART” goal idea, but I quickly realized how I and so many others fail to actually accomplish their goals. I re-read this book about 3 years ago and went into it wanting to find a better way to set and achieve goals. Well, over the past 3 years I went from saying I was going to achieve goals to ACTUALLY achieving goals. I go through an annual goal setting process for myself personally, and I use these steps above to help me do that.

In 2017, I set 6 goals for myself: Read 25 books, reconnect with 6 people from my past, write 5 recommendations for others who I have worked with, save and invest X amount of money, build out a framework for a blog, and write a “thank you” letter to my high school teacher. I can tell you that I read 28 books, reconnected with 10 people, wrote 9 recommendations, didn’t just start my blog, but published 10 posts in 2017, and reconnected with my old teacher. My goals were crushed in 2017, and I have no doubt if I follow this process of setting HARD goals I will do it again and again.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Time to set your HARD goals for 2018 and beyond. You can start by purchasing the book here: Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and check out www.leadershipiq.com for more information on Mark and his company.

Don’t Stop, Keep Going

After reading my prior posts, you learned that to start achieving your potential you need to be able to believe in yourself and redefine what the idea of success means. Hopefully, you have done both! If not, It’s OK. Step 1 is the hardest step to complete, and even if you do, it’s hard to maintain. Trust me. Others in your life will tempt you to follow the “rules,” and you will continuously feel tested with the vicious cycle of worrying about the past (failure) and future (success), which will try to prohibit you from making choices and taking action. You will feel like you want to give up and start to doubt yourself, but you must continue to move forward on your journey, and remind yourself of these four things:

1. Remember your “Why”:

Your “why” is your purpose which is what drives you and what wakes you up every single day. When you have moments where you want to give up, your “why” is the single most important thing to remember. You don’t need to focus on your “why” in the broader sense of your life but think about your “why” for this moment, which also allows you to be fully present. It helps you focus on what is right in front of you, and it gives you the meaning and motivation that you will need to continue forward.

Further questions to ask yourself:

Why are you here?

Why have you gotten this far?

Why do you wake up every day?

Why should you continue to move forward?

2. What you can control, and your supposed “superhuman idols” control:

Writing down what you control and what your idols control is a great exercise to help you realize that you both control the same things. Typically, people will notice three things about their role models: 1. They put in more effort. 2. They learn every day 3. They are not afraid to fail. That’s it. Understanding you can be as great as they are by noting these things is an incredibly powerful feeling.

Further questions to ask yourself:

How do they go about their improving their skill or ability?

How did they get to where they are?

How hard did they work? What specifics outside of pure talent did they do to be successful?

How many times did they fail?

3. The present moment:

Stop worrying about what happened yesterday or what is going to happen tomorrow. Focus on the here and now. In this moment, how can you just merely contribute? Ask yourself each day, what did I do to add value to the world? These questions will allow you to see how much you accomplish in just one day. You realize that you make an impact and you quickly start to understand how you have the ability to do amazing things in your life.

4. How you respond:

This goes along with the prior point of focusing on the present. What has happened in the past is what it is. Every second spent talking about regret, could have, should have, would have is time you are wasting that could be spent on moving forward. If you are serious about reaching your potential, we need to get going. We have more steps to take in this journey. Make a choice and TAKE ACTION.

You might think it can’t be that simple, but it truly is. As humans, we tend to overcomplicate EVERYTHING. It’s time to cut the bullshit. You need to WAKE UP! The good thing? It’s Day One. So, my first question to you is: Are you ready to make the choice to move forward?

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

 

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 Mondays, I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me. 

Today’s book is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”  – Carol Dweck, Author of “Mindset”

 

Brief Summary of Mindset:

Carol Dweck states in her book a simple concept. The view you adopt of yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. According to her research, we have two mindsets: Fixed and Growth.

The belief of Fixed Mindset individuals: We were born a certain way, and we remain that way forever. Our personality traits, IQ, and skills cannot change. When something gets hard, they quit. When someone gives them feedback, they deny it.

The belief of Growth Mindset individuals: They view them themselves as always able to learn more and grow. A growth-minded person has an intense desire to learn and looks at challenges as opportunities to grow. They want as much feedback as possible and are always looking for ways to learn. They believe the harder they work, the better they will become.

Things I learned from this book:

  • Mindsets are just beliefs that are powerful but can be changed.
  • Praise effort, not ability. When kids were told they were smarter they started to lie when they did not live up to their potential. They were afraid to fail and show their weakness. If you praise their effort, they will be motivated to work harder and therefore do better.
  • You can reach your potential by developing skills over time with effort.
  • What is referred to as CEO Disease is feeling like you have to be perfect. There is an intense focus on short-term goals rather than long-term goals.

Dweck’s thoughts on Growth Mindset:

  • Growth Mindset is about developing and becoming smarter every day.
  • Those who have a growth mindset focus on people who are doing better than themselves because they know they can learn from those individuals.
  • Growth Mindset finds a deeper meaning, then whether they won or lost. They learn from it. They value the outcome regardless of winning or losing. It is all about giving full effort.
  • Growth Mindset is about wanting to practice and learn every day.

Dweck’s thoughts on Fixed Mindset:

  • Fixed Mindset is about establishing superiority and wanting to perform.
  • Fixed Mindset is the need to constantly try to prove yourself.
  • Fixed Mindset asks questions like “Will I succeed or Fail?” or “Was that a dumb or smart question?”
  • Fixed Mindset blames others and acts externally.
  • Fixed Mindset only enjoys when things are going well and if they do not, they lose interest.
  • People of a fixed mindset try hard just to make sure they succeed. They don’t want to show their weaknesses.
  • Fixed Mindset focuses on people who are doing worse than them so that they can feel better about themselves.

Other learnings I took away:

The idea of how we should all think like babies:

She discusses the idea of how when we were babies we all had a growth mindset. We were absolutely fearless. Every time we fell, we got right back up.  And most importantly, we did whatever it took to learn to walk and talk, which is the hardest thing we will ever do in life. The challenge is that we forget this, and as we grow up we become scared. We doubt ourselves and our abilities.

How to change your mindset no matter who you are:

She breaks up the book into specific sections about athletes, general leadership, love, and parents, teachers, and coaches. I highly recommend that you read the entire book, but if you are short on time you can jump to the section that might fit your needs.

We do not have a  growth mindset for all things:

This is the most important part. She says that there are certain things in life that you just have no desire in, and by default have a fixed mindset towards that specific thing. That is OK. What she is saying is that you have to love or have a ton of passion around something to use your growth mindset. If someone does not like something they are not likely to exhibit a growth mindset towards it.

Real life examples of a fixed and growth mindset:

Here is an example directly from her book of a professional who has a fixed mindset at work:

‘“Here I am,” you think.  “In this low-level job. It’s demeaning. With my talent, I shouldn’t have to work like this. I should be up there with the big boys, enjoying the good life.” Your boss thinks you have a bad attitude. When she needs someone to take on more responsibilities, she doesn’t turn to you. When a promotion comes up, you don’t get considered.

Fixed Mindset Reaction:

“Shes threatened by me,” you say bitterly. Your fixed mindset is telling you that, because of who you are, you should automatically be thrust into the upper levels of the business. In your mind, people should see your talents and reward you. When they don’t it’s not fair. Why should you change? You just want your due.

Growth Mindset Reaction:

You consider the idea that some people stand out because of their commitment and effort. Little by little, you try putting more effort into things and seeing if you get more of the rewards you wanted. You quickly realize that effort was the key.

Instead of seeing your discussions with your colleagues as time spent getting what you want, you begin to grasp the idea of building relationships or even helping your colleagues develop in ways they value.’

How has this book impacted me?

My dad has told me something for as far back as I can remember: “Jeff, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, just work the hardest.” While reading this book, I realized that what he told me was not just my dad being a dad- it was actually a proven truth.

Even though I am a highly motivated person by nature, I went to another level after reading this book because it taught me that if I just focus on putting in the effort, I can and will succeed.

Hopefully, this review gave you more insight into mindsets and why I believe so strongly in the content you see and will continue to find on my site. To continue the conversation, I will be posting on Friday about the first step in building your mindset: Perceiving yourself as someone who can achieve anything.

Now, WAKEUP! It’s Day One. It’s time to purchase and read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success today!