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Sharing Belief (#83)

Having people in our lives who share their belief in us is incredibly important; it’s the underpinning of great leadership, good parenting and many religious foundations. Motivational guru, Tony Robbins’ entire career and platform is based on helping others believe they can do more than they thought possible.

That said, belief must also be coupled with reality; reality of what it will take to achieve the desired outcome. One without the other will likely lead to failure, disappointment and even unreached potential.

For example, I can tell my daughter that I believe she can get into Harvard or become an Olympian, but that should be accompanied by an explanation of what that will require in terms of passion, skills, effort, commitment and time. She must know that, if she really wants something, no one else can or should do the work for her.

Belief grounded in reality is critical. It’s also something I think many micro-managers and “helicopter” parents get very wrong.  Telling someone that you believe in them and then doing the work for them at the first sign of struggle doesn’t allow them to gain the experience of learning from their own mistakes, which is an essential element of success.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear John DiJulius, a best-selling author and one of the top customer service gurus in the world, give a keynote speech. Like many successful people and entrepreneurs, John shared that he was diagnosed with ADD and struggled in school when he was younger. Fortunately, he had wonderful parents who told him how much they believed in him.

John’s experience came full-circle with his own son. At the age of 10, John brought his son to a national wrestling tournament as he had beaten everyone else in his age group in the state of Ohio. In the double elimination event, John’s son lost his first match 15-0 to the top ranked boy. The match even had to be stopped several times because John’s son was crying. He lost the second match in 15 seconds. It wasn’t pretty.

On the flight home, John’s son asked about returning the next year to compete. John told him that, if he was serious about doing so, it would require a higher level of training and dedication than he’d ever committed to before, all of which he outlined in detail. John was also clear that, while he believed in him, he wasn’t going to hold him accountable for doing the work. His son had to want it for himself.

John admitted that he honestly did not think his son’s zeal for competing the following year would endure. But, to his surprise, his son fastidiously followed his training regimen. When they returned the next year, his son not only won his first six matches, he also beat the same kid who he’d lost to in the finals the prior year and won a national championship.

When John asked his son how he mustered the will to do what he had done, his reaction was simply “because you told me I could.” In relaying the story, John expressed guilt that he had doubted his son’s ability and dedication to compete at that level; he just thought he was giving him a good pep talk. Had he not conveyed his belief in his son, the outcome of that national championship may have been different.

Let’s all remember the power of inspiring others to do more without actually doing it for them. Be there to root them on and then stay out of their way as they learn to believe in themselves.

If you want to see John’s story for yourself, you can watch it here (minute 6 is where he wins).

Quote of the Week

“Sometimes you have to believe in the belief others have in you until your belief kicks in.”

John DiJulius

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Having Doubt (#74)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with one of my favorite people, the scholar and public speaking guru, Conor Neill. Conor has helped many people drastically improve their public speaking abilities by teaching them how to develop a confident, compelling message, leaving their listener with no doubt that they are an expert on their subject.

Our discussion quickly turned to the growing entrenchment in rigid ideology around the world. Conor connected this to the concept of faith and shared a story about a devoutly religious friend of his who was open to all questions and criticism about his beliefs.

This friend spoke with Conor about the importance of having faith in the face of doubt. His premise is that, if you have only doubt, you’re cynical. On the flip side, if you do not doubt, then your beliefs begin to border on fanaticism, even fascism in the most extreme cases.

This is a powerful concept and, in many ways, explains the dynamics undermining the very divided political environment in the U.S. and around the world. Today, people seem less open to dialog and respectful debate, or even trying to understand an alternate perspective. Instead, they’re defaulting to rigid ideology or even anger when their core positions are challenged.

Exacerbating this situation is the fact that many of us get a majority of our news from social media; platforms that curate the information we receive based on our past behavior, stated preferences, and our peer set. This creates a strong propensity for “confirmation bias” as we are exposed to stories and opinions that support the views we already have—some of which are unsubstantiated rumors or outright lies (e.g. fake news). This is a very dangerous phenomenon that we all need to be more aware of.

While we need vision, conviction, and confidence to be successful, we also need to balance that with doubt, healthy skepticism, and humility.

Here are a few more benefits of having doubt and openly contemplating it with others:

  • It keeps us open to new ideas and perspectives
  • It keeps us humble and motivated (overconfidence is often often a precursor to failure)
  • It causes us to question more and to test our own assumptions more carefully

Quote of the Week

“We should be unafraid to doubt. There is no believing without some doubting, and believing is all the more robust for having experienced its doubts.”

Justin Holcomb

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Stressed Out (#68)

Every day, people all over the world wake up stressed. Some will be worrying about how they’ll find food or shelter for the day; others will be thinking about a presentation they are giving for the first time; and there are even those who will be legitimately stressed about coordinating the management logistics of their multiple multi-million dollar homes. Regardless of the reason, they’re stressed out.

At his speaking engagements, one of my mentors and coaches, Warren Rustand, often offers a $10,000 reward to anyone who can leave the room and return with a can of stress. His rationale behind this compelling offer is that “stress is an internal response to an external force.” It’s something we bring onto ourselves in reaction to what’s going on outside of us.

Stress emanates from pre-historic times. By boosting our adrenaline and fueling short-term improvements in attention and memory, it’s a biological purpose is to temporarily trigger our flight or fight response. The operative word being “temporary.” The problem is that most of us are functioning in stress mode far longer than our bodies are designed for, and its making us increasingly sick and unhealthy.

According to my good friend Dr. Heidi Hanna, a leading expert on stress, the biggest issue with our current stress epidemic is that most people don’t fully understand what exactly is stressing them out. She explains that “In today’s hyper-connected society, we have access to more stimulation and information in one day than we are wired to process in a lifetime.  Because the brain is hard-wired to constantly crave more, most people struggle to disconnect and recharge even when they have time to do so.”

To reduce stress, she suggests building in time to regularly recharge throughout the day by meditating, breathing deeply, and taking the time to reflect on things you are grateful for.

Recently, Warren and Heidi teamed up for a fascinating video discussion on stress. Warren’s belief is that a main source of stress stems from uncertainty in our lives and that we can improve our stress levels considerably by focusing in on three seemingly unrelated areas to stress:

  1. Clarity of Vision (Why). Understanding what we are here to do; our purpose.
  2. Certainty of Intent (How): Clarity about our actions and goals in service of our purpose.
  3. Power of Values (Who): Understanding what our core values are; our core values relate to number one and number two, and allow us to make key decisions more easily.

At the end of the day, the way to prevent or alleviate stress is to be more aligned in our lives, have greater clarity about our actions, and believe that we have control over each and every situation. That feeling of not having or being in control is frequently the greatest cause of stress. While not a quick fix, taking these steps will help to reduce the pressure from external sources of stress and make us happier and more productive.

Quote of the Week

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

George Burns

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Showing Some Love (#67)

It’s hard to turn on the news these days. Between partisan politics, random acts of violence, and company scandals, we’re inundated with stories about people and businesses treating each other poorly.

Nowhere was this more evident than when United Airlines visibly dragged a passenger off an airplane this week because he refused to be bumped from an overbooked flight. The man was a doctor and had surgeries scheduled for the next morning. Apparently, United couldn’t get anyone to accept their final offer to give up their seat, so front-line employees decided it would be better to resort to brute force and physically remove a paying passenger from the plane.

Companies spend millions of dollars a year on advertising to attract customers, yet, when they have the chance to embrace relationships with their current customers, they repeatedly fail.

Contrast the actions of these United employees with those of Southwest Airlines. In 2015, they forever changed the lives of Peggy Uhle and her son. Peggy’s Southwest flight from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago was getting ready to take off when the pilot suddenly turned around and headed back to the gate. Peggy was asked to get off the plane, which led her to assume that she had boarded the wrong flight. What she discovered, however, was that her son had been in a terrible accident in Denver and was in a coma.

Not only had the gate attendant re-booked her on the next direct flight to Denver, Southwest employees offered her a private waiting area, rerouted her luggage, let her board first, and gave her a boxed lunch when she got off the plane. They also delivered her luggage to where she was staying, never asked for payment, and an employee even called to ask how her son was doing.

While the press and goodwill Southwest Airlines received from this incident was significant, it was not the driving force behind their actions. The employees were simply demonstrating Southwest’s core purpose to “Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.”

These values empowered key stakeholders (the employees) to do what was right for the customer, without question or hesitation. Contrast this with United who, very generically, aspires to be the “airline of choice.” In fact, the only other reference to core values I could find online was a very legally worded “code of ethics and conduct overview

There are a few key takeaways from these contrasting stories. The first is that the culture and values we create in our business and homes will lead to specific behaviors by our employees and family – for better or for worse. Therefore, it’s imperative that we be very clear and explicit about what we stand for in terms of each.

The other major lesson is that we need to focus more on seeing people as human beings, not simply as a client, partner, or competitor. If we treat them with respect and/or help them selflessly in a time of need, we will create more positive outcomes all around. United employees decided it was better to drag a passenger off a plane than to up their $800 offer and own their mistake. Southwest just decided to do the right thing. Karma took care of the rest.

Quote of The Week

“A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.”

Herb Kelleher (founder of Southwest)

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Dream Bigger Than You Can Think

In recent times I have done a lot of talking about your “success impediments”. What is getting in your way to success? A lot of the time it is our own mind. We allow negative thinking to get in the way. This will be true at any time particularly when times are tough and we are fearful. Or it will happen because we have limited experience or a lack of confidence. However, we should never let the big thoughts go away. These big ideas could be a genuine opportunity that is being thrown your way. To start growing you need to firstly not throw the idea away. At least write it down in a journal or talk to a friend or associate about it. You never know what they too have been thinking or how they will provide you with another thought or idea which will liberate your thinking.

To grow you must think big. In my own case, whenever I have taken a big step or pursued a big idea it is because I have taken that dream and not allowed myself to get in the way. I am doing something right now in our DNA business with an idea which I would never have thought possible. Interestingly, the idea came to me on how we could use technology differently and within weeks I have seen futurists talk about this as the future and industry specialists talk about these types of delivery concepts. While I have the vision, I can also see from those around me who have the talents to implement it. So, I will not be the barrier.

Sure, thinking big takes courage but we can all do it if we want to. What dreams or big ideas do you have that could change your life? Would you be a fool to let them go?

Managing Risk

On the weekend, I had the great fortune to listen to a very inspiring presentation by Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson is a leading pediatric neurosurgeon at the John Hopkins Hospital. In his career he has been a pioneer in performing highly risky surgery on children. He has a great book: “Take the Risk – Learning to Identify, Choose and Live with Acceptable Risk”.

Dr. Carson explained how he has often been faced with addressing the viability of taking a major risk in his work. What is there to gain? Will it be worthwhile? What if I fail? He made the insightful comment that if no one took a risk then today there would be no airplanes or cars or other technologies. Society always benefits from someone taking risks as lessons can be learned.

Is ducking risk the most productive way to live? Nothing will be achieved without taking risks. However, nothing will be achieved by taking inappropriate risks. The question then becomes what is an acceptable risk? In this regard, what is an acceptable risk to people will be different because we are all unique. Dr. Carson says you need to build your risk analysis model based on who you are, your values and also your learning style.

All of the principles Dr. Carson states can be equally applied to determining your financial risk tolerance and how you make financial decisions. The quality of life you build for yourself will be somewhat dependent on the risks you take. Ultimately, what is an acceptable financial risk will come down to your relationship to money. Further you and your partner need to check your “couple compatibility” index so that the risks taken are acceptable to both of you.