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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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I am Going to… (#71)

Writing a book had always been a dream of mine, but it often seemed out of reach and too big to tackle. I also questioned my ability to write something people would want to read. A year ago, after my first year at a leadership development program called EMP, I made one simple change that led to writing my first book, Performance Partnerships, which went on sale this week.

I decided that I would never again say, “I want to write a book”  and instead began to say “I am going to write a book.” I combined this with a deadline set for before the group met again this May for our second year.

Suddenly, all my energy went into figuring out how to do it, settling on my topic, finding a publisher, scheduling interviews, etc. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but once I decided it was going to happen, there was no more wavering, doubt or regret. Changing my vocabulary changed everything else.

There were four key lessons I learned in the process of writing Performance Partnerships, which I believe have broader implications.

  • Share your Plan/Goal: Once I began telling people I was writing a book, there was no going back. I sounded confident, even when I really had no clue what I was doing. That public accountability became a powerful source of intrinsic motivation.
  • Chunk It: A book is not written in a weekend and this same logic applies to any lofty task. If you put the pressure on yourself to accomplish it all at once, you will likely become overwhelmed and quit. Big goals need to be “chunked” piece-by-piece and tackled, bit-by-bit, on a daily and quarterly basis. Performance Partnerships was written and edited over nine months. It’s much easier to write a page each day than to try and take on a chapter a day.
  • It Takes a Village: From the beginning, I never tried to do this alone. From the amazing team at Lioncrest, to colleagues and friends who spent hours reading multiple drafts and provided critical comments and suggestions, my book was completed through collaboration. I also benefited from the generosity of other authors who took the time to share both their successes and failures with me. I am very grateful for all the help I received.
  • Field of Dreams is a Movie, Not a Marketing Strategy. The famous line from this classic movie was “if you build it they will come.” My experience talking to other authors and entrepreneurs is that nothing could be further from the truth. When you create something new, that’s only part of the process. You also have to sell it and get it out in the world and you need to be your #1 advocate. Don’t assume things will come to you, go get them.

If you have a similar desire to write a book or achieve a lofty goal, I hope that by sharing this experience, you’ll try changing your vocabulary and see what happens.

And if you are interested in learning more about my vision for the future of performance marketing and performance-based partnerships, I’d love it if you read the book and share your feedback.

Quote of The Week

“Your words control your life, your progress, your results, even your mental and physical health. You cannot talk like a failure and expect to be successful.”

Germany Kent

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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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Man With a Plan (#64)

“Dad, can I buy Ed Sheeran’s latest album?” This was the question my 13-year-old daughter asked me, to which I replied, “Who buys albums anymore?” However, after listening to the full sixteen song album that night, I realized how incredibly talented Sheeran is; his songs have an incredible range of styles and tempos. Talent alone, however, is rarely enough to guarantee success.

If you have read my Friday Forwards, you know that one of my favorite endeavors is to debunk the myth of the overnight success — Sheeran fits this mold to a T.

At 14-years old, Sheeran began performing in London and convinced his parents to let him move there at just 17 to continue writing and singing. He apparently played in 300 live shows over four years and sold self-published CDs from a rucksack without any real success. Along the way, he lost his apartment and resorted to “sofa surfing” at friend’s homes and even resorted to sleeping on the Tube (London’s underground public rapid transit system), and by a heating duct outside Buckingham Palace. He recounted on those times in a recent interview, saying:

“There were moments I wanted to give up. The nights that you don’t have a couch to sleep on or you don’t have money in your pocket, or food in your stomach, or a charged phone, those become the nights where you reassess your situation.”

But he didn’t give up. In fact, he forged ahead. In April 2010, he bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles with one contact and no money, just the hope and will that he’d get discovered. He continued his couch-surfing and played open mic nights all over the city. But eventually, he got his big break.

At the end of 2010, Sheeran was spotted by Jamie Foxx’s manager, which led to him being invited to perform on Jamie’s SiriusXM channel. After Jamie heard Ed’s music, he invited him to crash at his place and record at his home studio. In addition to this good fortune and his incredible talent, he continued to use YouTube and social media to market his music, which eventually resulted in a record deal.

From there, his career started to take off. His first album, “+” was followed by his second album, “X”.  His new album is titled “÷” (Divide). In an interview, Sheeran disclosed that this was the naming plan for his albums all along, leaving little doubt for me that his next album will be called, “–“, thus continuing his mathematical album naming sequence and his commitment to live out the plan he envisioned for himself.

In 2013, Sheeran sold out three shows in a row at Madison Square Garden, an unprecedented feat for a new artist. He then took a huge risk, contracting out Wembley Stadium, which seats 90,000 people. He was openly questioned for his decision to play such a large venue as an emerging solo artist — with just a guitar and some pedals.  However, playing at Wembley had been a life-long dream of his and he was determined to prove the doubters wrong. In the end, he had the last laugh. Not only did he sell out his show, he had to add two additional nights due to demand, both of which also sold out.

Despite his rising stardom, Sheeran failed to win a Grammy award the first 13 times he was nominated, which only motivated him more. Finally, in 2016, he took home his first Song of the Year Grammy for, “Thinking Out Loud.” His recent album “÷” (Divide) is the culmination of these experiences and may ultimately go down as one of the top-selling records of all time, but Sheeran is far from an overnight success.

There is no doubt Ed Sheeran has tremendous talent, but so do many other artists – all of whom have similar aspirations to make it big. So, in addition to his talent, what’s led to his stratospheric success? Some familiar themes emerge.  He had a clear vision and a plan; he had an incredible work ethic; he had dogged determination and persistence to see his dream through, despite failures, fatigue, disappointments, and setbacks. He was willing to take risks and bet on himself; and he’s remained humble throughout it all.

Last, but not least, Sheeran did not give himself a safety net to fall back on. Plan A (success as a musician) was his only option. Maybe he was just following the advice of his father, who once told him “If you really want to do it, don’t have a fallback plan. Because you eventually will do it if there’s no other option.”

Either way, the man had a plan.

Quote of the Week

 “Success is the best revenge for anything.”

Ed Sheeran

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Attracting Success (#62)

Over Thanksgiving in 1990, a broke, yet optimistic actor wrote himself a check for $10 million for ‘acting services rendered’ and dated it five years in the future. He carried the check in his wallet and looked at it daily, even as it deteriorated.

In 2000, another ambitious, confident young man, upon meeting the owner of the NFL team who had drafted him almost last behind six other quarterbacks, proclaimed “I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.”

Many of you will recognize the second story as Tom Brady, who has since established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The first story is that of the famous comedic actor, Jim Carey. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Carey shared that, right before Thanksgiving 2005 (almost five years to the day), he learned that he would be paid $10M for the blockbuster hit “Dumb & Dumber.”

What do both of these stories have in common? Both Brady and Carey had a clear, tangible goal and visualized that goal on a regular basis. Just writing down the goal wasn’t enough. Each had an intense focus on the outcome. Carey talked about going to Mulholland Drive every night and picturing directors being interested in him.

Similarly, after losing to the Denver Broncos in last year’s AFC Championship, Brady installed a clock in his home gym counting down the days until Super Bowl LI. Months before the historic game, he also recorded an alternative ending to an advertisement that showed him wearing four Super Bowl rings. His revised recording featured him wearing his 5th ring. Cleary, he believed it was simply a matter of when, not if, he and his team would win another Super Bowl.

Both Brady and Carey practiced the Law of Attraction, the premise that a person can attract positive or negative experiences into their life based on their thoughts. It’s based on the belief that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy” and that, through the process of “like energy attracting like energy,” a person can improve their own health, wealth and personal relationships.

One of the most well-known books on the Law of Attraction is “Think & Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. In his book, Hill claims to have studied the habits of many of the most successful people of his time, including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. Hill focuses on the fact that we need to be very specific with the outcomes we seek and that it’s not enough to say you want to be “successful” or “rich.” Instead, using the examples of Carey and Brady, it would be more powerful to write down that you want to make $10M by a specific date or win a Super Bowl and declare what you are willing to give in return. He contends that the desire must also consume your thoughts.

In life, we inherently want others to believe in us. Yet, it’s been proven time and again that those who achieve greatness believe in themselves first and are crystal clear about what success and happiness looks like to them.

Quote of the Week

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”

Napoleon Hill

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Carpe The Diem (#58)

Carpe diem is Latin for, “Seize the day.” It’s defined as, “To make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future.” I can’t think of a better way to describe how my son and I were able to attend the historic Super Bowl LI together.

A few weeks back, I was given the opportunity to attend the Super Bowl for the first time. My instinct was to stay at home and avoid the chaos, but the historical implications of the game got the better of me. My oldest son, whose bedroom is a shrine to Tom Brady, also gave me a lot of subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints of how much he wanted to go with me. He had actually prominently featured a picture of Tom Brady holding the championship trophy on his vision board, which each family member created for themselves New Year’s Day.

In the weeks leading up to the game, he had numerous dreams about the Super Bowl. He’d share them with me in the morning and most of them included him being at the game. Something in the back of my mind told me that this was an experience we should have together, so I started looking around for a ticket for him. No luck. Then, a few days before the game, a ticket became available. However, when I went to check for flights, they were all sold out.

As I said my goodbye to him on my way to the airport Saturday morning, I gave him a hug and told him that I was sorry it didn’t work out and that perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be (something an 11-year-old really doesn’t want to hear).
As I sat in the airport waiting for my flight, something prompted me to check the Delta app one last time for our return flight (which was sold out early in the week). Suddenly, a low-level award ticket was available –the last seat on the plane. I called Delta and they said I could take it and have 24 hours to cancel.

I then searched for Sunday morning flights and there was only one direct flight that arrived before the game. Incredibly, the same 24-hour rule applied, so I quickly purchased both tickets and called my wife to tell her the news, although I still didn’t have a game ticket for him. When I spoke with my son I said, “Bud, it’s a longshot. I can get you to Houston, but we still need to get you a game ticket. And, you’ll need to fly by yourself tomorrow morning on a four-hour flight.” This was something he had not done before.  Without hesitation, he said he would do it. His mom, however, was not so sure.

Understandably, she was not thrilled that I had blown up everyone’s plans for the weekend and she would have to get him to the airport by 6:45 AM, wait for him to take off and find someone to watch our other kids. It was a lot to ask.

In the meantime, on my flight to Houston, I contacted everyone I knew in my EO Network and, to my surprise, could secure him a very reasonable ticket to the game. Everything was falling in to place. However, as I sat in the Houston airport ready to make the final call to purchase his game ticket, I thought to myself, “This is nuts. He’s 11 and this is totally unnecessary. Heck, I am 41 and this is my first Super Bowl. We should wait, there will be other opportunities.” Honestly, I was seconds from calling the whole thing off.

Suddenly, I thought back to a Friday Forward, I had written just a few months back about regret. The quote I chose to include at the end was, “We only regret the chances we didn’t take.” If I threw in the towel now, I’d be a hypocrite. So, I called my wife and said, “I am sorry for the work this puts on you, but let’s do it, I just have a feeling about this.”

Unless you are reading this from Mars, you know the end of the story. My son and I, along with his grandfather, got to witness the greatest Super Bowl game and comeback in history. What’s more is that we had an experience that none of us will forget. One day, I hope to tell my grandkids about being at the game with their dad where we saw the Edelman “ankle catch” and where Tom Brady and Bill Belichick broke the NFL records.  And if that wasn’t enough, we even made the evening news as we got off the plane in Boston.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that, had the Patriots lost the game, I would have had no regrets. It would have stung, but the experience itself would have been worth the trip. We actually talked about that as the game headed into the fourth quarter. But had I known I had the opportunity and decided to pass on it, that certainly would have haunted me for years. Regret, really, is rarely about what we do. It’s about what we don’t, should have or didn’t do.

In my eyes, the real hero in this story is a very determined 11-year-old who had a vision and was committed to seeing it through. Then, when presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, he got over any fears he must have had, got on that plane and seized the day. That’s a valuable lesson for all of us.

Quote of the Week

“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.”

Steve Maraboli

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