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Having Confidence (#115)

(Podcast audio link at the end of the post)

About four years ago, I attended a fascinating presentation given by Peter Atwater to a group of CEOs.

Peter, a renowned expert on confidence, studies how changes in confidence affect our inclinations, decisions and actions. He looks at things like books, music, architecture and food preferences when researching social, political, financial and business mood.

A few days prior to Peter’s presentation, the house majority leader at the time, Eric Cantor, was defeated in one of the most stunning primary election upsets in congressional history. Peter addressed this election loss in his presentation, observing that it served as another data point showing historically low confidence levels on main street versus Wall Street.

He observed that other politicians who failed to give their primary focus and attention on their own “backyard” would be in trouble over the next few years. The same went for companies who weren’t paying attention to the shift in consumers’ moods or aligning with demand.

Fast forward to today and much of what Peter shared with that group has come true.

Confidence, he said, is a cognitive state of being.

It turns out that when we feel confident, our horizons and timelines expand. We have a more optimistic, global, big picture viewpoint and believe that the future will be better than the present. This has a strong effect on our decision making and timelines, often resulting in us making big bets on future-focused things.

As an example, Peter has uncovered connections between people’s general optimism and architecture. He found that these times of high confidence were when great castles, college buildings and sports stadiums were built, often right before or at peak confidence levels. Look around at today’s technology sector and you will find that almost every major player is building a massive new headquarters.

On the flip side, when we don’t feel confident, our horizon window narrows dramatically; we’re much more focused on the present and what’s right in front of us, not the future. We see things as riskier and concentrate on preservation, not growth or future-focused investments. We want tangible problems solved now, not large problems in the future. In Peter’s terms, we’re about the “me here and now.”

We see this phenomenon today in the “buy local” movement and the preference for political candidates who focus on issues “at home.”

An example that tapped into this sentiment is Keurig® K-Cup® Pods. This product has seen explosive growth due to its convenience and speed, much to the dismay of the inventor who regrets the long-term ecological disaster that his invention has become.

At different times in our life, our confidence levels go through peaks and troughs. To make better decisions, we need to be aware of how our mindset effects our decision making and understand whether we are at low point of confidence or a peak. Both extremes can get us into trouble.

If you can’t see the embedded player above, you can listen to it on iTunes or Stitcher.

Check out my interview with Peter on our Outperform podcast to learn more about his work and his projections around what political candidates, financial markets, products and business models will be successful in our current environment and upcoming years.

Quote of the Week

“Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.”

 T. Harv Eker

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Thankful Reflection (#99)

As we head into the last few weeks of the year, it’s a good time to reflect, celebrate and make connections. Two weeks ago, the Acceleration Partners team did just this. We gathered our employees from around the world for our sixth annual AP Summit, our most impactful one to date.

I thought I would share a few themes that I took away from our week together that have both personal and professional applications this holiday season.

Connecting in Person: These days, we have a lot of ways to communicate with each other. And while video calls are a big upgrade over voice alone, in-person face time matters. People connect differently in person. They tend to open up and share more vulnerably. For example, one of the highlights of the week was our employee TED talks. Team members spoke on topics that were important to them and shared ideas they felt would add value to others.

With this in mind, let’s make the time this holiday season to cultivate our most important personal and professional relationships. Let’s spend quality time together, face-to-face, talking about things that matter; not on our phones.

Demonstrate Gratitude: Throughout the entire week of our AP Summit, there was a lot of gratitude given, formally and informally. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but I think we often underestimate the impact showing gratitude to others has on our own outlook. When we take the time to recognize and appreciate others, it often feels better to see the impact it has on someone than to receive it ourselves.

Celebrate Humbly: Historically, empires fall from within. There’s no faster way to ensure your demise than by believing you are great and have nowhere to improve. Sure, it’s important to reflect on what went well and celebrate successes – both individual and as a team. But, especially at the end of the year, it’s also important to keep a level head and acknowledge that future success is never guaranteed.

In my opening AP Summit presentation, I shared what I believe to be one of the best speeches of 2017, delivered by Dino Babers, head football coach at Syracuse University. Just after his team defeated the number one-ranked team in the country in a major upset, Dino displayed some key leadership themes, which members of our organization took notice of.  He:

  • Did not take credit
  • Was humble
  • Showed respect for the competition
  • Was emotional and vulnerable
  • Reminded his team to take care of each and get back to work the next day

Before you rush to the store for a Black Friday shopping spree, take a few minutes to watch Dino’s Barber’s powerful speech. This is what great leadership looks like.

Quote of the Week

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”

Frank Clark

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Majoring in Minor (#88)

A reality that many of us just don’t want to face is that we spend too much of our time on things that don’t really matter; we major in minor things.  

Every day, I come across people who have their priorities backwards. They spend considerable time and energy on things that are inherently not important, either to them or society at large, and that actually distract from their stated goals. They:

  • Can’t separate the urgent from important
  • Easily lose sight of the big picture
  • Struggle to let go of something insignificant
  • Feel the need to always have the last word
  • Make poor decisions about their time and energy on a daily basis
  • Don’t know how to say no

A great deal of their energy is also wasted on negativity. They fixate on the unsatisfying dinner they ate at the restaurant last night. They consume themselves with replaying the frustrating customer service experience they encountered. They spend hours of their precious time complaining about things instead of moving on from them. It’s quite possible that, due to these factors, they are frustrated with where they are in life.

In the grand scheme of things, this is all minor stuff. You know this type of person. You might even be this person. I know I certainly have been.  

High achievers don’t live their life in this way. Instead, they focus their time and energy on what matters most; on things that are positive and productive. The rest, they let go, delegate or move on from.

If this sounds like you, here are a few tips to up your game, move up to the majors and make a bigger impact.

1) Mind Your Time: Keep track of how you spend your time for a week. Note how much of that time is spent on things that are important to you (i.e. that support your core values or goals). It should be around 80 percent.

2) For Not Against: Spend your time advocating for a cause, not against one. Negative energy is self-defeating. While there are certainly many injustices worth standing up to, its generally healthier to be for something than against something.

3) Delegate & Outsource: Sure, there are things that need to get done, but that doesn’t mean you are the best person to do it. Think about where your time is best spent (i.e. on your unique abilities). For things that fall outside those core competencies, it’s very likely that there are smarter, more efficient ways to get it done that require less of your time.

4) Value Your Time. Our time has value; it’s an opportunity cost. I’d argue that at least a $15 an hour value should be applied to anything we do to get at the true cost. A colleague recently shared that, to calculate the value of their day, a CEO or business leader should use the annual revenue of their company or division and divide it by the working days in a year. For example, if you run a $1M dollar business, it would be $3,800 a day. If its $5M, that number is $19,000.

5) Remember the Big Picture: We tend to get overly preoccupied by what’s in front of us versus what’s most important. Always keep the bigger picture in mind, whether that’s a relationship, a long-term goal or your priorities.

When you reflect back on your life, think about what the accomplishments/investments of your time will be. Are they things you really care about?

Quote of The Week

“Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.”

Tony Robbins

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RV Reflections – Part One (#86)

I am just returning from 10 days travelling aboard an RV through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons with my family. It was an off-the-grid trip that recharged my batteries and gave me enjoyable, quality time with my wife and kids. This time off also lead to several breakthrough business ideas and lessons that I thought I would share.

1. Rip-off and Duplicate: “R&D” is a widely-used term in Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Instead of the traditional meaning of Research and Development, it stands for “Rip-off and Duplicate.” The idea is that, rather than trying to figure it all out on your own or reinvent the wheel (which many entrepreneurs are known to do), it’s better to find process and best practices that have proven successful (and unsuccessful) and then modify them to fit your needs and circumstances.

This is exactly what my wife did in planning for our Wyoming trip. She collected itineraries from several friends who had taken the same trip before and learned what they liked and what they regretted doing/not doing. By adapting their experiences for our trip, we saved a lot of time and were able to pack in a lot of wonderful adventures in our 10 days together.

2. Don’t Overlook the Backyard: A few months ago, while on a flight, my daughter met a mother and daughter from Australia who had been travelling the entire world for six months. In her conversations with them, they shared that their favorite place was Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. This is not the first time we’ve heard this. I’m continuously surprised how many families we’ve met from Asia and Europe on this trip who have traveled so far to get here and we had overlooked it in favor of places further away, even though we live so much closer.

In looking forward and seeking the “new,” we often overlook or take for granted the things that are in our own backyard, be it places, people or experiences. For example, we might conduct a nationwide search for a new employee while overlooking an existing team member from within our organization who might be a perfect fit for the role we’re looking to fill.

3. Use your Built-In Camera: The human eye is estimated to have the equivalent of about 480 megapixels, far more than any camera we use. Too often we don’t take advantage of this built-in super HD camera and rely instead on technology to watch key life events. We worry more about preserving the moment than enjoying it, ultimately taking way more videos and pictures than we will ever be able to watch or enjoy.

I’ll admit, I took a lot of videos and pictures during this trip and got my share of “Dad, not another picture” groans. Upon reflection, the most memorable moments of the trip were often when I just enjoyed it. This included our early morning encounter with a herd of Bison crossing the road and witnessing a solar eclipse, experiences that no camera could truly capture the magnificence of.

Deeply engrained memories are created by engaging all our senses and I am going to work on doing a better job of watching events with my own eyes and creating more organic memories.

4. Following the Herd

Sometimes, crowds do know best. On a few poorly marked tourist sites, we decided to follow the crowd and it led us where we needed to go. That said, this should be done with caution. There were times when we saw a bunch of people pulled over on the road with binoculars and glasses. When we asked them what there was to see, they responded that they had pulled over because they saw everyone else had pulled over. Blindly following without asking the right questions can lead you astray.

To be continued next week………….

Quote of the Week

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

Seneca

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