Some Creative Inventions from Asia

January 31, 2007

I love creative ideas. And although these pictures have been floating around the internet, I still find them very amusing. Click on the thumbnail to get the full size image. Enjoy.

Creative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative AsiaCreative Asia

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The Small Business Advocate Show

January 30, 2007

I just appeared on Jim Blasingame’s “The Small Business Advocate” show where I mentioned two articles from this website. To make it easy for you to find, here are the links: Compass-Driven Strategic Planning and the Goalaholic Quiz.

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Podcast with Dr. Doug Gardner, Sports Psychology Consultant

January 29, 2007

While researching the goal-free concept, I was introduced to Dr. Doug Gardner, the former sports psychology consultant to the Boston Red Sox. What sets Doug apart from the rest in the sports field is his belief that a myopic focus on goals – whether in sports or in life – can prevent individuals from performing their best. I featured Doug in the Goal-Free Living book, and now your can hear him speak. Welcome to our first Goal-Free Living podcast.

To download this 25 minute program, right click and “save target as”: gflgardner.mp3 (23 Meg)

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The One-Third Life Crisis

January 18, 2007

After giving a Goal-Free Living speech at an event last June, I met Jeremy Neuner, a funny, creative, and intelligent 33 year old guy. He recently wrote me, asking me to be on his personal “board of directors.” Why? Well, he’s going through a bit of an existential crisis – a situation that many of you may be able to relate to. Here’s what Jeremy has to say:

I’m interested in exploring a phenomenon that I’m experiencing and that I suspect many people like me are experiencing. For now, the working title of this phenomenon is “a one-third life crisis,” sort of like a mid-life crisis, only sooner.Here’s how it went for me (please forgive the self-horn-tooting): I graduated at the top of my class in high school and went on to a fancy private university where I graduated magna cum laude. From there, I joined the Navy, became an officer, and graduated number one in my flight school class. I spent the next nine years as an officer and helicopter pilot, doing stuff that most people get to experience only via a Discovery Channel documentary. Along the way I did other cool things: ran a few marathons, served on the board of a non-profit, and mentored a troubled teen. Then I resigned from the Navy and went to graduate school. Harvard, in fact. I did well at Harvard, met some amazing people, and even got a pretty good education. And then….

…the one-third life crisis hit. I graduated from Harvard with absolutely no idea what to do next. More scarily, I had no idea what the past 15 years of fancy education, exciting professional experience, and interesting extra-curricular opportunities had prepared me to do. Even more scarily, I began to wonder if it was all worth it.

Then I started asking myself that most soul-searchingly existential question of all: despite my achievements, what was I really put on this Earth to do?

I’ve been more or less consumed by this question for the past couple of years. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

In some ways, my achievements were easy. Too easy. Yes, there was hard work involved. But what made these achievements easy was the fact that there was a well defined, prescribed pathway for success. Do well at Step A and you can proceed to Step B. Do well at B, and proceed to C. As I look back at my life so far, I realize that I was playing by a very narrow set of rules. And if I played by those rules, worked hard, and caught a lucky break or two, I’d be rewarded with plenty of wealth and prestige.

And that worked okay…for a while…until I began to have nagging doubts. “The Path” began to feel just a bit too narrow. I felt that I was always trying to do well in life in order to move to the next step. As a result, I had completely lost the ability to live in the moment or to appreciate success for success’ sake. And failure? Well, that wasn’t even an option. Most insidiously, I began looking at the people in my life only as potential allies (or, gasp, even pawns) in my quest to keep plugging along down The Path.

And here’s the worst part. I had completely lost my sense of risk, creativity, and wonder. So I felt that even if I wanted to get off The Path, I was woefully and utterly ill-equipped to navigate on my own. That’s the essence of the one-third life crisis.

Jeremy describes this phenomenon well.

There is a well documented concept of the “quarter life crisis” – a period of anxiety, uncertainty, and inner turmoil that often accompanies the transition from school to adulthood.

Jeremy’s situation – and the “one-third life crisis” – is different. He, like so many “goalaholics,” operated on auto-pilot, chasing goal after goal. Although there was a sense of accomplishment, it tended to leave him with an empty feeling. After oscillating between hard work and success, the nagging feeling remains: “There must be more than this.”

I went through this back when I was 29. I know of many others who have gone through the same situation in their 30s and early 40s. And it seems to be getting more common as people put more emphasis on the quality of their lives.

For me, the Goal-Free Living approach was the solution. But it is certainly not the only solution. Everyone is different.

What are your thoughts on “the one-third life crisis?”

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Ziggy and Goals

January 18, 2007

Ziggy and Goals

If you like this, you can view other Ziggy comics by clicking here.

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How to Tell If Your Intuition Is Good

January 11, 2007

My friend Susanne and I were recently playing a trivia game. She’s pretty good with the trivia. However, at one point, she got a couple wrong answers in row. “Urgh,” she blurted out, “every time I have a gut answer and change it, it was actually correct.”

This made me curious. Malcolm Gladwell, in the book Blink, said that we make our best decisions in a blink of an eye. Was this true in Susanne’s case? Or was her mind playing tricks on her? To test this out, we did a little – admittedly unscientific – experiment.

We turned to a set of trivia questions where you had to guess the year that different events took place. For example, the year President Ford survived two assassination attempts (1975), or the year Pete Rose set a National League consecutive game hitting streak record of 44 (1978).

For our experiment, we took 10 questions. I would read her the name of an event (like the signing of the SALT II treaty) and Susanne would instantaneously give me her “gut” answer. I marked down her answer as she proceeded to use analysis and a bit of time to come up with a final “logical” answer. In this case, the correct answer is 1979.

The results?

Out of 10 questions:

  • One of her “gut” answers was closer than her “logical” answer – but only by one year.
  • Four responses were unchanged after applying further reasoning. This means that 40% of the time, her “gut” answer and “logical” answer were the same.
  • Five times, when she changed her “gut” response, her “logical” answer proved to be closer to the real date, often significantly closer.

What does this mean? Well, given that our study was not statistically valid, not much. However, it does point out an interesting phenomenon. Humans get attached to things such as our gut responses. When we change a gut answer that was correct and give a final answer that is wrong, we kick ourselves. However, we are much less likely to remember the situations where our gut answer was wrong and our final answer was correct.

I have seen this concept in action in other places too, such as gambling.

I like blackjack because it is a game of probability – and only probability. I find it interesting that so many people are superstitious and have illogical beliefs. One time I was at the blackjack table with my friend, Gary. In total, there were five of us at the table. One of the other players was quite a beginner. In fact, he stunk! We nicknamed him “Stinkie.” He would take cards (a hit) when he clearly should not. And he would stand when almost any other player would hit. As expected, he lost a lot of hands, and a lot of money. That is expected and not very interesting.

The interesting part is that Gary became quite agitated. He was convinced that Stinkie was negatively affecting HIS hands. For example, on one hand, Stinkie took a card when he should certainly have stayed. The card he got was the one Gary wanted, and as a result Gary lost. During another hand, the beginner stayed when he should have taken a card. The card that would have helped the beginner in fact helped the dealer, and everyone at the table lost.

Tempers were flaring. The other players would like to have switched tables, but the casino was crowded and there were no other seats available. Instead, everyone wanted to lynch the beginner – or at least convince him to leave. I was amused by these violent reactions. From my perspective the beginner had NO impact on my winnings – probabilistically speaking. Everyone noticed the times when the beginner’s actions caused them to lose. But they NEVER noticed the times when his actions helped them win. NEVER.

That evening, Gary was still convinced he lost money because of Stinkie. I tried to convince him that this bad player – purely from a probabilistic perspective – had no impact on him or the other players. He was not convinced. So I decided to put together a little experiment. I created a game that accurately simulated hundreds of hands of blackjack. For every hand, we kept track of whether the bad player’s actions impacted the other player. After 200 hands, approximately 50% of the time, the bad player had no impact on the other player. 25% of the time the bad player hurt the other player. And 25% of the time, the bad player actually helped the other player – they won when they otherwise would have lost.

It is interesting how human nature compels us to fixate on what we lose rather than what we gain.

I remember hearing about a study done with college students who were given a multiple choice exam. The test administrators developed it in such a way that they could track when a student changed an answer.

After the students received their results, the examiner asked if, when the student changed a particular answer, whether they believed that their first answer was correct more often or not. Nearly all of the students believed that their first answers, or “gut” answers, were in fact correct, and that when they changed their response they more often got it wrong. This was similar to Susanne’s initial belief.

However, the study showed that the students’ final answers were more often correct than their gut answers – by a wide margin.

Why is this so?

One of the reasons is attachment. When we have something and lose it, we notice it more than if we gain something we never had. Studies show that investors who own a particular stock are likely to hold on to it. However, if they did not already own the stock, it is unlikely they would purchase it.

What does this mean for you?

Take a look at what you have in your life. Are you holding on to it just because you already have it? Do you operate from a fear of losing what you already have? Do you play small because you prefer “the devil you know than the devil you don’t?” If so, be aware that this attitude prevents you from taking risks and living the life you want. It stifles creativity, passion, and true success.

Take an inventory of your life: your belongings, your job, your friends, and your relationships.

If you were to design your life from scratch, would you seek out these things and people? Or, would you make different choices?

Go through your house and eliminate as much as you can. If you read Goal-Free Living, you know that I once fit everything I owned into a few boxes and moved apartments in the back of a taxi with just 2 trips. Have a garage sale. Sell everything on eBay (my friend Lynn Dralle is an eBay expert). Or give everything to Goodwill and receive a tax write-off. This will generate some cash. More importantly, you will find this house cleaning frees you up immensely. Fewer possessions means fewer things to worry about losing or breaking, and ultimately, fewer attachments.

Take a look at your job. Do you love your job? Or are you there mainly because it is easier to stay put than explore new options? One friend once told me, “I would do something different if only I could figure out what I wanted to do.” That was his problem. He was intellectualizing his interests, rather than experiencing them. My suggestion? Join various organizations. Go to networking meetings with the idea of learning about what others do. Meet knew people. Doing these things, he found his new career, and you can do the same. Treat the process of exploration as a game.

Finally, take a brutally honest look at your relationships. Are people still in your life because they truly nurture you? Or have they just been there all along? If a relationship or friendship is not working, do something about it. Either improve the relationship, or (as Susanne would say) give the person to Goodwill. Sorry, no tax write-offs for donating a dud relationship.

Consider this for a moment: What if losing your current existence – everything that you own and have – turned out to be the greatest thing that could happen to you? Ponder it. Play with it. With this blank sheet of paper in mind, now add back in the pieces that you really want – not just because they have always been there, but because you really want them. What would your new life look like?

Yes, you want to appreciate the life you currently have (aka “want what you have”). But don’t use this as an excuse for staying where you are. Goal-Free Living is about moving in new directions and experiencing new opportunities – without attachment to particular outcomes. Break free from the shackles of your past – your attachment to what has been – and create a “new you.”

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My 2007 Theme

January 10, 2007

To everyone who shared their New Year’s Theme, thank you.

Now it is time to reveal my theme.

As you may recall, my theme last year was “impact” – making a difference in the world.

This year, my theme is: “CREATING A MOVEMENT”

What does this mean? Well, I’m not 100% sure. But it feels right. To me, creating a movement means inspiring something that:

  • is bigger than me.
  • takes on a life of its own – without me.
  • has a large number of people who are involved and engaged.

This is not is destination. This is not something to do.

It is about leverage, partnerships, and creating a tipping point.

It is a lens that helps me make decisions when considering new endeavors. It is a mantra for helping me get motivated. It is a way of engaging others in my work.

If you are interested in helping create a Goal-Free Living movement, drop me an email. I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

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Quote of the Day

January 9, 2007

Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.

Daryl Zero – the “world’s greatest detective” played by Bill Pullman in the movie “Zero Effect”

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My Psychic Powers

January 3, 2007

I have a confession.

I have psychic powers.

Don’t believe me? Let me prove it with a little experiment.

Get out a blank sheet of paper. On it, list a series of random “X”s and “O”s so that it looks something like this: XOXOXOOXOXXOXXXOXOOXXOXOO

Be sure to remember that this is your “random” list.

Ok, now get out another sheet of paper. This time, flip a coin 25 times. Each time it is heads, write an “X.” Each time it is tails, write an “O.” This will give you another string of 25 “X”s and “O”s.

Be sure to remember that this is your “coin flip” list.

Take the two pieces of paper and mix them up so that I can not tell which list is which. Study the two pieces of paper. Concentrate. Tell me telepathically which list is the random one, and which was from the coin flip. Ready?

Ok, I will turn on my psychic powers. Give me a few seconds – your thoughts may have a long way to travel. It’s getting clear. Yes, I see it. I know which list is which.

Click here to see my answer.

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Your Success Style Quiz

January 2, 2007

In the December 26, 2006 issue of Woman’s World magazine, you will find my “success styles” quiz. If you missed it, here is a revised and expanded version.

Each of us has an innate approach to how we get what we want in life. This quiz will help you uncover your preferred approach to success! For each statement, choose the most appropriate answer.

1. To create success in your life, do you:
A. Visualize what you want and then allow success to find you.
B. Use your passion as a barometer for determining the appropriate course of action.
C. Create plans with detailed steps, and then execute each step accordingly.

2. When you encounter an obstacle, do you:
A. Reaffirm your convictions.
B. View the obstacle as an opportunity.
C. Dig your heels in and work hard to remove the obstacle.

3. As it relates to your happiness, do you find yourself saying:
A. “My happiness is a state of mind that I can control.”
B. “Although I am typically optimistic, I allow myself to be present to – and embrace -whatever emotion I am currently feeling.”
C. “I will be happier when ______ (fill in the blank)”

4. Which motto best describes how you live your life?
A. “If I believe it, I will achieve it.”
B. “I live for today while being mindful of the future.”
C. “I am willing to delay gratification today for the promise of a better future.”

5. If you were single and wanted to be in a relationship, would you:
A. Visualize the woman/man you want to meet and wait until s/he is manifested.
B. Have a great time socializing rather than focusing on finding that perfect mate.
C. Research several options for finding a mate and then pursue the best ones.

6. If you were in a job interview, would you:
A. Believe that you will get the job if it is meant to be.
B. Listen carefully and answer honestly, without concern about the outcome.
C. Focus on getting the job.

7. When you set a goal and do not achieve the desired result, do you:
A. Believe that everything happens for a reason.
B. Appreciate the experience you had.
C. Beat yourself up and then commit to trying harder next time.

8. When making a decision, do you:
A. Wait for a sign.
B. Use your gut instinct to make your choice.
C. Analyze the pluses/minuses and make a choice based on the facts.

9. When you set a goal, do you:
A. Believe you will be guided in the right direction.
B. Remain open to changing direction for better or more interesting opportunities.
C. Stay committed to achieving it.

10. My current career is…
A. My destiny – what I am meant to do.
B. My passion – what I love to do.
C. My obligation – what I need to do.

After answering these questions, click here to determine your preferred success style.

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