How to Change Your Emotions by Changing Your Language

May 29, 2007

Most readers (hopefully) know that there is a huge difference between being goal-less and being goal-free. Goal-less implies a complete lack of direction, motivation, and action. Goal-free means having a sense of direction, not a specific destination, and then meandering with purpose.

Goal-free versus goal-less is an example of different words with different meanings. Sometimes however, different words with similar meanings can generate different emotional responses.

Last week I was having lunch with a group of people. I was discussing the difference between goal-less and goal-free. During the conversation, one women chimed, “I am child-free, not child-less. Not having children is a choice. People who call themselves child-less often feel as though something is missing from their lives.” Wow, what a great distinction. Although both imply having no children, the emotional difference is significant. The women (and men) who thought of themselves as child-less completely got it.

Subtle differences in words can create large differences in emotion.

I was recently having lunch with a friend. She was talking about her ex-husband. She noted that when she referred to him as her “ex,” it stirred up negative emotions. It reminded her that she was once in a relationship with this man, and that things did not work out. When she referred to him by his name, there was much less emotional baggage. Now he is just a guy, and not someone she was once married to.

Subtle differences in words can create large differences in emotion.

Is your job “work,” “your career,” or “your calling?”

Are you chasing “goals” (old English for overcoming obstacles to get to your destination) or are you pursuing your “aspirations” (derived from Latin meaning “to breath life into”)?

Subtle differences in words can create large differences in emotion.

Choose your words carefully.

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A Really Creative Guy

May 22, 2007

No guy wants a beer belly.  Right?  Most would rather have a “six-pack.”  Of course.  But what if you could have a six-pack AND a beer belly at the same time?  Well, now you can.  The Beerbelly is a “removable spare tire” that holds 80 oz of beer (more than a six-pack), allowing you to bring your favorite beverage into any event.  Yesterday I spoke with the product’s inventor, Brooks Lambert. 

Brooks told me that his company,  Under Development Inc, was born to help others develop their ideas. His most famous invention – The Beerbelly – started out more or less as a joke that took on a life of its own. “We let the group choose a problem to solve, and then brainstormed ideas about solutions. The next thing you know, a buddy and I are cutting up a wetsuit and stuffing a CamelBak (a hands-free hydration system used by hikers) bladder in as an example of rapid prototyping.” That day, the Beerbelly was born.  Their latest invention is the female version, called the Winerack.  I’ll let you guess what that is.

Although these are fun products, Brooks’ main interests lie in more “socially redeeming” ventures. One day, Brooks and some buddies were brainstorming ideas. “We thought it would be cool if we could make a surf chair for the kids who can’t hold themselves up. The next day I made some calls and we found a race car seat manufacturer who was willing to make a custom shaped aluminum seat. We then got one of our local surfboard shapers to build a custom board to accommodate the chair, crossed our fingers, and voila, the surfchair was born. It works way better than we imagined and now it gets used on a regular basis.” This invention is used as part of the Ride-A-Wave charity, a 100% volunteer/nonprofit group that takes kids with all kinds of disabilities out surfing for the day.

I loved Brooks’ creativity and energy so much that I decided to do a podcast with him next week. Stay tuned for a wildly entertaining audio program!

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How to Lose a Sale…by Charging Too Little

May 17, 2007

I learned an interesting lesson many years back: Charging too LITTLE for your goods or services can price you out of a sale. Let me explain.

I was with the management consulting firm Accenture for 15 years. Back in 2001, I left the company to become a “professional speaker.” Although I had been giving speeches since 1992, I had no idea how to start a speaking business.

At that time, I was living in England. One week after starting my business, I met with the owner of a speaker’s bureau in London to discuss representation. We spoke for a while, he watched my videos, and he expressed serious interest. During our conversation, we never discussed my speaking fees – and I had never even thought about what I would charge.

A few days later he called me about a potential gig. The call came in to my cell phone as I waited for a train. It was difficult to hear him due to the noise on the platform.  However, I did hear him ask the dreaded question – “What is your speaking fee?” I honestly had no idea and had never thought about it. I did some quick calculations and then pulled a number out of the air. “Thirty Five Hundred” was my response. He thanked me and hung up.

A day later he called back. I quickly realized that he too must have had a hard time hearing me during our previous conversation, because he asked me, “Was that Thirty Five THOUSAND dollars or Thirty Five THOUSAND pounds ($70,000)?” I stumbled for a moment, debating how to answer. I then sheepishly responded, “Thirty Five HUNDRED DOLLARS.” Again, he thanked me and hung up.

As you may have guessed, I did not get the speaking gig. Although I will never know for sure why I was not chosen, I did discover that the person they hired was paid $35,000! I learned a powerful lesson that day. Your price often determines the PERCEPTION of your credibility. Under-pricing can often imply low value.

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Quote of the Day

May 15, 2007

I’ll play it first and tell you what it is afterwards.

- Miles Davis, jazz trumpeter extraordinaire

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Make Everyone Accountable

May 14, 2007

Here’s another tip from my innovation book… 

Because a few individuals at the top cannot possibly plan all of a company’s activities, give employees a set of rights, responsibilities and rewards that make them accountable for their own actions.

Example: Koch Industries (the largest privately held company in the world) wanted to achieve world-class safety. Rather than have a few safety engineers scour the company, Koch gave this responsibility to all employees, with rewards both for uncovering unsafe conditions and for discovering new ways to conduct business more safely. This initiative resulted in as much as a 50-percent improvement each year in the number and severity of accidents across Koch Industries. Within one year the company had moved from middle of the pack to one of the best safety records in its industries.

The same principle works with innovation. In the beginning it makes sense – in fact, it is necessary – to have an innovation core team. However, after a period of time, innovation should be the responsibility of all individuals and not a centrally controlled or coordinated group. At that time, the innovation core team can be dismantled.

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Podcast with Michael Wiederman

May 8, 2007

In a previous blog entry, I commented on Michael Wiederman’s article in Scientific American Mind entitled, “Why It’s So Hard to Be Happy.” Dr. Wiederman is a Professor of Psychology at Columbia College and a proponent of the “goal-free” philosophy. Today we spoke for 30 minutes discussing many topics including goals, happiness, money, performance, investing, and so much more. This “goal-free” conversation (yes, it was completely unscripted & unplanned) contains some fascinating perspectives on how to live more powerfully.

Click here to download the MP3 interview (23 Meg)

Right click and “Save Target As…” to download and save

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How to Perform at Optimal Levels

May 6, 2007

In the early 1900s, Robert Yerkes and J. D. Dodson developed the aptly named Yerkes-Dodson Law. The premise is that performance increases relative to motivation (they call it “arousal”) only to a point, after which performance drops. It is typically drawn as an inverted U-shaped curve.

You will notice that I superimposed three “goal” concepts on this graph to give you a sense of how they (roughly) relate.

If you are goal-less, you have no sense of direction and no motivation. Therefore, your performance is low. This is not surprising.

As your motivation increases, your performance increases. Being goal-free – having a sense of direction and purpose, without specific deadlines and limitations – can increase performance…to a point.

Then, as you become goal-driven, performance paradoxically decreases. Goals increase stress and focus you on the future rather than the present.

This phenomenon has been documented in numerous places throughout this blog. Race-car pit crews who increase performance when they are not worried about the stop watch. Students who perform better on exams when they are not as focused on grades. Sales people who sell more when they are not driven by sales targets.

Yerkes and Dodson suggest that different types of tasks require different levels of arousal (to use their word). To improve concentration, intellectually challenging tasks require lower levels of arousal for optimal performance while physically demanding tasks require higher levels. This may explains why professional athletes tend to be more goal-driven. However, even then, goals can limit performance. Listen to my interview with Dr. Doug Gardner, former sports psychology consultant to the Boston Red Sox.

Goal-Free Living is NOT about eliminating your goals. You can have goals and still perform at optimal levels. They key is to have the RIGHT goals (ones that “pull” you forward and don’t create stress) and be PRESENT to what you are doing (being detached from the desired outcomes).

Do you have examples of where you performed at optimal levels by freeing yourself from the stranglehold of rigid goals?

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Quote of the Day

May 1, 2007

What big companies do instead of implementing features is plan them. At Viaweb we sometimes ran into trouble on this account. Investors and analysts would ask us what we had planned for the future. The truthful answer would have been, we didn’t have any plans. We had general ideas about things we wanted to improve, but if we knew how we would have done it already. What were we going to do in the next six months? Whatever looked like the biggest win. I don’t know if I ever dared give this answer, but that was the truth. Plans are just another word for ideas on the shelf. When we thought of good ideas, we implemented them.
The Other Road Ahead by Paul Graham

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