March 10, 2010
Brad Kolar is one of the brightest guys I know. He and I worked together in Accenture back in the mid-90′s. He has been a contributor to all of my books. And now he is the co-author of a fascinating book called “The Brain Advantage. ” I had the privilege of receiving a review copy and loved it so much, I provided an endorsement.
“For years, experts have been teaching leaders so-called soft skills. To date, there has only been anecdotal evidence to support their theories. Finally, The Brain Advantage turns these theories into hard science. Anyone with half a brain would buy copies for their entire organization.”
Recently I interviewed Brad for a podcast. What you will hear are 40 minutes of fascinating dialogue about the brain, leadership, and innovation. By better understanding the brain, you can help unleash the full creative potential of your organization.
Stream the interview…
June 15, 2009
“One can’t stand forever on the shore. At some point, filled with indecision, skepticism, reservation and doubt, you either jump in or concede that life is forever elsewhere” – Arthur Miller
January 27, 2009
This may seem like an odd blog entry, but it has been the topic of conversation over many dinners recently.
Although we are taught from a young age that being self-centered is a bad thing, I think that more people would benefit from being this way. Let me explain.
To start off, I am not suggesting that people should be selfish. I think of selfish as being “exclusively concerned with oneself.”
Being self-centered – in my opinion – is entirely different.
Centering is what you base your life on.
My parents are children-centered. For them, my sister and I are the most important part of their life. They live vicariously through us.
I have friends who are spouse-centered. They do everything in their power to please their partner.
Too many of my friends are work-centered. Their job is the most important aspect in their life. They get meaning from their career. It is no surprise that men are twice as likely to die during their first five years of retirement, than they are prior to retirement.
Others are service-centered. They give their lives to charity and others. They sacrifice their own well-being in the name of contribution. Oprah may fall into this category. One of the reasons she claims she put on all of her weight is that she did not spend enough time taking care of herself.
Which leads us to the benefits of self-centering.
Throughout your life, there is only one constant. You. Your children may pass away before you do. Your spouse may, in spite of all of your loving, leave you. Your job (as many people are finding out) is only temporary. Even service to others can be fraught with challenges. If you center on someone or something else, you may be giving up control of your life.
Only YOU will be around for as long as you live.
Therefore, instead of centering your life on someone or something that may not be around as long as you, maybe you should try being self-centered. This gives you some level of stability in an unpredictable world. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition – “independent of outside force or influence” – supports this notion.
Anyone who has flown on a plane has heard the flight attendant say, “If the plane loses oxygen pressure for any reason, the oxygen masks will drop down out of the small overhead compartment. If you are seated next to someone who might need some assistance, you should put your own mask on first, and then breathe normally as you assist the other person.”
Take care of yourself first. Be centered. Be grounded. Take control of your life and don’t get derailed by circumstances around you.
Being self-centered is NOT the same as being selfish. Those who are self-centered are NOT narcissistic, hedonistic, or self-absorbed. Because self-centered individuals are more grounded, they are able to give even more to others. They have the potential to be even more generous and to make even greater contributions.
In some respects, this is in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above). Self-actualization (which is where I put self-centering) is the highest level, higher than esteem, love/belonging, safety and physiological needs. Interestingly, creativity is listed under self-actualization.
What do you think?
P.S. Some may argue a more theological perspective. For example, Stephen Covey (of the 7 Habits fame) authored, “The Divine Center: Why We Need a Life Centered on God and Christ and How We Attain It.” As I try to avoid religion and politics in this blog, I’ll leave this discussion for another time.
February 22, 2007
“How can someone be goal-free when they have obligations?” This is a great question and one of the most frequently asked in regards to leading a goal-free lifestyle. The essence of Goal-Free Living is about being present and having the life you want now. But when you have obligations, it may often appear necessary to sacrifice present moment happiness in order to satisfy established commitments. Fortunately, this is not true. You simply need to shift your relationship to commitments by using three simple concepts.
- External Integrity vs Internal Integrity
- Positions vs Interests
- Choosing When You Have Only One Option
External Integrity vs Internal Integrity
If you never commit to anything, you never have to worry about keeping your commitments. However, this is neither realistic nor desirable. I have often heard the misconception stated that Goal-Free Living is a lifestyle to support “commitment-phobes.” In reality, it is quite the opposite. Being goal-free is about the ability to powerfully commit to each and every moment. This starts by ensuring that both internal and external integrity are in alignment.
For many, integrity means “being your word.” I refer to this as “external integrity.” Very simply put, you do what you said you would do.
For example, you said that you would attend a friend’s Tupperware party Saturday night, but now you have a better offer. Cancelling your original plans would show a lack of integrity. The same is true with the commitment of marriage. We make a vow to love, honor, and cherish till death do us part. But sometimes seemingly better offers come about that make us question or reconsider our original commitment. Pursuing a path of infidelity or stopping the marriage prior to the originally negotiated date of “death do we part” is again, a lack of integrity.
External integrity is important. It is what keeps society together. However, it is only half of the equation.
When faced with a commitment, have you ever said “yes” to requests when you really want to say “no?”
This leads to the second half of integrity – “internal integrity” – which is “your word being you.” This is about making commitments that are truly in line with your personal compass. Obvious as that may seem, most people at one point or another commit to things that are not consistent with their values or interests.
You say “yes” to attend your friend’s Tupperware party because you want to support her, even though you would rather be doing something else. Or, after feeling pressure from your significant other, you decide to make the leap into wedded bliss so as not to run the risk of losing your mate. It is in these cases where internal and external integrity are out of alignment, making the commitment feel burdensome.
Do you want to be happier? Make commitments you are willing to keep AND that support your values and interests. This is not always an easy task. It may involve leaning how to say “no” constructively. Or better yet, it may mean generating creative solutions that meet the needs of both parties.
Positions vs Interests
I recently attended a class on negotiating, where two types of negotiating were discussed: position-based negotiating and interest-based negotiating.
Position-based negotiating is when you negotiate over one particular desired outcome, such as the specific amount of money you are willing to pay/receive for a given item. This type of negotiating is one dimensional and leaves little room for creativity. This treats negotiating like a goal. “I want x dollars, and I am going to do what I can to get it.”
On the other hand, interest-based negotiating focuses on the intent behind the goal. What are the wants, needs, and desires that led to the creation of the goal.
Why is this important? If you are in a situation where you made a commitment that is no longer in line with your interests (or never was to begin with), do not view your options as simply black or white: “stay married OR get a divorce” or “go to the party OR do not.” Instead, try to understand the intent behind the original commitment to see if there is another way to satisfy the other’s true need while maintaining your internal integrity.
You no longer want to go to the Tupperware party. Ask your friend why she wanted you there. Maybe it was because she wanted someone to serve food. Or maybe it was because she needed someone to manage the guests. Maybe there is a way you can meet her needs and desires, without actually being in attendance at the party. Or perhaps you only need to be there for the first 30 minutes for your friend to feel satisfied.
Or, your marriage is no longer working for you. Rather than assuming divorce is the only solution, dig deeper. Explore hidden beliefs/assumptions about how you think your marriage should look. There is no one right model for a marriage. Explore the interests, needs, and desires of you and your spouse. Maybe your assumptions – such as how much time you should spend together, what tasks you should perform, or how you should prioritize your financial investments – are not true. This isn’t a negotiation, but rather an exploratory discussion.
Focusing on interests means of finding creative solutions where both parties are willing to change the terms of the commitment so that everyone is happy because it meets the “intent” of the original commitment. Maintaining commitments as they currently exist is a goal. Instead, strive to honor the “intent” of your commitment while meeting the needs of all parties involved. Doing so, you may find that you can develop a win-win solution.
Of course, this is not always possible. There are times when you must honor your commitments, on their original terms. In this situation, the solution is to “choose when you have only one option.”
Choosing when you have one option
This is one of the most powerful concepts, because there are times in life when you don’t have a choice – other than one option. When you can learn to embrace that option – powerfully – you increase your resilience and happiness.
When my wife asked for a divorce many years back, I did not want the marriage to end. Although I pleaded my case, her mind was made up. I would have preferred to make the marriage work, but MY only choice at that point was divorce. Rather than hoping, wishing, and dreaming it could be different, I “chose” divorce and got on with my life. I embraced the one and only option I had.
Conversely, if you no longer want to be married but feel the need to honor your obligation, your only option is to choose marriage. This means giving up the right to wish it were different. You should no longer daydream about how life could have been. You can’t be jealous of others who have the life you (think you) want. When you wish for it to be different, you are not “present” in the marriage. If you can powerfully choose and embrace your one option – marriage – then you can begin to create a new relationship that works for all parties.
Or, back to our Tupperware party example. You agreed to go to the party to be supportive. Afterwards you had regrets. You wished you had said “no.” You start thinking up hollow excuses to get you out of the situation. Doing so would be a lack of integrity. Instead, if you are going to go, choose that option. Stop considering the possibility of bailing out. Don’t “want” other options. Want what you have. Embrace your choice. Doing so will almost always change your attitude about the situation. Therefore, when you do go to the party, you can be “present” rather than having your mind wander off and wish you were somewhere else.
It’s all a matter of choice. Powerfully embrace your responsibilities, not because you have to, but because you want to. Doing so can make any commitment a thing of passion.
Consider these three concepts while making and keeping commitments. Make commitments that are in line with your compass – and then honor those commitments. However, if your interests change over time, “renegotiate” the commitment such that all parties feel whole and complete. And in those cases where changing the terms of a commitment is not possible, powerfully embrace your original obligation with no regrets. These three steps can help anyone live goal-free in a life filled with obligations.
September 8, 2006
Back in July I was a keynote speaker at the Creative Problem Solving Institute. While there, I met Russ Schoen, a fellow creative-type who shared with me a simple, yet powerful technique for making decisions. I am sure that most of you are familiar with the childhood game Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS). Although I have typically use d this as a means of determining which of two people must complete an undesirable chore, Russ adapted this “decision making” tool to help individuals deal with more significant “life decisions ” . If you are unfamiliar with this game, you can find the rules here.
Here’s how you use it to make decisions that are meaningful to you.:
Step 1: Identify a decision you have been struggling with and boil it down into two distinct options. For example, perhaps you are struggling with how you should proceed in your current relationship. Your two options may be (option 1) continue to date your boyfriend or (option 2) end the relationship
Step 2: Next, find a friend to play RPS. At the conclusion of the game, should YOU win, choose option 1. Should YOUR FRIEND win, choose option 2. For discussion sake, let’s say you win. In our example, the decision would be to continue the relationship.
Step 3: Now, sit with that decision, as though it were a done deal, for 10 minutes. See how you feel. Are you relieved? Do you find yourself saying, “That’s what I really wanted?” Or do you find yourself secretly wishing that the other option were selected? Were you really looking for an excuse to end the relationship? Whatever your gut is telling you during those 10 minutes of sitting with the decision, MAYBE that is the decision you should make.
Step 4: Make a decision. Use whatever method that makes the most sense to you. The RPS approach is not right for every decision. Regardless, it may help nudge you in a particular direction if you are paralyzed by indecisiveness and give you insights into deeper feelings.
The second secret in Goal-Free Living is “Trust That You Are Never Lost.” No matter what decision you make, it is the right decision, if you truly commit to it and never look back. However we often question our choices or avoid making them for fear of choosing incorrectly. For the more “risky” decisions, many opt for the more painful method of straddled the fence, suspending a decision and remaining immobile. The RPS method gives you a fun and simple way of listening to your inner voice getting you off the fence and back into the game of life.
As I like to say, “Although all paths are equal, some paths are more equal than others.” Many of us often find ourselves on paths that bring us success in certain areas of our life. But this success may keep us from recognizing and finding greater opportunities in other areas. Always be open to the possibility of an ‘even more right path.’ Remember that when something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Learn to ask yourself forward-thinking questions and trust your inner voice; it can provide a wealth of insight for moving forward in a powerful way.