Vulnerability = The Greatest Courage!

Long-time followers of my writing know that I consider relationships the key to life.

The next question is “What’s the key to relationships?” Author Brené Brown recently added to her string of books on vulnerability with the book we focus on today. Read on for the link to the book, and see how solid relationships require vulnerability.


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; …who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 

– Quote from Theodore Roosevelt


Many people consider vulnerability to be a sign of weakness. As Teddy Roosevelt tells us in the quotation cited above, it’s anything but! In fact, making yourself vulnerable is perhaps the greatest indication of courage.

Certainly, vulnerability can be at the root of much heartache – fear, grief, disappointment, etc. However, it is also the source of love, belonging, joy, creativity, and other signs of a happy, well-grounded person. Brené Brown has written several books about vulnerability. Her latest is titled Daring Greatly.

Brown examines vulnerability as it relates to parenting, work relationships, and interactions among people on the street and in life. She comments that people often lament the sorry state of customer service. She laments the sorry state of customer behavior!

We’ve all seen the restaurant patron who violently berates a waitress because her steak was not cooked to her liking. Or the guy at the airline counter railing at the agent because he can’t get the seat he wants. And worse, all this is done with no eye contact.

Brown writes, “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.” Watch a group of, usually young, people sitting in a social situation. More than half of them are likely on their phones, paying no attention whatever to the live friends sitting next to them. While I made this comment about young people, more mature people can certainly be guilty of this as well.

One of her great observations is that a sense of sufficiency, rather than abundance, is the antidote to a scarcity mindset. Even though we strive to improve and do more busness, we must see that where we are is enough for now.

So, if you want more joy and happiness in your life, and better relationships with everyone: 

Step up! 

Dare greatly! 

Be vulnerable!

Read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly!

What Do You Do When Someone “Dumps” On You?

How do you react when someone cuts you off on the highway or gives you the time-honored “single-finger salute”?

You have no control over what that person does or thinks. What you can control is how you react.

David Polly got a great lesson on this from, of all people, a New York City taxi driver. 

So, in addition to the specific lesson he learned, here’s another. Never discount the wisdom of someone doing something that seems mundane or menial. They may be wiser than you give them credit for!

So what was the lesson David learned from the taxi driver?

Faced with Discourtesy? React with Courtesy!

Here’s Michael Thompson telling David’s story. There’s a valuable lesson in it.

Let’s face it! The world is full of people with all sorts of attitudes and mindsets. Many people are reacting to something in their lives. Maybe that guy’s wife left him this morning. Maybe that lady just suffered a million-dollar loss. Or, maybe some people just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or are naturally belligerent to everyone for no real reason.

Whatever is causing someone to snarl at you or do something to irritate you is their business. Your business is to move on unperturbed and stay focused on what you have to do. And, while you’re at it, smile at the nasty person. Maybe for the first time today, or in their life, they’ll take note of your smile and reconsider their approach!

When someone gets majorly distracted from their focus, research shows that it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus. That’s nearly a half-hour of loss in productivity. Can you afford that several times a day? I can’t. 

Many things can distract us from time to time. We can learn to remove most of those things from our view. Don’t let the actions of others cause a distraction for you.

Smile at them and move on with your day.

Consider often the lesson David Polly learned from his taxi driver!

Stop Procrastinating!

We all know our best work is done in a flow state. For some, like writer Tim Drenning, It can be a slow process getting into flow. 

Probably that reluctance to start is quite common. I find it myself sometimes, though I’ve gotten better at starting.

How about you? If you catch yourself “fiddling” with everything but your work when you have something important to do, you may find Tim’s solution helpful.

Procrastination is one of the biggest thieves of time known to people who usually work  without direct supervision.

Start with Something You’re Not Proud of!

Tim found that, if he lowered his expectations, his resistance to start disappeared. He was struggling to start meeting a high standard rather than to start work.

By lowering his expectations, he found it easy to start. Once he’d completed the initial low-expectation work, he had attained the flow state and could move on to work he’d be proud to sign.

More Ways to Beat Procrastination

Some people may find that, whatever help they found in the lower expectation suggestion, they’re still unhappy with their “starting gait”. If that’s you, try these:

  • Schedule an enjoyable event at a time when you’d like to have your work completed. If you know there’s a social event or a sports activity at a specific time, you’ll be motivated to stay with your work, so it’s done in time for the event.
  • Promise yourself a treat when you’ve completed the job. A cookie, a cup of coffee, or other snack is a great reward to motivate you to reach the point where you’ve earned the reward. You can do this with stages for a longer project. When you’ve written a certain number of paragraphs, a small reward helps you celebrate your progress.
  • When you put out energy, it comes back to you. Think of your flow state as energy you put out to the world. You get it back when someone offers an enthusiastic comment about what you’ve written or offered.
  • Watch people who are in flow state. Musicians, sports figures, and other performers can set a great example, and it’s easy to see their fans give that energy back to them very quickly.

If you’re among the procrastinators of the world, take heart! As with anything you do, the first step in overcoming this obstacle is to recognize the issue. The next step is to seek help rather than just try to beat your way through it. I hope you find the help you need in Ted’s article.

Do You Strive To Give Clients What They Want?

Again I found this week’s interesting content through my connection with my coach and mentor, Benjamin Hardy. Many of you will remember him from previous issues (examples here and here).

Benjamin Hardy holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. He’s also the author of Personality Isn’t Permanent and several other books exploring personality change. He knows what he’s talking about!

The guy whose work we actually focus on here is Steve Sims. Steve began life dirt poor in East London, the son of a bricklayer. At the age of 17, he began work as a bricklayer’s helper.

Michelangelo’s “David” by Elena Ruggeri on Unsplash

He quickly tired of carrying 80+ hods of bricks up a ladder, so he quit. He got himself to Hong Kong. As a doorman at a bar, he devised ways of making the bar experience exciting and exclusive for the right people, turning away the wrong people, especially those who were already drunk.

That was the beginning of Steve’s founding an elite concierge service, called The Bluefish. He specializes in smiles. His “secret sauce” has two main components:

  • Believe you can do it!
  • Give your clients what they want or need, and more. What they ask for is only a small hint to what they really want!

On this YouTube page, in Steve’s interview by Brendan Carr he tells of arranging a dinner at the Accademia d’Arte museum in Florence, Italy for a wealthy client.

What had the client asked for? A fancy dinner in an exclusive restaurant in Florence. Steve knew that restaurants in Florence aren’t really exclusive. so he contracted with this world-class museum to close and entertain the dinner, at the foot of Michaelangelo’s famous sculpture, “David”.

To top it off he convinced Andrea Bocelli to come in during the dinner and serenade the dinner party.

Many of his other signature events are described on The Bluefish website.

As the interview continues, Steve talks about passion, communication (including the unsocialmess of “social” media, a topic I focused on a couple of years ago).

One of Steve’s quips is “He’s low on IQ and high on I CAN.” Another suggestion is, when you start a conversation with someone who doesn’t know you, especially a powerful person, make it clear very quickly what’s in it for them.

Steve says at one point, in passing, “I consider myself an educated man. School has nothing to do with that.” Many people have focused on the low value of most organized education.

Steve talks about the value of relationships. He likens a relationship to an oak tree. When it’s young, it’s extremely vulnerable to damage. When it matures, it has the strength to weather all sorts of negative influences. Relationships are like that.

This is a rambling, incomplete introduction to a guy who’s deeply impressed me. If you go to his website, I think you’ll get infected with the guy’s brilliance, insights,and enthusiasm. Not to mention his complete political incorrectness!

Be A Leader, Not A Manager!

A leader doesn’t tell people what to do! Does that strike you as a contradiction? Read on.

In these letters, we’ve often examined aspects of what constitutes genuine leadership. Recently I listened to one of the best in-depth looks at this issue I’ve come across.

We’ll learn that the leader’s job is to provide the vision and why that vision is powerful, and what success looks like. Then he or she must get out of the way and let people do their jobs.

People may come back with questions. Of course, those questions must be answered. If they need support, emotionally or functionally, it’s the leader’s job is to provide that. The point though is that the leader doesn’t manage. The leader empowers people to do their work in a supportive environment.

Here’s Ben Hardy, one of my favorite sources for inspiration and great unique ideas, discussing truly great leadership. The idea of leading without managing is one of the cornerstones of modern leadership theory. Sadly, it gets more lip service than true adherence.

Useful background for what I’m about to offer can be found in my several-weeks-ago issue. There we discussed Ben Hardy/Dan Sullivan’s book, Who Not How. Ben refers to it often in today’s video.

Benjamin Hardy holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. He’s also the author of Personality Isn’t Permanent and several other books exploring personality change. He knows what he’s talking about!

The three things people need to do their jobs are:

  • Competence to do the work, and confidence in their competence.
  • Autonomy – the authority to apply their skills. They must be in control of how they do their jobs.
  • Connectedness – Being connected with team members is highly empowering.

One who takes any of this away is disempowering the worker and stripping them of the important elements they need to carry on effectively. The person guilty of this is trying to be a manager, and is not a leader. “Managing” people is an inefficient way of trying to get anything done. It usually results in the loss of the best talent, and the remaining people are unmotivated.

Ben discusses three stages of human development, a Robert Keegan model. I’ll briefly describe them here. He does a much better job of imparting a full understanding of them than I can do here in a few words,

  • Dependence – The socializing self – taking all sense of identity and direction from others.
  • Independence – Self-authorship – having one’s own goals and pursuing them without relationship with others. The only relationships an independent person engages in are those he or she believes will further his or her goals.
  • Self-transforming stage – two or more people share goals and solutions, neither imposing views on the other, but sharing views to result in the best solution they can see together – the team is better than the sum of the members.

In that third stage, mutual respect and trust are vital. If one party tries to dominate the goals, visions, and outcomes, the effort breaks down.

Be a leader! Don’t be a manager! Learn the psychology behind this here.

Gratitude and Acquaintances

This week I depart from my usual theme of what you can do to improve your business and/or life.

That said, this is somewhat related, as we often talk here about the value of gratitude. The story I’m about to relate is to celebrate my gratitude for a chance meeting with new and very interesting friends. It’s always a lovely surprise when such new connections come out of nowhere! (A couple of examples of previous articles on gratitude are here and here. Search on keyword gratitude here for more.)

This past Saturday, I learned from a friend who’s taking a pottery class that there was to be an event to celebrate the class progress. Would I like to attend, and see what she and her fellow students had created? And of course, as is the norm for this wine community, share some live music, a glass of wine, and a bite to eat.

I gratefully accepted that invite and showed up at the appointed location and hour (actually about an hour and a half late). Surprise! The place is locked up and not a soul around. My friend had already given up and left.

I went and ran some other errands and returned a few hours later to find it still locked, but some activity evident inside. Curious! I finally gave up the whole idea and decided to go have dinner at my friend’s lovely wine bar.

Two newly acquainted friends by charles-lebegue-aG6oMVQ5PCA-unsplash

As I approached the wine bar, I noticed some unusual activity across the street. Turns out I was at a different entrance, around the corner, to the place I’d found locked. The event I’d been seeking was coming to a close and the musicians were packing up to leave.

Nonetheless, I was able to browse some interesting, diverse arts and crafts. I found the food and wine station still open. Having planned the day for the event, by now I was quite hungry. I bought a couple of little “slider” type sandwiches and a bottle of my favorite Cabernet Franc wine. I found a comfortable place to sit in the lovely outdoor courtyard at the back of the place and settled in to watch people, enjoy my repast, and smoke a cigar.

A Chance Meeting

I struck up a conversation with a guy and gal who appeared to be in charge of the event. I knew her by appearance but hadn’t talked with her before. I introduced myself to both and got their contact information. Paola soon went off to other duties. Ramiro seemed quite relaxed, so I invited him to share my wine and join me, with his 10-year-old son Carmelo.

As it turns out, Ramiro is the owner of the hotel that’s the parent organization to the whole complex, and a very interesting guy. Among other things he’s a very intentional enjoyer of life, and he’s a poet, about to publish a book of poems. I gave him my contact information and asked to see a copy of his book. He readily agreed. We spent the next hour or so discussing the uncommon beauty and other assets of Cafayate, our lovely rural pueblo in northwest Argentina.

We struck up quite a friendship. When I left I felt newly infused with a sense of the wonderful things that can happen when one is open to such nice surprises as this. True everywhere, and Cafayate is a particularly easy place to do it because so many others have the same attitude.

My point in relating all this is to publicly express my gratitude for the lovely environment where I live, and for the opportunities that potentially lie at every turn. Thanks to Ramiro, Carmelo, and Paola and for all our openness to new acquaintances and friendships.

Life is beautiful and full of wonderful surprises! Even when the surprises appear less positive, such as the event seeming not to be happening, and then arriving very late, there’s usually something good to come of it.

Napoleon Hill said,

“In every diversity, there’s the seed of an equal or greater benefit”

I firmly believe that, and see it proven every day!

Gain More By Doing Less!

Many people believe they can be more productive by striving to do more.

Most people will gain more by doing less rather than by doing more. The key is to do more of what’s important by doing fewer things.

Most of the many things on a typical day’s to-do list mean very little in the day’s results. They may be enjoyable interludes but not very productive. They can be done in leisure time or not at all with no effect on results.

Such things as checking social media posts or messages, texts, emails, etc. are all unproductive, unless you need information from one of those messages to do something important. Many people get consumed by these tasks during what should be the most productive part of their day. Other pressures can also draw us away from what’s most important. In today’s world, early-morning message-checking is probably the most prevalent.

You can scan your list of messages in a few seconds to see if there’s anything important and urgent in them. Do not open any other messages during your productive day.

Max Phillips posted this article on several months ago. It discusses 7 time-wasters low-productivity people engage in. Avoid them!

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Prioritize ruthlessly. Determine what two or three (no more than three) items will “move the needle” each day. Do those few things first every day. When they’re done, you can work on second-, then third-priority items with whatever time is left.

Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! and a quote from Jim Collins emphasize these concepts elegantly.

Brian’s book focuses on the idea of doing the most difficult, least enjoyable task (such as eating a live frog!) first. When you have that done, you can be pretty sure the rest of the day will go easier.

Jim’s quote, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any” needs no explanation.

If you so choose, continue working after the first two to four hours working on high-priority items – just recognize you’ll probably get less done per hour.

Eric Lofholm (see below) promotes the idea of measuring time in results per hour rather than minutes per hour. What you accomplish is much more important than the time you devote to it.

Another of Eric’s important concepts is an idea called “last productive day”. Decide what is the last date you commit to being productive. For him, it’s the day before his 75th birthday. He has an app on his phone that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until that date. Having already passed that time in my life, I’ve settled on the day before my 90th birthday.

The idea behind this concept is that we always have certain knowledge of how long we have to accomplish our life goals. Of course, we can continue working after that date if we so choose. It’s not a prediction of retirement or death. We’re just committing to be optimally productive at least to that date.

A Positive Mindset Makes all the Difference!

My friend, mentor and sales coach, Eric Lofholm, hosts a 15-minute motivational call every business day, and sometimes even on holidays. The call is at 7:45 AM Pacific time. Register for the call here. You’ll find instructions on how to join the call on Facebook, by phone or soon, Eric says, on LinkedIn.

Eric is unique in that his free programs offer solid value rather than just sales hype. This short conversation is serious training, and serious motivation, and it’s completely free of charge. Though there’s sometimes an offer to sign onto a paid program, that’s separate from the training and inspiration.

This call is a great way to get yourself started with a positive mindset every day.

Are You “Backable”?

Have you started a business? Applied for a job? Do you plan any of these?

Have you struggled to find the financial backing you needed to get the business “kicked off?” Many, if not most, entrepreneurs have stumbled on this block.

Alex Sanfilippo, (Creating a Brand podcasts), recently interviewed Suneel Gupta, who talks about his recently published book Backable.

In the beginning of the conversation with Alex, Suneel describes his extensive research. He talked with many well-known people. How did they become “backable”? What’s the unique story they told, or personality trait, that caused people to write a big check?

He says he wrote the book because the question was burning in his mind. He says, “I’m not backable. I look too young. I’m a serious introvert. Etc.” And he wanted funding for his business. He says he felt confident of his qualifications, but he’d been rejected by several prospective employers and investors. So he felt a need to answer this for himself, as well as to impart what he learned to others.

Suneel tells the story of his interview with Jack Dorsey, founder of Square. Again, he felt qualified for the position he was being considered for, but he blew the interview. He believes this happens more than many people would like to admit. It could be in front of prospects, clients, teachers – anywhere one is seeking to demonstrate knowledge, sell something or influence someone else.
From the many ideas in the book, Alex and Suneel select three elements of influence techniques to dig deeper on.

  • Storytelling: Make your story relate to one particular person, ideally someone close to you personally. You may want to expand into the data after you’ve made your point with the personal story. Example: One person in 25 experiences what my friend, my father, or whomever you focused on, experienced. Suneel tells the story of his experience with Groupon as it grew from a small company focused on small customers. It grew, went public, and lost its focus on individuals. H feels that held it back from its full potential.
  • Share an “earned secret”, Explore insights that truly enlighten people about something they probably don’t know – something that’s not “Google-able”. Intoxicate people with your effort!
  • Turn “outsiders into “insiders”. If you come across as someone who has it all figured out and you’re just sharing your knowledge, you keep them on the outside. Pull them into the process of reaching a conclusion. Tell enough of you’re story to make it cohesive, but leave some dots for the listener to connect.

As an example of the third technique, Suneel goes back to the 1940’s and tells the instant cake mix story. Initially the mixes didn’t sell well.- they were so easy to use that the user didn’t feel involved. When they left out an ingredient for the home baker to add (Just stir in an egg and make a beautiful cake!), sales took off! Now the homemaker could be proud of what she created. Before, she felt like she was just “watching something happen.”

When you’re rejected, Suneel advises, pick the refuser’s mind. What could I have done differently to get you to say yes. How can I improve my process. Make sure you do this with a positive approach, not “sour grapes.” If the other person gives you meaningful advice, apply it and come back to let them know they were helpful. You may get accepted, or not – do it anyway!

If you’re seeking funding, applying for a job, or in any way trying to influence someone else’s decision, this interview might provide the “golden nuggets” that help you succeed in your effort. I hope you enjoy it and find it valuable. If it really resonates with you, you may want to buy Suneel’s book as well.

Be Authentic!

Each week, unless I stumble a great idea (I often do!), I search for meaningful content to be the basis of the week’s article. This week I came across several essays related to authenticity. I decided to build on that theme, without pointing to one particular article.

The concept is: Are you, or someone you’ve been admiring, the same person in your private life as your “public” persona? 

I came across some authors who claim to have evidence of inauthenticity in certain famous people. According to these authors, these people with upbeat and positive public images mistreat their employees, their families, or others in their less-public realms.

When you learn of someone whose approaches to her/his family members, employees, friends, clients, and others align perfectly, you’ve found a worthy model for you to respect, study and pattern yourself after. 

With experience, you’ll learn to sense this alignment, or its absence, pretty quickly. If it’s missing, you probably would do well to find a different model. 

If you find fundamental differences between someone’s personas in those different environments, better take a harder look at whether he or she deserves your further attention. 

I came across authors who reported dichotomies in behavior in Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Jeff Bezos. I know nothing firsthand about any of these personalities, or the authors who undertook to judge them. I advise you to research their private behaviors if you care to dig deeper, and especially if you plan to model them.

In past issues, I’ve held each of these famous people up as examples of leadership and promoters of effective policies. The authors whose articles I pointed to obviously differ in opinion from the authors I’ve recently encountered. If in fact, their personalities are inauthentic, I apologize for holding them up as role models. The behavior I discussed is still a desirable behavior, even if the model I chose doesn’t exemplify it.

A term I’ve recently seen used is “integrous” behavior. Integrous probably isn’t a word in any official dictionary, but it seems to me it ought to be. It nicely encapsulates the theme of today’s premise. Integral has a different connotation. Integrous is used as a descriptor for one with aligned behavior toward all.

Be careful whom you associate with!

Who Helps You Achieve Your Goals?

You may remember my coach and mentor Ben Hardy from a recent issue. In case you didn’t see that issue or don’t remember Ben, I’ll repeat my introduction to him:

Benjamin Hardy holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. He’s also the author of Personality Isn’t Permanent and several other books exploring personality change. He knows what he’s talking about!

Ben’s book I’m focusing on today is his latest, WHO NOT HOW, which he co-wrote with Dan Sullivan. Interestingly, Sullivan didn’t write a word of it. Ben was Dan’s “Who”, and Dan was Ben’s “Who”.

You’ll come to understand that distinction as we move along in this discussion. If you read the book, you’ll understand it with crystal clarity. I just finished reading the book, and I find it transformational!

Dan Sullivan, the co-author, is the founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc. A visionary and a gifted conceptual thinker, Dan has over 40 years of experience as a noted speaker, consultant, strategic planner, and coach to entrepreneurial individuals and groups.

Ben says that, without Dan’s support and coaching, the book wouldn’t exist. Dan says that, without Ben’s dedication and writing, the book wouldn’t exist.

The premise of the book is:

  • Find the person or group that is uniquely able to help you achieve your goals. Trying to figure it out by yourself is inefficient and ineffective.
  • “How” limits you to your own knowledge and capabilities. Who” immediately connects you with different knowledge, insights, and capability.
  • “Who” can immediately free up hundreds of hours, which you can spend in better and more meaningful ways. 
  • Self-expansion is a core human motivation, and it occurs through Whos.

Time Freedom

Procrastination, while it can cause immense frustration and loss of ambition, is actually wisdom. Creative procrastination is saying, “This goal is amazing! But I’m not the one to do everything involved!”

Leadership is having a clear vision, delegating its pursuit to the right “Who” and getting out of the way. Your potential is virtually limitless when you stop asking “How?” and start asking “Who?” Asking “Who?” can create results 10X or even 100X faster than asking “How?”

Money Freedom

Time Creates Money. You can’t have money freedom until you achieve time freedom. Improving how you spend your time automatically improves your ability to make money. Chapter 6 is titled: “If You Have Enough Money to Solve a Problem, You Don’t Have a Problem.”

Adding a Who to a specific area of your life eliminates decision fatigue in that area. Decision fatigue depletes motivation faster than any other kind of fatigue.

Engaging in Hows to avoid costs actually costs you and your future hugely in the long run.Investing in the right Whos is not a cost, It’s an investment that can create transformational relationships. It can quickly 10X or more your income and revenue.

Be a Good “Who” for Others

When you enter a relationship, first create value in that relationship. Keep creating value and nurturing your relationships. Ask “What’s in it for them?” rather than “What’s in it for me?” Know what the other person cares about. Do your homework!

To have Freedom of Relationship, you must intentionally engage with people who align with your vision. Avoid directly working with people who aren’t relevant. As you say no to people and opportunities that don’t align with your vision of your future self, your confidence will increase. Your team will also become more confident in you as a leader.

Your current self no longer tolerates situations and people that your former self tolerated.Your future self will not tolerate situations or people that you now associate with.

Wherever you see brilliant work happening, there’s collaboration. No one has all the answers. It’s wise to consider yourself ignorant on most things and to seek other people’s perspectives and solutions. Avoid over-obsessing about your part of the project. Get feedback fast! Be radically open and honest in your communication. Ask for help when you need it. Ben says he violated that principle himself when he got sick and faltered during his writing!

Focus on Collaboration, not Competition

Focusing on “How” leads you to being isolated in your goals, and ultimately slows your progress. Being isolated in your goals diminishes your dreams.

Competition stunts creative innovation and limits your future. Collaboration allows you to focus on what you want to focus on and feel good about getting help.

Collaboration improves a project. It becomes better and more impactful than you would have created on your own. By expanding your vision, your Freedom of Purpose also expands.

Expand Your Purpose

Through Whos, important miracles and blessings can happen in your life. You can transform and expand your purpose and life through Whos.

Whos help you see potential in your future, and in your work that you can’t presently see alone. You need another’s insight. Whos expand your vision, giving you the confidence to pursue big goals. Your Whos become your purpose.

If these ideas and principles appeal to you, I recommend you read WHO NOT HOW. In any case, have a wonderful week.