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.

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“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

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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!

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.

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.

New Perspective = New Reality!

This week, we return to our common theme of directly addressing leadership. What is it? How, specifically, does one accomplish effective leadership?

Sam Shriver is the Executive Vice President at The Center for Leadership Studies. In a recent LinkedIn Live episode, he interviewed Daryl Davis, an accomplished pianist and civil rights activist extraordinaire.

Davis has accomplished amazing shifts in perspective of some people who were deeply invested in their white supremacist ideologies. He’s done this with a unique style of communication. As we discuss here often, communication is one of the keys to effective leadership.

Below, I’ll discuss a few highlights of their conversation. However, you’ll miss the full impact of Davis’ communication technique without watching the interview. I promise it’s worth at least a listen!

Skipping to the 6:30 time in the video will jump past the introductory stuff, which I’ve already given you. In the last 20 minutes or so, Davis talks about how he’s viewed the civil rights movement evolving over the past 60+ years. Leaders at every level of government, and even businesses, have reacted very differently in the last few years than before that. All very important to him and to black leaders everywhere. With that said, that last part of the interview is off my topic. You may well find it interesting, but it doesn’t pertain directly to my theme of individual leadership and communication. If you choose to skip that, you can get the gist of my article in a bit over 30 minutes.

Leadership

Davis leads off his comments with this: True leaders want to help others do something better. More importantly, they want to help them learn to lead others in what they do.

In order to help others learn to lead, these leaders must develop trust in those who are following them. That’s the only way they can offer their followers useful advice, coaching, and mentoring.

After performing his music all over the world he concludes everyone, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, or whatever wants to be:

  • Loved
  • Respected
  • Heard
  • Treated fairly
  • Able to provide the same things for their families.

By feeding these desires in others – especially their desire to be heard – he’s been able to communicate respectfully with people who appear to be his natural opponents.

Example: As a (very) black man, he developed a respectful and friendly dialogue with the Grand Marshall of the Ku Klux Klan! They visited each others’ homes and had an active friendship. Most of the video focuses on how he developed that communication and friendship.

In a conversation with anyone, particularly someone whom you know to have a different, and likely opposing, view to yours:

  • Keep your emotions in check. Keep them “behind you”.
  • Listen to what they say – until they’ve finished saying it. Remember, people want to be heard.
  • Present facts in support of your view, but not to confront or attack the other person or his/her views.

Davis engages people whose views he’s interested in studying. In those conversations, he’s sometimes attacked and insulted. He listens intently and respectfully to whatever they say. He doesn’t get “hooked” or take any of it personally. He says, “I may not respect what they say, but I respect their right to say it.”

Most people, Davis suggests, when they become aware of truths contrary to their beliefs, begin to experience “cognitive dissonance”. They gradually become uncomfortable with the disagreement between what they now know to be true and their established beliefs. They begin to wonder:

  • Do I stick with my old belief and ignore the truth? or,
  • Do I embrace the truth, and change my belief?

Are You Logical or Emotional?

Davis focuses in part of the interview on the reality that some people are swayed by facts and some by emotional concerns. Trying to use logic to sway an emotional person is futile, as is the opposite.

He provides an example of this: A white supremacist he knew quite well was murdered. The man’s emotional father vowed to kill the person he knew had killed his son. Davis avoided logic in convincing the man not to carry this out. He suggested “You have other children and grandchildren. If you commit murder, even in the name of ‘justice’, you will lose them as well. You’ll be in prison!” That emotional appeal swayed the man from avenging his son’s death. He was willing to endure the penalty until he realized how it would feel to be taken away from the rest of his family.

Perspective

One’s perspective is his or her reality. If someone is offered a new perspective that resonates with them, and it differs from their current reality. it may alter their reality. Davis offers a couple of scenarios to demonstrate this.

Daryl Davis is proud to claim that he’s the impetus for over 200 white supremacists changing their ideology. That happened because he offered them a new perspective.

He says “I did not convert them. They converted themselves by seeing a different perspective.”

Sleep Well = Perform Well

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about sleep as an important factor in our performance. Until I saw the article I refer to here, everything I’ve seen related to quantity and quality of sleep.

Several years ago, as Chief Pilot for a small air freight company. I was often called upon to substitute for a pilot who was unavailable for his or her scheduled flight. This could mean anything from an all-night run to a mid-morning flight. Naturally, my sleep schedule varied greatly.

Comparing that time to now, I’m quite sure my mood is more settled now when I sleep on a very consistent schedule.

Here’s Inc. magazine’s Bill Murphy Jr. discussing a study which indicates that consistency of sleep schedule is important to effective rest. To the surprise of many, this study says you can’t “make up” for missing sleep with more sleep hours! I guess you could say, “Lost sleep is never found!”

For anyone who works “Swing shifts” – a different shift every week – it may be impossible to avoid this. That’s not as common now in the information age as it was a few years ago. If you’re one of the few so affected, you might want to encourage your employer to reconsider that policy.

I haven’t done a lot of research on this thought. It seems to me this issue is likely a root cause of the phenomenon known as “jet lag”. If you’ve traveled across multiple time zones you’re no doubt familiar with that. For many, it results in serious disorientation for up to a week after arriving in a new time zone.

So if you’re used to sleeping at different hours on different days, you may want to consider sleeping more regularly.

Marketing On A Budget!

Some people line up big investors and/or large savings accounts to start businesses.

The guy highlighted in this article did it without big money. Without a huge marketing budget.

The power of an idea that resonates in the market is huge. When people benefit from something they bought, they tell their friends about it. 

Mike Doehla, quite by accident, discovered the power in this human tendency. Leveraging it, he built Stronger U, a $ multi-million online nutrition coaching business.

As Doehla’new business was starting to get traction, he lacked the self-confidence to quit his corporate job. His then-girlfriend, whom he later married, convinced him to take the plunge.

Think about the last time you had something to eat you liked a lot. Or maybe you watched a movie you enjoyed.

When you talk with your family or friends, you can’t wait to share that experience. Right?

The same works when someone provides a service that helps you accomplish a desired goal. That’s exactly what Stronger U does for people who want to improve their health. Read about it here. If you’re interested in more information about how they can help you, go to the company’s website.

New Year, New Habits!

Which of your habits (we all have many!) are serving you well? Which are detrimental for you? What new habits would you like to establish?

Want to :

  • Quit smoking?
  • Lose weight?
  • Make your bed every morning?
  • Eat a small amount of healthy chocolate each day?

Last week I got a recommendation for a book which I’m pretty sure will change my life.

What causes habits to form, or disappear? This book, by B.J. Fogg, can probably help you make some worthwhile adjustments as well. Fogg analyzes habits. What causes them to form, disappear, or change.

He analyzes what makes it possible to adopt habits without difficulty. His core principle is B=M+A+P.

Behavior results from

  • Motivation to do something – what makes you want to do it. You want to lose weight.
  • Ability – how easy it is to do. Often that’s one ridiculously easy step. You put half a teaspoon less sugar in your coffee. A new behavior is easier if you reduce the practice to a tiny fraction of your full intent.
  • Prompt – a natural, easy key to remind yourself to do it. Tie a ribbon on the handle of the sugar spoon, or on the handle of your coffee cup. It’s actually better if the reminder is something already in your routine. E. g. you sit down at the breakfast table, or you pour your coffee.

At times when motivation is low (happens for all of us!) doing the easy minimum meets your obligation. You can still congratulate yourself on accomplishing your new habit.

Fogg has many more nuances to refine the process of establishing new habits.

Do you aspire to building new habits or eliminating others, to change your life? I recommend you explore BJ Fogg’s recommendations.

They provide a great alternative to “resolutions” which are often forgotten after a few weeks or months.

What are You Blind to?

Several years ago, I worked with a coach who had endured and partially overcome severe optical problems. Many people whose eyes don’t work so well (think Helen Keller) have clear views in other areas of life. Tom helped me gain incredible insight into many things I couldn’t see. My eyes see better than most people’s, but I was blinder than I knew! Still, I know I have many blind spots.

You do too!

As I work with coaches, I gradually discover some of those blind spots. My vision is improving – yours can too!

Several years ago I worked with Landmark Education. I was a participant in some of their programs and a volunteer assistant to their production of several programs. Landmark is a first-class organization helping people see their blind spots. Here’s what I wrote about it three years ago.

Recently I re-connected with Brian Wagner, a couple-of-years-ago LinkedIn acquaintance. I spoke with Brian on Zoom last week. He’s overcome, to some degree, total physical blindness. Does that mean he sees everything? Of course not! I’ll let him tell you his story in this TED Talk.

As Brian recovered from brain surgery, which restored some physical vision, he realized…

He began to truly recover only when he began to admit that he was blind. He points out that we usually can’t identify our blind spots by ourselves. Meditation and journaling provide some insights. We often need outside counsel to find the deeply hidden ones, though.

Brian says he went from blindness to sight to vision. He’d love to help you on that journey. Look him up on LinkedIn or at his website.

The world needs much more of this work. Brian Wagner is among those helping people open their eyes.

Great Productivity Advice from 10 Women Leaders

During the past 20 years I’ve striven to understand ways to make my life more productive. Of course that also makes it more rewarding. Here we often discuss my own and others’ methods for improving mindset, attitude, work routines, and other ways of improving productivity. This issue continues that. We check out Anna Meyer’s assembly of success tips from women business leaders. Anna is an assistant editor with Inc. magazine.

Lately it’s in fashion to focus on women business leaders. My view is that good leaders’ techniques are always worth studying, no matter the leader’s gender, race, skin color, etc. The tips in this article are valuable for all business people. For that matter, they’re valuable to anyone wanting to live a more rewarding life, business or not.

One of the elements of a fully functional life style is an organized morning routine. In a minute I’ll share my own. Among the leaders discussed here, Jeanne David discussed her morning routine in more detail than the others. The great importance I find in morning routines leads me to focus on her section of this article.

Ms. David discusses her morning routine as a means of staying focused when life brings unimportant things into her view. The mind is most receptive in the first hour or two after waking. She suggests reading, praying, journaling, and making notes of gratitude during this time. I can only say “Amen” to that.

My own routine includes those things plus a cold shower, drinking 20 oz. of water, and some light exercise. Not being religious, my forms of prayer are meditation and journaling (including gratitude). The shower and drinking water are in the first 5-10 minutes after waking at 5 AM.

All of these leaders have great suggestions for ways to succeed in business. My focusing on Jeanne David needn’t detract from the value the others offer. I happen to believe morning routines are especially important so that’s where I focused.

Check out all the other great suggestions here.

The coronavirus and the huge amount of discussion around it have occupied many people’s attention. Since few of us can do anything about it, it deserves less of our attention than many people give it. Our focus needs to be on things we can affect. Many of the articles I’ve written in recent months discuss mindset and its importance, especially now.

Is There Play in Your Work?

John Stevens

Natural “player” that I am, my eye was drawn to a TED talk on the subject of play. How vital it is to a sane and balanced life. How to make it happen. How human play correlates with and can interact with animal play. Fascinating, at least to me! I hope you find it similarly engaging. The video is a little over 20 minutes long. For those short on time, I’ve noted the time on some passages that relate to parts of the talk I discuss. Of course it all “hangs together” better if you listen to the whole thing.

The speaker, Dr. Stuart Brown, is a lifelong student and practicing doctor of psychiatry and clinical research. He founded the National Institute for Play to further this fascinating study.

The big bear is ‘dancing” with his meal

In this talk Brown starts with a photo of a big polar bear intent on his next meal. When the bear encounters a husky in play mode, he engages playfully with her. Of course the little dog would have been a tasty meal for the bear. Her playful demeanor distracted the bear from his hunger.

Children, of course, unless they’re in pretty grim circumstances, are inclined to and usually encouraged to play. As adults, we become more concerned with doing things, we forget to play. To our detriment!

Doing something because it’s fun, or feels good, is beneficial to the human and, it seems, the animal spirit. Play should be focused on fun and enjoyment, even when it’s producing something useful. Ever notice that some golfers get so obsessed with improving their score that they aren’t fun to play with? Of course striving for improvement is natural and positive. When it becomes work, though, it’s not play.

Brown goes on to describe many kinds of play – e.g. social, object, spectator play. He talks about the brain science that supports the concept of the value of play. Of course, as he also mentions, play should not be at the expense of others.

Rats, often studied as a proxy for human instinctive behavior, can die as the result of not playing. Brown relates a study (at 11:30 in the video) which demonstrates that.

He points out that the basis of human trust is established through play signals. He defines neoteny, a word unfamiliar to most of us. It’s the retention of immature tendencies into adulthood, and it can be beneficial.

Criminal behavior has been a part of Brown’s research. He relates that many violent criminals have been found to have lived lives devoid of play. Kevin Caroll wrote a book (described at 15:10 in the video) about coming from a dreary childhood. He discovered that watching others play boosted his spirits. Following up on that, he made a productive life out of a situation that otherwise would have led to no good.

At 17:30 in the video, Brown recommends we all examine our lives. He suggests recalling something as far back as we can remember that’s big-time playful. Replaying such an experience can help you relate to your “fun side”. Among other things it will improve your creativity.

At 18:40 we begin hearing about an experiment with students playing with play. Among other things they explore how to make meetings more interesting. He suggests that all activity can be infused with play. Then there’s no need to stop working to play. Enjoy whatever you do. Have fun with it!

Writing these letters does that for me. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them! This writing is a highlight of my week.

A few months ago I wrote about the value of taking a break after a period of intense work. Today’s discussion of intentional play takes this conversation to another level. Taking a break is important. Perhaps with Brown’s advice we can incorporate fun with work, and with rest.