Whatever You Do has a Leadership Lesson in it!

Jim Smith recently caught my eye with his story of “Lessons From The Muck“.

A great curiosity-inducing title!

Jim is self-styled “The Executive Happiness Coach”. In this article, he takes the opportunity to extract a few lessons from a distasteful task. Wading into and clearing out an overgrown swamp.

These lessons apply in business, and in life. For many years I’ve observed people’s behaviors in life and business. The issues one faces in life, and in business, differ in detail. The attitudes and approaches most effective in facing those issues are very similar. What works in life works in business, and vice versa.

In Jim’s article he draws these parallels very effectively. In the intensely unpleasant personal task of clearing out 30 years of flora and fauna grown wild, he sees principles that apply to leadership in business. Here are the lessons he draws from this experience.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Many people approach an unfamiliar situation with their familiar knowledge. New challenges require new learning, new approaches.
  2. Seek to understand, then be understood. You’ll rarely be loved, until you love. Rarely will you have friends until you be a friend. You’ll rarely be understood until you understand. What you put out comes back to you.
  3. Declare and hold a clear focus. Without it you’ll get sidetracked by the forces and obstacles pushing you off course.
  4. Practice self-awareness and emotional self-management. It’s important to think critically about how to react to situations, rather than leave it to your emotions.
  5. Continually stretch into discomfort. You make real progress and grow only when you’re working beyond your “comfort zone”.
  6. YOU are a never-ending project. Always finding ways to improve is critical to real success and growth.

These concepts are all important to good performance and progress. I recommend you read Jim’s article to understand the nuances of his approach vs. mine, and to get the benefit of his humorous approach to his story.

Opinions are Like an Obscure Spot in Your Anatomy

Everybody has one. Few are interested in yours.

I hope you’re finding constructive ways of accommodating the changes forced on us in these crazy times. Remember that every cloud has a silver lining. When you;re handed a lemon, make lemonade. Here’s a more complete reminder of that mindset from a few issues ago.

Last week, I had pretty well decided that today’s The Unity Community would be about opinions.

With perfect timing, Minda Zetlin sent me this on Thursday. I’m often amazed by the timely and unexpected appearance of something that exactly fits current needs.

We all have opinions about many things in life. Other people’s behaviors, lifestyles and traits often generate opinions. Or religion or politics may be your favorite. Many people offer their opinions In ways that are unwelcome to others. To improve the chances your opinion will be received positively, try these tips.

  • State clearly that “this is my opinion”, not “fact”. This makes it clear that others’ opinions have validity for you. That you’re open to hearing them. If you give the impression you’re not interested in others’ opinions, they won’t be interested in yours.
  • Be sure you state your opinion only where it fits into the conversation. (E.g., a comment about politics rarely has a place in a conversation about dietary concerns.)
  • Never demand that others agree with your opinion. Dale Carnegie famously reminded us, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”. You’re unlikely to convince anyone of your opinion. In addition, you make yourself unpopular at the same time.
  • If someone makes it clear they’re not interested in your opinion, keep it to yourself. In that case, stating your opinion is sure to make you a pariah. Also your opinion has “0” chance of being seriously considered.

As Minda points out, your opinion of others’ habits, traits or lifestyles can label you. You may be OK with that. If you aren’t, you should probably keep still.

Throwing opinions around carelessly is a habit of some people. As with any habit, changing it requires practice. If this is you, know that you will slip up sometimes. Remind yourself regularly to adjust your delivery of opinions if you want them received positively.

Hope this helps you or someone you know find better ways of offering your opinions. Or, maybe not offering them, depending on circumstances.

How do You Feel, Facing a New Challenge?

Do you delight in heaping praise on your kids for how smart they are? Or how talented?

If you solve a puzzle, do you look for a tougher challenge, a more difficult puzzle?

Do you believe your, or someone else’s, personality is what you, or they, were born with? This was our topic a couple of weeks ago.

Have you noticed athletes whose mistakes crush them? Who can’t get “back in the game” quickly?

Recently I was introduced to the book, Mindset – The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck.

Dweck’s premise is that some people have “fixed” mindsets. Others have “growth” mindsets. Which are you? In reality, most people have a mix, but lean mostly one way or the other. We’re likely to have one mindset sometimes, and the other one other times.

As a primary school teacher, and a tireless researcher, Dweck has studied these differences most of her life.

When you hear statements like:

  • I’m no good with technology
  • I can’t learn French, or Spanish
  • I can’t drive a car with a manual transmission

You’re hearing the result of a fixed mindset, one that believes they have, or don’t have, a certain talent.

When you hear:

  • With some research, and maybe a class, I’ll figure out technology to the extent that I need it.
  • I’m anxious to dig into a language that will be useful, or interesting, to me.
  • Can you help me learn to drive a car with a clutch?

You’re hearing someone with a growth mindset.

The good news is, you’re not “stuck” with one or the other. Dweck reports that her own mindset has evolved from fixed in her childhood to growth as she matured. And of course as she studied mindsets.

In grasping these ideas it’s important to first understand the basics. You’ll need a solid understanding of some terms she uses, and her fundamental concept. After you’ve accomplished that, a couple of chapters stand out for me. These chapters highlight situations where the concepts are easy to see in action.

  • In chapter 3 she discusses the importance of a growth mindset in parents and teachers of young children. Kids, with their young absorptive minds, take signals from what adults say to them. If they’re scolded when they make a mistake, they learn quickly not to make mistakes. Of course this means, “don’t take on anything too difficult”. What if they’re praised for their talents – how easily they did something? They learn that quick performance is better than working hard to learn something difficult.
  • In chapter 7, we learn the results of the two mindsets in coaches of sports teams. She describes three well-known college basketball coaches, All had moments of success.
    • Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers won a lot of championships. His success was sporadic.
    • John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins from a 3rd-rate status to 10 championships in 12 years. He was arguably the “winningest” NCAA coach ever.
    • Pat Summitt coached the Tennessee Lady Vols. She started with a Bobby Knight (explosive, inconsistent) style. She evolved into recognizing losses as learning opportunities.
  • I’m sure you can see, even without reading more detail, where the fixed and growth mindsets were.
  • In chapter 7 she also discusses “false” growth mindsets. She covers a couple of misunderstandings about what is a growth mindset.

I leave you with that much introduction and summary of Carol Dweck’s great work. For me it’s a unique examination of the ingredients of real success. I hope you find it equally compelling.

What do You Hate in Others’ Behaviors?



Recently I connected with John Patrick Morgan through an introduction from another coach I work with. He actually goes by JP Morgan. JP sings to quite a different drummer than the storied banker of the same name. Related? I don’t know.

JP has some wonderful insights into life and what make us human beings what we are. Today I focus on a recent essay where he suggests we hate in ourselves the same traits we dislike in others.

Do you have a friend, or a spouse, that talks too much? Talks too little? Tells stories badly? If these things trouble you in that person, take a careful look. You probably dislike that in yourself. Or you fear the possibility that you might exhibit the same behavior.

Over the past several years I’ve noted this often. When I see that I may be guilty of what I object to in others, I work to avoid that behavior myself. Then it troubles me much less in others than it did. This often happens even if I’m not totally successful in eliminating the tendency myself. Just facing the issue head-on makes it less scary.

JP takes this concept one step further. He recommends actually striving to become the behavior you object to. It’s freeing! In the 9-minute video attached to the article, he describes behaviors that he hated in his wife. When he embraced the behaviors, the concern became a non-issue for him.

This is something I’ll have to experiment with. Likely you will too. Counter-intuitive as this idea is, it makes kind of perverse sense to try it out. Your distaste for something often goes away when you embrace it.

So give it a try! Next time someone does something that bugs you, think about it and try out JP’s approach. Obviously (I think) I would not recommend this for dishonest or belligerent behavior!

Are You a Problem Solver?

In this article, I turn again to Dennis Hooper. You may remember him from a few months ago. His topic then was how to choose a coach.Dennis has experience in large organizations and in small ones. He loves helping people work together in harmony. 

Dennis recently caught my eye with this article on the subject of giving advice. His point is, whatever value you see in your advice, it’s important to be careful where you offer it. Be sure it’s welcome. If you’re not sure, ask. He suggests some language for how to ask.

Just in the past week, I saw a chance to “help” someone through a social situation. Another friend suggested I think about how my help would be received. I decided against it because I wasn’t sure if my suggestions would be welcome.  If they aren’t they won’t help. In the coming days or weeks, perhaps I’ll see an opportunity to ask about that.

This situation planted the seed that grew into this issue of The Unity Community. Dennis’ article added impetus to the idea.

This newsletter offers advice and suggestions nearly every week. You have all implicitly invited my advice by subscribing to the letter. If you prefer not to receive my advice, please feel free to click the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of this message. Every week, one or two people do that. It doesn’t trouble me at all. What I offer isn’t for everyone. I’m interested in being helpful and supportive, to those who want help.

In his message, Dennis offers Tony Alessandra’s “platinum rule”, an embellishment of the “golden rule”. The golden rule says “Treat others as you would like to be treated”. The platinum rule changes one word in that: “Treat others as they would like to be treated”. Of course sometimes you don’t know exactly how they’d like to be treated. It’s safer to ask than to assume your input is welcome.

In a recent effort to better define my personal mission, I arrived, after some thought, at:

“I make a positive contribution to every transaction and relationship I participate in.”

In pursuit of that mission, I had arrived at the platinum rule myself, though I didn’t so name it. I think “platinum rule” is an excellent name, and I thank Tony for coining it, and Dennis for offering the rule as guidance.

Think carefully about where you share suggestions and advice. However helpful you think an idea to be, it may be unwelcome to someone else. You won’t be helping if you make them feel inadequate. You won’t improve anything if they see you as invading their privacy. As helpful as you may think you are, offering advice where it’s unwelcome won’t help anyone. It may damage or even destroy a relationship.

Enjoy Dennis’ advice here, if you’re open to it.

Entrepreneur? Or Just Another Business Person?

(Published in The Unity Community newsletter in January 2019)


Norm Brodsky
, who writes a regular column in Inc. magazine, has a very interesting story for us for this issue

He and his wife stopped by a store where Linda Pagan manufactures and sells ladies’ hats. 

Linda makes some very broad-brimmed hats that many people like for outdoor events. Since she includes boxes with all her hats, she needs larger than normal boxes for these hats. 

She took the “bull by the horns” and helped her box supplier develop the capacity  to produce these outsized boxes. The supplier hadn’t identified the market for such hat boxes. She did, and stepped up to make it happen, with benefit to herself and other marketers, the box supplier, and the customers.

This is the way business should be done – win-win-win! It’s how a market economy generates wealth. 

Through cooperative effort, everybody benefits. Linda, the box supplier and other milliners earn a profit by selling their wares for more than it costs to make them. The customers get the hats worth more to them than the money they pay for them.

So here’s the difference between an entrepreneur and another business person. Many people start a “business” which is really just a job for them. They don’t answer to a boss per se (except their customer), but they’re selling what others sell, with few if any unique features.

Those who identify and fill a gap, or space for a product or service that nobody is offering, are entrepreneurs. Others compete with existing suppliers without offering anything new. They must compete on price, delivery time, or other mundane features of their product or service. They have much more competition than the entrepreneur does.

Enjoy Norm’s story about entrepreneur Linda Pagan. This insight may be useful to better understand and explain the difference between entrepreneurs and other business people.

What Will Help You Most to Navigate Hard Times?

This month seems to be developing into a time of philosophical exploration. Last week we discussed Wayne Dyer’s wise life improvement suggestions. This week, I go  back a little further in history (about 700 years!) for for some Persian wisdom on life.

Yalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, better known simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

Nikos, who has commented on several of my articles, recently sent me 75 Rumi quotes. Most of them are worthy of thoughtful note. In the list, every 10th one is highlighted. There are many nuggets of wisdom in the entire list. For different people, different ones will have the biggest impact. I won’t try to select for you.

All of this advice, no matter the source, essentially comes down to positive mindset. Travel restrictions, wild stock market fluctuations, etc., can lead one to think negatively. We have no control over those things. One thing we can always control is our mindset. Keeping a positive mindset helps us through the toughest of times. In a positive mindset we are much more effective at addressing what we can control.

Napoleon Hill famously said, “Fear and faith can’t co-exist.” Have faith that you can produce the results you want, and set fear aside.

Be positive and grateful.

Music Often Reflects Business

Like much entertainment, music often reflects the realities of life and business. 


This week, we check in with Mark Oldman, entrepreneur, Inc. contributor, and author. He finds many parallels between the lyrics of Neil Peart’s Rush band and the company he co-founded, Vault.com.


As many of you know, Peart died last month. Oldman has been a loyal follower of Neil Peart and Rush for many years. His recent article is a tribute to the ideas reflected in Rush’s songs. It also catalogs many of the lessons he’s learned in business. You’ll find parallels to Ami Kassar’s experience, which we discussed here.


What makes a song popular? It’s usually its reflection of realities in life and/or business.


The lessons Mark relates to Rush’s lyrics are:

1. “Resist safety”.

2. Pursue your passion.

3. Choose complementary co-founders.

4. Progress is incremental.

5. Say no.

6. Prepare to pivot.

7. Assume control.

Oldman selects a passage from one of Rush’s songs to illustrate each principle. Common themes for them are:

  • Control your destiny.
  • Find what excites you – and focus on it.
  • Pay attention to what the market is telling you, and be prepared to react. The best reaction may be saying no to an apparent opportunity (shiny object).

Enjoy Mark’s comparisons between Neil Peart’s music and the realities of business.

How Do You React to Frustrations?

This week, we again visit Jim Riviello, who takes up the idea of the “Teflon leader” in this 23-minute podcast. It’s well worth listening to. The idea is to let things “slide off”.

Jim reminds us that we are never responsible for what others say or do. We are responsible solely for our reaction to those things.


He recommends making two lists of things that trigger us – “set us off”. 


One of those lists should be for the things in business that bother you. Maybe an employee does something irresponsible. Or someone is late, or doesn’t show up, for an appointment. Perhaps the weather interrupts some project you’re trying to finish.


The other list is for things in your personal life that set you off. It could be something your spouse does. Or how about a teenage son or daughter? Kids often trigger parents with their behavior. Some delight in doing that. Maybe it’s traffic delays – very frustrating for many. Only you know what bothers you most. Be honest with yourself in making these lists.


Now take those lists, and think about the items – what bothers you about them? Do this in a calm moment. Consider how you might react in a more rational way than you usually do. List ways of reacting rationally to each one. Just making the list is very effective. When you’re consciously aware of something, you’re well on the way to addressing it.


Then watch for those triggers in daily life, and catch your anger rising when they occur. Force yourself to settle down and react as you imagined when you were thinking calmly. As with any behavior change, this takes practice. You’ll get better, though certainly not perfect – as Jim reminds us, we’re human! Keep working to improve – you will!


Jim calls this method “catch-n-release”. Catch yourself reacting angrily, and  release it.

How to Advance in Business?

You’ve likely heard the advice from a coach or a self-improvement gal or guy. 


Emulate the position you aspire to.

Dress for two levels above your current position!

Rub elbows with people at that level!

Strive to act and sound like you’re there!

All well and good – up to a point. Following that advice can get you in trouble, for a couple of reasons. 


For one, you’re likely to alienate the people you need to get along with now.


Then there’s the issue of authenticity. We’ve talked often about the importance of being your authentic self. The “emulate” advice could lead you to “put on airs” – to act like someone you’re not. No matter how good an actor you are, you can’t carry this on very long. Inauthentic behavior causes inner conflict for you, and others see right through it.

Here,  Jessica Stillman relates  advice from Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey. These too women have obviously done some things right! It usually pays to listen to such people. Both have suggested that being the person you are is vital to success. Anything else will lead to trouble. For you internally, and for your career. Oprah talked in more detail  here about the experience she alludes to.


Enjoy Jessica’s article. Be the most authentic version of yourself you can be!