Category Archives: Purpose

It takes kind to know kind

Picking up my new eyeglasses at BJs I noticed how different my interaction was with Ann-Marie, the optometrist there. She was extremely positive about my new glasses, and frankly about everything else. You can’t fake caring. She was genuinely trying to make my day better, and she did the same to a co-worker that was wandering by.  There was nothing specific, nothing I could put my finger on. There was no script for her to follow. When you know, you know. I thanked her for being kind. Without a thought she said, “It takes kind to know kind.” What an affirming return gift for gratitude expressed!  What do you notice? And what do you affirm in others?  If you see a kindness, it means you too…are kind.

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Who do we appreciate?

Yes, the title may be a familiar chant to you from sixth grade. I’m tickled also by Microsoft Word chiding that it really should be, “whom do we appreciate?” That’s the upper-crust British version.  Instead of giving a bunch of cheap plastic gifts from China this Christmas that will end up in the landfill next year, give your partner/parents/friends/kids appreciation.  Appreciation engages the frontal cortex – the connector in your brain. And it quiets the amygdala in the limbic system – the alarm bell in your brain. Target your appreciation with characteristics that fit and give specific examples of how it shows up in their life.  Here’s a cheat sheet to help you, based on the work of John Gottman. And how are your 40 days going? I’m continuing to work on getting what needs to be done efficiently without panic or pushing. And other readers are doing great work. The best day to start your 40 Days to Change for Good was November 11. The second best day is today! Jerry says: “My 40-day focus is on experimenting with habits for self-care. That looks like: – walking at least 20 minutes/day – meditating at least 10 minutes/day and the big one… – in bed by 11 pm.” Lou says: “Count me in, so busy but I’ve got so many songs started my 40 day journey will be to work in unfinished songs an song ideas each day for 40.  Not necessarily to finish one each day but to work on some.  That’s the journey.  Excited about this, thanks for the push.” (You can check out Lou’s jug band here.) Laura is working on “discipline – being mindful of doing things on a disciplined basis. I can achieve a goal but what I lack is a consistent discipline. It’s not a specific thing, I just want to be more mindful about whatever it is I choose to be disciplined about.”

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What was the original intent of labor-saving devices?

Vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines, electric irons, hay thrashers, computers, the wheel, the rifle, the iphone…all have been touted as labor-saving devices. Why? Why did we want to save labor? Why do less? I’ve been pondering this on my 40 days to change for good this year. I’m focusing on efficiency – doing the work that needs to be done ‘good enough’ and not trying to make it perfect. Emails back and forth to clients are shorter for example. It has worked out pretty well so far, although accompanied by some old fear that something’s not quite right, as if this new way of doing the work is somehow dangerous. Why would I want to be more efficient? It frees up time I used to not have. Now what? There are two choices. I can do more work, or be done and go enjoy myself. Or work on filling the wood shed (which is a strenuous version of enjoying myself) or a thousand other non-work-related ‘things-to-do-when-you-own-a-house’.  I’ve been experimenting with choosing to not do more work. That leaves enjoying myself. What a concept! This was the original intent of selling labor-saving devices to the harried housewife of the 1940s. Get the chores done and enjoy yourself. At least that was the concept the Mad Men sold. Think of the Jetsons. In the future everything onerous will be done by robots. The only thing left to do is to get into wacky misadventures or sit on the couch eating bon bons. The computer really helped, and the smart phone really helped. No more faxes, letters typed and sent. No more traveling face-to-face. No more filing cabinets. The list goes on and on. All that time freed up. Well, how are we doing with enjoying that time? Everyone I meet out in the world, every team I work with, every executive I coach – there’s not enough time to get everything done in the day. There’s a greater scarcity of open time than any in modern history.  We took that time and…filled it up with more stuff to do. I think modern advertisers realize this and have given up. Labor-saving devices are now sold as productivity tools. So we can be more productive, get more stuff done. The treadmill speed can increase. If this is you and your life? If it is, is it working for you?  What would you like instead?

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Six changes Millennials and Generation Z want

Millennials (born 1980-1996) and Gen Z (born after 1996) want something new from work. According to Gallup, here are six ‘wants’ that are different. Past (workers used to want this)FutureMy paycheck My purposeMy satisfactionMy developmentMy bossMy coachMy annual reviewMy ongoing conversationsMy weaknessesMy strengthsMy jobMy life What does this mean? A paycheck is no longer enough. There needs to be meaning to the work. Who and how is this helping?Beer kegs and ping pong tables don’t get workers excited anymore. Their growth is what they care about.Less hierarchy, more help.Feedback once a year is useless. Short ongoing feedback, especially digitally, instead.Strengths develop infinitely. Focus on strengths.“Does this organization care about who I am, what I do well? Can I do what I do best every day? If not, I’m gone.” Learn more: Generations Collaborate – Learn about the different generations that make up your workforce and team. Set the stage for true collaboration on your team by finding out what makes each generation unique, how they prefer to communicate, get work done, their triggers for excellent performance, and their triggers for conflict. (data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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Someone is waiting at the cross walk

Someone is waiting to cross the street. The person is standing there as traffic streams by both directions. There may or may not be a cross walk there. Or that person is on a bicycle, also waiting. You’re in your car and you see the person. You may or may not know if they’ve been waiting a while or just got there. What do you do? While I was waiting on the cross-walk of the Norwottuck Rail Trail, someone stopped for me in one direction, the side I was closest to. We could make eye contact. I waved in thanks to him and started across the street. Seeing that car stopped, the next car coming in the other direction then slowed and stopped, allowing me to fully cross. I carried on, a little more inspired about the human race, at least on that sunny Sunday morning. That’s how influence works. One act of generosity influences/shames another person to also be generous. Norms – unspoken standards of behavior – are created constantly throughout the day based on where we are and who we are with. The airport has norms, the airplane has norms, the subway or train has norms. The rush hour traffic in New Jersey has norms. We are – unconsciously – what those around us repeatedly are. And when someone sets a higher standard, in this case as simple as delaying his journey 30 seconds, it influences another driver in a different vehicle to do the same.  Behavior is contagious, emotions are contagious.  So, going back to the first paragraph. You’re in the car. What do you do? What norm will you choose to live by? What influence do you want to be on your world?

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Are you still above ground? Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams has played his entire NBA career there with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was traded to the Rockets over the summer. This will be the first year that New Zealander (one of only four Kiwis to ever play in the NBA) Adams will be there without him.  “Obviously it’s a bit tough, mate,” he replied when asked how it felt to lose his teammate, “but you know, you deal with it. Still above ground.” Still above ground.  The more comfortable our lives get – and they’re pretty comfortable compared to 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 200 years ago…even 10 years ago – that comfort doesn’t seem to lessen the tragedy we feel when unwanted things happen. The difference?  The more comfortable we get, the smaller the things we get upset about. A dropped call while driving, shaky wifi makes you wait while streaming something, an extra-long traffic light. The grand parade of smallness that upset marches on all day, sunrise to sunset. One antidote? Still above ground. Sure, get upset that your coffee isn’t as hot as you’d like. AND say out loud, “still above ground.” That gift of being above ground is with us every moment we’re alive and can be recognized any time to bring a wider perspective to the daily discomforts that wear the mask of tragedy.

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If you’re a leader is safety or happiness more important to focus on for your people?

If you are a leader, start with making your people feel safe. Address their fears first. Then work your way up to happy. Calming the amygdala in the brain is the first step. Then you can engage the frontal cortex. That’s the order. 

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Safe or happy?

The amygdala part of the brain wants to keep us safe. It’s its primary function. The frontal cortex part of the brain developed after the amygdala. It is more interested in whether you’re happy, fulfilled, have good connections with the people you care about or not. In any given moment one or the other is in charge. Not both. So that means in any given moment – like this one – you’re either focused on feeling safe or being happy. What we say we want and what we act like in daily life are often two different things. Lastly, safe and happy are in two different categories. They don’t happen at the same time. When I say ‘happy’ here I’m not talking ‘yay!’ Happiness in this case is a sense of fulfillment of flourishing of being at your best. You won’t find safety there. This is the Hero’s Journey – the trip into the scary unknown. You leave safety in search of happiness.

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Da Vinci on building a team with strengths and weaknesses

“An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength.” — Leonardo da Vinci The ideal team recognizes that each person has peaks and valleys, highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses.  Taken individually, a person might try to fix those weaknesses, obsess over them, or hide them. Our brains are wired to look for flaws. It’s old survival behavior. The new way individually is to stop obsessing over weaknesses and focus on strengths more.  And the best way to build a team is to look at that team as three-dimensional. There are peaks and valleys based on individual strengths. And interestingly, those peaks and valleys overlap and cancel each other out. One person might be horrible at follow-up, another one is brilliant at it. One person might excel at winning suspicious people over, another person might consider that a worst nightmare scenario.  The ideal team forms a series of Da Vinci’s arches. People with a weakness in an area lean on other people on the team that have that strength – whether to shift work responsibility, energy support or tactical suggestions. These pairings take away the weakness from the team. The vulnerability shown and interdependence explored with those mini-collaborations is what the team trust is built on – arches.

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Viktor Frankl on why you can’t be replaced

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” –       Viktor Frankl Automation is coming! The robots are taking over! The Brookings Institute estimates that 25% of US jobs are at high risk of being automated. Hint: if you’re in production, food service or transportation you’re particularly in danger. Emotional intelligence is one of the things that so far is least likely to be automated. If you want job security invest in your emotional intelligence. But Frankl isn’t really worried about automation. He knows you can’t be replaced if… If you Quest to find out what your mission is in lifeLook for your specific opportunity to implement your mission. If your life can’t actually be repeated by anyone, or by a computer, make it obvious. 

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