Category Archives: Purpose

How Huey Lewis wrote his biggest hit The Power of Love for Back to the Future

In 1985, Steven Speilberg and Bob Zemeckis asked for a meeting with Huey Lewis. They wanted him to write a song for their upcoming movie Back to the Future. Zemeckis said, “the character Marty McFly’s favorite band would be Huey Lewis and the News. How about writing a song for the film?”  “Wow, I’m flattered,” he said, “but I don’t know how to write for film and I don’t fancy much writing a song called Back to the Future.” They told him they didn’t need that, they just wanted one of his songs. He said, “great, I’ll send you the next song that we write.” “Chris Hayes (the News guitarist) wrote the music initially, the chord progression, and I strapped on that Sony Walkman and went for a little jog. And I wrote the song on that jog and I sent it to Zemeckis.” Of all their hits – I remember being thoroughly sick of hearing Huey Lewis in high school with all those hits – the Power of Love was their biggest. Here’s the video. All from a request and a jog! It helps to have someone tangibly need what you have to offer. That focuses you.  And when you’re stuck and unable to progress on something that matters, get your Sony Walkman (or your equivalent) and go for a jog (or your equivalent). 

Also posted in Music, Resiliency | Comments closed

What’s the best form of feedback?

Before we answer that question, a quick review. In a study, people were told that their efforts would be compared with how well hundreds of others had done on the same task. They then received praise, criticism, or no feedback on their performance. The highest ranking came as you’d expect – after praise. But the second highest ranking came from receiving criticism. The lowest ranking came from getting no feedback. So, we know that feedback is important. Gallup took this idea one step further and looked at the efficacy of strengths-only feedback vs. strengths and non-strengths feedback combined. They found the best form of feedback is…drum roll….. The best form of feedback has a primary focus on developing strengths. But there’s also an awareness of and discussion about how to manage non-strengths so they don’t become weaknesses.  Don’t be afraid of both positive and negative feedback. We want to know. And we do better work when we get both, with an emphasis on our strengths. AND we want to be coached on how to use our strengths more effectively. (data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter)  PS – Leader Quest is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! How can we unite our people and rally them to a better future? How can we empower people in every position to lead? Click here to start transforming your team.

Also posted in Leadership | Comments closed

What kind of feedback do people want?

In a study, people were told that their efforts would be compared with how well hundreds of others had done on the same task. They then received praise, criticism, or no feedback on their performance.  Rank self-confidence with a score of 1, 2, or 3 after receiving praise, criticism, or no feedback.  The highest ranking came as you’d expect – after praise. But the second highest ranking came from receiving criticism. The lowest ranking came from getting no feedback. If you’ve been waiting to give criticism that is needed, wait no longer. You’re hurting more by withholding feedback than giving that negative feedback. PS – Leader Quest is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! How can we unite our people and rally them to a better future? How can we empower people in every position to lead? Click here to start transforming your team.

Also posted in Leadership | Comments closed

The snow fort and the sidewalk

When it snows, do kids prefer to build a snow fort or shovel the sidewalk? What’s the difference? One of the differences is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm provides energy, while lack of it sucks energy out. If you’re having trouble persisting at something that matters to you, or even harder something that doesn’t matter to you, find the kernel of enthusiasm for some aspect of the work. Or some kernel of enthusiasm for the purpose for the work. Everything you do potentially contributes something to someone, even if it just contributes to you having food on the table and a roof over your head.  It’s not all sidewalk, there’s a snow fort in there somewhere.

Also posted in Play, Persistence | Comments closed

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.

Also posted in EI | Comments closed

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.”

Also posted in 40 Days Change, Brain Science, EI | Comments closed

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?

Also posted in 40 Days Change | Comments closed

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) 

Also posted in Strengths | Comments closed

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?

Also posted in Influence | Comments closed

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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