150 Billion Bits of Purpose

Did you know you only have 150 billion chances to live life purposefully? It seems like an absurdly large number, but follow along with me and you will see that perhaps it isn’t…

The 99u.com blog claims to be about empowering people to use their own great ideas. It is very eclectic. A great thought I read there recently comes from Sam Spurlin. He wants to challenge people’s way of thinking about productivity. He posits that our brains can process about 100 bits of information a second. Assuming you live 80 years and sleep 8 hours a night, that gives you about 150 billion bits of information that your brain processes. (I know that some of you are thinking that this is the capacity of the conscious mind, the subconscious does 100 times that — the point is still going to be the same, so just play along…) Now, Sam says reading takes up about 50 bits a second, leaving the other 50 to take in the sounds, scents, and other senses. And we can only follow so much before something goes by the wayside. Try following six people talking at the same time. You will only process so much of that information — at least at the conscious level.

So the question is, how will you invest your 100 bits per second? Some people want to be as productive with their lives as possible, and try to figure out how to win more time by finding tricks and shortcuts to get things done. But does being productive always equate to being effective?

Some think being productive is effective. But being effective isn’t just about getting things done faster, it is about getting the right things done. One can be very productive on meaningless things… think of most reality TV.

To get the right things done, you have to know why you are doing things. You have to tie what you do to the things you value. I wrote about rituals the other day. They are a way to deliberately live your values and put purpose into some of the things you do.

In the minute or so that you have taken to read this article, you have processed 6000 bits of information. Hopefully, you didn’t simply read them to be entertained. My hope is that you will take a few of those bits over the next few minutes and think about your values and your purpose and begin to align your actions with them!

It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully. by Sam Spurlin at 99u.com

Its the Dog’s Life for Great Communication

Sam the happy British Lab and sage teacher.

Sam the happy British Lab and sage teacher.

Pet owners know that you can learn a lot from your animals. My wife and I have been “renting” Sam, a British Labrador Retriever — actually watching him for my sister-in-law since February who is selling her home and relocating near us. I recently wrote a blog about Sam and what I learned about communication and leadership. You will enjoy the full article, here, but let me summarize the points for you:

  • Make your needs known. Sam knows I cannot read his mind. When he wants something, he gets my attention and doesn’t stop until I acknowledge his need.
  • Tomorrow is another day. Hope springs eternal with dogs. If I don’t play fetch with him now, it doesn’t mean he won’t ask again later. No isn’t forever.
  • Make time for those you care about. Dogs (and kids) start acting up if you don’t make time for them. But give them time and you get enriched AND a well-mannered pet (kid).
  • Love one another. I don’t have to do anything but show up and Sam loves me (see his tail wagging in the picture?) His gratitude is infectious.  Gratitude is a form of love. Who are you grateful for? Do you show them love?

Sam will be moving out soon, but his lessons will stay with me. I hope that we can continue to have a great relationship here on Leaderclip. I hope these posts are useful and enjoyable, and that you get as much from them as I do. I would love to had a dialog with you, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this or any other post. I’ll reply…

What Man’s Best Friend Can Teach Us About Communication and Leadership by Dwayne Baptist at dbaptist.com

Victors and Viktors

Dr. Ben Carson (from White House Photo) and Dr. Viktor Frankl (Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

Dr. Ben Carson (from White House Photo) and Dr. Viktor Frankl (Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

While researching my newsletter, I came across a 1999 PBS interview with Dr. Ben Carson, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon. Many of you know his story: young black boy raised by a single mom who wanted her boys to escape from poverty. She required he and his brother to read 2 books weekly from the library, and write book reports. His love for learning inspired, he fought other challenges to eventually become the man of distinction he is today.

Carson’s mom also would not stand for her boys to play the victim. If they were in trouble and used someone else as an excuse, she would ask, “Do you have a brain?” If they answered yes, then it really didn’t matter what others did. She made her boys understand personal responsibility.

And personal responsibility is an empowering trait. Recognizing that racism was a serious problem in his youth, Carson’s mom reminded him that he still had choices. As Dr. Carson told it in his interview:

When it comes to something like racism, for instance, my mother used to always say, “If you walk into an auditorium full of racist, bigoted people,” she said, “you don’t have a problem. They have a problem. Because when you walk in, they are going to cringe and wonder if you’re going to sit next to them, whereas you can go sit anywhere you want. So let them wory about it if they want to. You don’t ahve to do that.” And, you know, that’s the whole concept in terms of the victim’s mentality. You either accept it and become a victim, or you deny it and become a victor.

You have a choice between being a victim and a victor.

Another “victor” — Dr. Viktor Frankl — said:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

When somebody provokes you, or you discover your plans are failing, in that moment between the stimulus and your response, choose how you will respond. Choose to be a victor and find a way to win.

Conversation with Dr. Ben Carson (1999) by David Gergen at PBS.

The Three Stooges Communicate!

I was reading on my iPad using Zite, a news aggregation application you can tailor to get information that interests you (I find many of my Leaderclip post subjects via Zite), and came across today’s article. What caught my attention wasn’t the title so much as the graphic — Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk! (Which you see here…)

If you want to talk about three rules of anything, one great way to attention (at least of middle-aged white guys) is to show the Three Stooges. Fortunately, Mike Figliuolo of ThoughtLeaders LLC wasn’t offering silly ideas when presenting Three Rules for Successful Communications. Here they are:

  1. Its always three things. As Mike suggests, even if you have 47 things to share, break things down into three major points. Some people can keep track of a bunch of things, but keeping organized so that there are only three things keeps you (and your audience) focused.
  2. They have to hear things three times. Why do you think your high school or college speech teacher told you when planning a speech, “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”? People need some repetition to understand and process your message.
  3. After three emails, go have a conversation. If you have to keep going back and forth, there is probably something that can be handled much more deftly if you talked to one another than continue to waste a bunch of time typing emails. Relying solely on email just slows things down and invites misunderstanding.

Yes, Mike really kept it to three things. You can be a stooge, or you can adopt these simple rules to help you improve your communication with others.

Three Rules for Successful Communications by Mike Figliuolo at ThoughtLeadersLLC.com

Failing to Acknowledge Failure

How many of us as we start to set goals and create plans stop to analyze the possibility of failure? Adrienne Asselmeier, a guest blogger at bplans.com, in her recent post, Failure is an Option, commented recently that “When all you can think about is success, goals, and growth, then you’re not going to have a Plan B.”

“Dren” is right when she comments that people don’t really want to think about failure, but inevitably any plan will have some little failures in it. She points out that lots of people are starting to talk about failure in blogs and on the conference circuit. Failure is actually good, and our friend, if we learn from it. If we understand that we are likely to fail at first, it won’t bother us to do so–it is part of the process of learning. Setbacks are part of achievement.

While we should expect we will face setbacks, we should not use this as an excuse to inadequately plan. We should be looking at our plans and asking questions, challenging our assumptions. For example, Why do I believe my sales projections are accurate? How do I know it will take this long to manufacture my product? Why should I believe I can recruit the team in the time allotted?

The management discipline that addresses the real challenges any plan or organization faces and deals with threats, active and potential is Risk Management. It is all part of grounding yourself in the realities of the market. You want to understand what you face so that you can adequately plan.

I think a lot of people confuse what is Plan B. For many the thinking goes, “If I fail at starting this software company, I can always be a bartender.” If you want to run a nightclub, bartending so you can learn more about running a club might be something of a Plan B. But real Plan B’s are about taking a different approach to getting your dream. I wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy for college. I wanted to be a Marine Officer. Knowing that the academic standards were rigorous, my Plan B was not to become a Music major at the local college. I enlisted in the armed forces and got some education to prepare me. This plan also kept me near my dream, keeping me focused on my mission. I entered the Naval Academy 1 year to the day after I entered enlisted service. Sure there was hard work in there, it didn’t happen by magic. But I knew what I wanted and was not going to accept failure. It was an option, but not one I had to settle for.

Failure is an Option by Adrienne Asselmeier at bplans.com

The King of Happiness

Chip Conley at TED. From chipconley.com

Chip Conley at TED. From chipconley.comI was stuck, looking for some inspiration on a project today and sought out some TED talks for inspiration. If you aren’t familiar with TED, it is a non-profit and acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Well, I came across a talk called Measuring what makes life worthwhile by Chip Conley. It did not disappoint.

While Chip had lots of great points to make about how people and organizations struggle to move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he brought it all into sharp focus talking about the King of Bhutan. Shortly after the 17-year-old assumed the throne in the early 1970’s he was asked about his country’s Gross National Product (GNP – today called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP). The king responded, asking why should we focus on GNP, when we ought to be focused on the happiness and satisfaction of people? This has led to a movement called “Gross National Happiness.”

Of course, you cannot achieve what you do not measure, and for many it is especially difficult to measure an intangible such as happiness. However, the pursuit of happiness is exactly what Jefferson reminded us was a natural right. So, why shouldn’t we find a way to measure it?

In the end, Chip doesn’t offer any specific prescriptions for what people should measure, but he does offer questions you can ask yourself to begin to move in this direction, “…what less obvious metrics could we use to actually evaluate our employee’s sense of meaning, or our customers’ sense of connection with us?”  There are many things you can study to increase employee satisfaction with their jobs and customer/client connection with your company.

A key point is that you don’t have to choose between having either a great culture with happy workers and customers or a very profitable organization. Both are possible with some planning. And wouldn’t happy workers who find meaning in their work serving clients who value your products and services, not just for what they do but for how they make the customer’s life better lead to opportunities to make a fair profit for giving so much value to so many people?

What intangibles do you think show happiness and satisfaction for your life? For your organization? For your customers? Why not share some of your ideas in the comments section below?

And if you have about 15 minutes, why not enjoy Chip Conley’s TED Talk. You will be glad you did.

Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile at TED.com

Interning with Tony Stark

I am Iron Man

I came across a new blog recently, The Savvy Intern, at youtern.com. The site focuses on helping people find internships, which they believe are essential for getting a job, especially if you are just entering the workforce. And why not? Interning is a form of networking, which I believe is essential to finding “the right job” if having a job is what you want right now. But I digress…

One of their bloggers, ComeRecommended, offered a playful article called “8 Leadership Lessons We Learned from Tony Stark (aka: Iron Man)“. I love this thoughtful and playful look at being a leader. Here they are:

  1. Choose your mission – don’t just pick a mission, find one worthy of you
  2. Stick by your mission – things will get rough, but see it through; after all, it is worthy of you
  3. Be socially responsible – Our highest calling is to serve others, even when things get tough
  4. Always improve – Don’t get complacent, always seek to expand your vision and make yourself grow
  5. Isolate yourself occasionally – doing is important, but we cannot find creative solutions if we do not give ourself space and time to just think
  6. Have a good team – even a genius cannot be everywhere at once; you need a team to get anything great done
  7. Be transparent – people will follow someone who is authentic; hiding things does not engender the trust needed to build a great team
  8. Enjoy yourself – keeping things light helps you reduce tension, and encourages those around you to give their best

If you are an Iron Man fan, check out the article; you will probably enjoy the Tony Stark graphics…

8 Leadership Lessons We Learned from Tony Stark (aka: Iron Man) on the Savvy Intern blog

DON’T Do These Things!

The Inc. Magazine blogs are a great source of inspiration and tips for running a business, or even doing your job better if you aren’t the boss. Writer Jeff Haden recently posted an article on 8 things you should not do every day. He was focused on productivity, and these will make you more productive. They are also great tips for leaders, and I’ll share why:

  1. Don’t check your cell phone when talking to someone. One rule leaders follow is to “be present.” Which is more important to you, the person you are with or something that might be going on elsewhere? If the answer is your phone, then maybe you should end your conversation and do the more productive thing. Anyway, how do you feel when somebody interrupts your conversation to check their phone?
  2. Don’t multi-task at meetings. Haden talks about how much you’ll learn because probably everyone else is multi-tasking, which is an interesting point. But as with point one, what are you communicating as a leader? (And if you don’t see yourself as “the leader,” what are you telling your leader?) If your time is more valuable spent elsewhere, do that. If someone “made” you go to the meeting, maybe they know something you don’t. If you want to be sure you get the most from any meeting, take a few minutes ahead of time and prepare for it. You will be surprised just how much more productive you will be at a meeting if you know why you are there.
  3. Don’t think about people who don’t make any difference in your life. Too many of us spend our lives worrying about what others think. I know I used to do it. One way to stop this problem is to know what you value and your goals so that you can be busy thinking about what is important. Need to think about people? Why not think about the people you are grateful to have as part of your life?
  4. Don’t use multiple notifications. Notifications are interruptions to your work flow, Haden reminds us. He makes the point about focus I made in the first two points. As a leader, you need to focus on what is important. Schedule the time you will be looking at email, etc.
  5. Don’t let the past dictate your future. When hiring, I am a big proponent of “behavioral interviewing” because the best indicator of what someone will do in the future is to see what they have done in the past. However, the big caveat to this dictum is when someone has had an intervening significant experience. If you have decided to change and you are on a path of change, you do not have to be shackled to your past. Others might continue to judge you based on your past, but remember #3 above…
  6. Don’t wait until you are sure you will succeed. When I teach people about goal setting, I teach them to find some small step to do that day that moves them toward their goal. Taking action is the only way to ensure success. Don’t wait. Act.
  7. Don’t talk behind someone’s back. Leaders don’t gossip. If you have a problem with someone, let it be between you and them. If you are willing to engage in gossip, others will wonder if you gossip about them, too. This does not strengthen your influence as a leader. Talk about things that matter and help move you toward your goals.
  8. Don’t say “yes” when you really mean “no.” One of your most important jobs as a leader is to have a vision and keep yourself and your team moving toward it. When you allow others to insert their priorities into your schedule, your agenda suffers. This was Rip Van Winkle’s problem. He was so busy helping his neighbors that he neglected his own duties. No wonder his wife was unhappy!

As leaders we are busy thinking about the things we should do, but as Jeff reminds us, there are things we really should not do, if we are going to succeed. At the Chic-fil-a Leadercast a couple years back, Jim Collins talked about having a “to-don’t” list along side your “to-do” list. These make a good start, but make your own list. What are the distractions that get in the way of you being more productive and successful? Why not intentionally remind yourself to steer clear of them?

 

8 Things You Should Not Do Every Day by Jeff Haden at Inc.

 

What are the Characteristics of Successful Business Owners?

Marine Institute Ireland, Strategic_Planning_S...

Let’s face it, successful people think differently than others. Even if you don’t want to be a business owner yourself, do you want to have a better family life? Church? Club? Cause? It doesn’t matter what you want to do well, this set of 8 common characteristics of successful business owners by Dave Lavinsky on Small Business Trends is a great group of tips:

  1. Have a Crystal Clear Vision. More than anything, if you want to achieve a goal, you must be absolutely clear about what you are trying to accomplish.
  2. Have a Written Strategic Plan. If your goal is big, you need to think long-term. Want to fit this to your family? What do you want to be able to do with and for your kids as they grow up? I promise you, Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” is in store for you if you don’t think about this.
  3. Set Shorter-Term Goals. You have to bridge the gap between now and that strategic plan. Setting and achieving shorter term goals will give you the confidence to succeed.
  4. Ongoing Education. You will need to learn and grow to become the person who can carry out your big goals. Formal education may or may not be what you need, but getting the knowledge (and connections) you need to succeed is critical.
  5. Satisfy Your Customers. Whether a business, family, church, cause, you are serving someone in the end. What do they really want? Find out and your plans and goals will be strengthened.
  6. Be a Great Marketer. I used to think I couldn’t sell. Then someone pointed out that to win the hot girl who became my wife, I must have had a great sales pitch! Marketing is about creating awareness and beginning the process of motivating others to take actions. If you help them win, you can win, too.
  7. Be Laser-Focused in Your Work. There are lots of things you could do. But to succeed with your goal, you have to settle on the limited number of things that will help you get it done. When you finish, then think about something else to do.
  8. . Edison famously found 10,000 ways you could not make a practical light bulb. Are you willing to go the distance for your goal? As sales great Tom Hopkins likes to say, “I never see failure as failure, but as the price I must pay to eventually win!”

 

8 Common Characteristics of Successful Business Owners at Small Business Trends.

Walking the Talk in Michigan

Man of Integrity: Judge Raymond Voet
The Fayetteville Observer | photo by Greg Barnes

The news is chock full of instances about a leader’s ethical lapse. But how often do we read stories about someone really leading by example? The Associated Press put out a story recently about a Michigan judge, the Honorable Raymond Voet, who held himself in contempt of court in his own courtroom!

Judge Voet has a posted rule in his court that those whose electonic devices interrupt proceedings will be held in contempt. On April 12, 2013, His Honor’s new smartphone started asking for voice commands during some closing arguments in his court. At the break, he held himself in contempt and paid a fine of $25. Judge Voet feels that if he can’t live by his own rules, he has no business enforcing them on others.

My mentor John Maxwell says that you have to live what you teach because you are your message. Judge Voet has sent a powerful message to those who will come before his court that even he is not above the law. That is a powerful message for all civil servants to remember.

Judge Holds Himself in Contempt for His Smartphone by the Associated Press