R U A Zombie?

Ann and I saw the movie World War Z last summer. It’s about a pathogen gone wild that turns folks into zombies.

Once infected, their eyes glaze over. They become dull and lifeless until they’re stressed by sound. Then they become dangerously aggressive running wildly in packs.

They’re the ‘un-dead.’

But they might as well be dead.

Are you a zombie?

I’ve just started working with a professional who puts in 17-hour days, seven days a week. He doesn’t know how to stop. He has hasn’t taken a vacation in years. His health is failing. His marriage is suffering. And, despite all the time he spends, his business is unraveling.

He’s stressed and lifeless and running around madly; trying desperately to keep all the balls in the air.

He’s definitely a zombie.

But he’s not alone.

So many of the folks who seek out Ann and me for coaching have lost control of their time; they’ve lost sight of their boundaries; they wake up every day feeling exhausted and depleted; feeling as if they’re already behind; then they run around madly all day long trying desperately to accomplish enough – to be enough; then they fall into bed at the end of the day feeling worn out and frustrated and empty… only to wake up and do it all over again. clip_image002_thumb2

The answer, they think, is to double down. Get busier; work harder; put in more hours.

I know. I owned that tee shirt once. (I had a secretary years ago who referred to me – not so lovingly – as a ‘hamster on a wheel.’ And truth be told, it felt just that way.)

But there is a better way. And it’s not about doing more or accomplishing more or being more.

(In fact, we are already enough, just as we are.)

• It’s about getting clear about our purpose; about our vision for our lives.
• It’s about saying ‘no’ to what’s not working so that we can say ‘yes’ to what is.
• It’s about foregoing the urgent for what is truly important.

It’s about discovering work that makes our hearts sing. It’s about nurturing the relationships that matter. It’s about caring for these magnificent bodies that carry us on this journey.

It’s about resting and recharging and reclaiming ourselves.

Peak performers: They know the secrets:

They know it’s not about working harder.

They’re they ones whose lives are rich and full and happy; who wake up every day excited and on fire about what lies ahead.

They’re the ones who know the rhythms of work and rest and play. They’re the ones with the light in their eyes and the spring in their step.

You can learn these secrets too.

Zombies. They should stay in the movies.

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This is an encore of a post first published July 25, 2013.

 

KISS

Why do so many of us have a love affair with the iPod™, the iPhone™, the iPad™?

Because Steve Jobs believed so passionately in elegant simplicity.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” Jobs said.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Simple is powerful. Simple is good.

And yet, for so many folks, complex is their place of default.

We see it frequently among our coaching clients when they confront business challenges. They immediately want to:

Add personnel
Build out infrastructure
Supplement their technology
Create more layers

Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with leverage or growth. The problem is the potential for the complexity they cause.

Small businesses and solopreneurs often have great advantage over larger enterprises because they are more efficient, fleeter of foot; more able to bob and weave and adapt to change.

They’re clearer about their visions, their missions, and the problems they solve.

They can craft their cultures and engage their teams more mindfully.

They’re more deft at nurturing passion and focus, which brings with it clarity of outcome.

Larger organizations, because of structural constraints like committees and policies and procedures, have the propensity to be less creative, more cumbersome, and rote.

And with layers and structure come fixed cost and overhead.

With big, the business model can become complicated. You need to be able to describe your business to your 8th grade daughter or your nephew in a way that he or she can understand it. Because, if they can’t understand it, how will your customer?

Big, too, can become confusing in terms of mission and purpose. As a business grows, it becomes harder to convey and sustain the founding vision, the original passion, and the fundamental cultural values.

Effecting change in a large complex enterprise, especially in times of crisis, can be like turning a supertanker from the crashing waves of a reef: laborious and slow and fraught with danger.

Big can also take on a life of its own, which may be good if you’re planning successive generations of management; or are creating a model for passive income; or are growing your business to sell it But if you envision wanting to escape someday, big may not be so good. One surgeon that I know would love to retire; but he has no clue how to disentangle himself from the equipment leases, the machinery, the phone systems, the layers of personnel and the crushing burden of malpractice insurance. He is a prisoner in his business, a hostage to the hungry “monster” he has built.

Often one of the fundamental reasons that business fail, according to Jim Collins, author of the business classic Good to Great, is because of “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” Greg McKeown, author of the recent best seller Essentialism, suggests that, in the alternative, success comes from “the disciplined pursuit of less.” Screenshot 2014-07-23 06.36.31

So next time you hit a speed bump, instead of automatically seeking to add something to the mix, why not ask instead,

• What should I be doing less of?
• What should I eliminate?
• What should I make simpler and easier?

Simple became an obsession for Jobs. It’s not a bad one to have.

Just Sit There

I laughed out loud this week when I saw Internet sales guru Eben Pagan hawking meditation as a key tool for achieving business success.

When I first started practicing meditation more than 20 years ago, I hid it under the radar. It was considered weird and ‘out there.’ Kinda like the Moonies or TM and the Maharishi.

But over the course of years, I could see that it ‘worked:’ settling the mind, increasing focus, generating patience, and expanding awareness.

I could see its impact on how I parented; and how I interacted with clients.

I sought out teachers and read voraciously.

But I never talked about it.

Introduced in the West in the 70’s by Jack Canfield, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, mindfulness and meditation practice entered into the arena of psychotherapy in the mid-90’s with the publication of a book by Mark Epstein, M.D., Thoughts Without A Thinker.

The Dalai Lama became an example of how a practitioner leads on a world stage; and he became a proponent of scientific inquiry into the actual physiological benefits of a meditation practice.

Meditation centers grew up around the country; and places like the Omega Institute and Kripalu offered programs that dovetailed with their yogic practices.

But it still it remained ‘granola,’ vegan;’ something that you disappeared to do.

Then, gradually, over the last decade, the science came to the fore.

There is now actual empirical evidence substantiating that mediation, even after only a short period of practice, creates changes in molecular and gene expression, reducing inflammatory response.

Businesses like Apple and Google and Yahoo and Aetna began training their people in meditation and mindfulness; and encouraging it in the workplace!

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post incorporated the practice into her work with the Third Metric; and leaders from around the world embraced it at The World Economic Forum in Davos this past January.

Recent bestsellers like Dan Harris’ 10% Happier speak to the transformative power of the practice.

I introduced mediation at a national wealth management conference last year; and have been invited back again this year to do more. And I’ve even shared it with some of my lawyer colleagues at bar association workshops!

So now I talk about it. A lot. (And probably should have been much braver in the past. I might even have beat Eben Pagan to the punch!) Screenshot 2014-06-11 11.36.38

Meditation is simple. It’s really just about sitting; in awareness; of your breath; of your thoughts; as they arise and pass away.

Nothing much more complicated than that. And while it looks really easy – almost stupidly easy – on its face, it’s not.

That’s why it’s called a practice.

But over time it will change your life. And, yes, lead to business success too.

I’ve long been an advocate for the proposition that health and wellness are essential conditions for all achievement; the cornerstones of peak performance in every area of your life.

Meditation, though, is the key to ensuring that you will sustain that peak performance over time, regardless of the challenges you face.

So don’t just do something. Sit there.

Space Exploration

I’ve been puttering in my garden. I love my garden. But I find puttering to be a challenge.

You see, I’m a big believer in action: Doing, achieving, accomplishing; moving like a shark lest I perish from inertia.

Steeped, as I am, in the cultural paradigm that, in order to succeed, I need to work longer, harder, faster, it is difficult for me to slow down.

Puttering sometimes seems aimless; pointless; wasteful.

But it’s not.

By puttering, I open up space for myself. I allow my mind to relax. I give myself the opportunity to think, reflect, create… and be.

Just be.

Every business leader we consult with, every professional we coach wants more time; they want – they yearn – for space.

The greatest crisis of our age is not terror in the world; it is the terror that we allow within ourselves.

The greatest crisis of our age is not that we don’t have enough, but that we have too much: too much information; too much noise; too much stimulation; too much to do.

The greatest crisis of our age is that we have lost touch with that that place of quiet, that still point within us.

We’ve lost the capacity to sit still, to be still, to know the beauty and the grandeur of the here and now.

We’ve lost the capacity to be: To just be.

When we give ourselves the gift of quiet, when we open up that space, our sense of possibility expands. We see the opportunities that we miss when we are racing to that imaginary finish line.

When we allow our minds – and our bodies – to relax – ideas flourish, insight lights, we create the ground for moments of “ah-ha.”

Commander Mark Divine, author of The Way of the Seal, teaches that we need the power of silence in order “to set the conditions to win.”

“Silence creates the space for you to think and thus see reality more clearly.”

“If you’ve ever noticed how good you feel after coming out of nature after an extended stay without your cell phone and laptop,” writes Devine, “here’s the reason why: It’s because you’ve slowed down enough to quiet your outer mind, allowing your inner wisdom to poke it’s head out a bit.”

And it is that inner wisdom that truly sets us apart; that allows us to excel and truly succeed at extraordinary levels. Screenshot 2014-06-11 11.02.05

Habit 7 in Stephen Covey’s celebrated business classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Sharpen the Saw. “Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you,” Covey said.

Self care, self-renewal.

Opening up space.

Puttering.

Because we so firmly believe that, as leaders, we need this space to be effective, to make an impact, we’d like to invite you to join us for our 2014 Adventure Mastermind Retreat: A Time to Think – The Space To Lead. A rare opportunity to step off the hamster wheel and join together with other like-minded, highly successful folks who want to make a difference in the world; a luxury all-inclusive that will take your career, your leadership and you life to a whole new level.

Check it out. Click HERE.

 

Go To The Well

This is an encore of a piece first published in September 2011. Apropos as I re-visit the well… .

When you read this post, I will be at the well. For me, it’s a little place in West Cork perched on a hill overlooking the North Atlantic.

There is no TV, no Internet, no cell phone. There is the sound of the sea, and the wind in the trees. Nothing else. It is the place I go – not often enough – to rest and rejuvenate; to re-create.

All of us have these places – maybe far away – maybe close at hand – always too seldom visited – where we can refresh our spirits.

  • a quiet little corner in the local library
  • the mountain bike trail just outside of town
  • a little church on Sunday mornings
  • the coffee shop in the village an hour’s drive from here
  • the beach side cottage; that little place in the mountains

We avoid these places because:

  • it feels unproductive
  • there’s too much to do
  • we don’t have the time right now
  • we haven’t done enough to give ourselves a break
  • tomorrow will work better than today

And tomorrow stretches into next month. Into not at all.

When I came to the well this time ’round, I slept for two days – a sure sign I had been away too long. And now I sit and soak in the silence – and read and write and run and rest. And yes, still battle the demons within myself: am I wasting time?

A dear friend of mine confessed to me recently that he hadn’t gone to his well in quite awhile because he hadn’t “earned it” – he hadn’t done enough yet to justify going there.

Here’s the paradox of the well: It is the place – the Source – from which we draw our strength, not a just reward.

There is a truism among athletes: hydrate or die.

Go to the well. Go there today.