What’s Your Costume?

What are you gonna be for Halloween? Who are you going to dress up as?

Masks and costumes. Parties and planning. Fervor, festivities and fever pitch. halloween

Bigger than Christmas is seems.

What is it about Halloween that so excites, that so sparks the imagination?

Yes, fun for sure. The chance to let loose, hide out, switch it up. The possibility of being someone new, something new, someone different from who we are in the hum-drum of each day.

And the truth is that a lot of folks are worn down by the hum-drum of each they. The want new, better, different. Just not the same. For god’s sake, not the same.

So, who do you want to be?

More important: Who are you already… really?

Are you your job? Your role in a relationship? Your hobby, pursuit, passion?

I am a an executive coach, high altitude mountaineer, blue-water sailor, adventure photographer, husband, father, business owner… .

But is that who I am… really?

  • If you have a job and lose that job… who are you?
  • If you have a marriage and the marriage unravels, who are you?
  • If you have kids and they grow up and move away, who are you?
  • If you’re an athlete and you’re injured, who are you?
  • Who are you when your friend betrays you? When your parent dies? When your business fails?
  • Who are you in the face of success, failure and change?

Who are you… really?

Our identity. The very core of who we are. What a struggle that can be. Especially for success and achievement junkies… I know a few… They’re the folks who come to coaching… (As for myself, on advice of counsel, I can neither admit nor deny any of the heretofore!)

When we’re not doing, achieving, accomplishing… who are we?

Ann and I have been at our home in Ireland for the past month… a completely different culture… a completely different pace… Some have characterized Ireland as the “Jamaica of the UK.” If stress and adrenaline are your fuel, you won’t find much here. And without that fuel, we ask, … who are we?

The Buddhists teach: Nothing to do, nothing to be, nothing to have.

Really. WTF? What then?

One of my very favorite stories from the Torah is when Moses comes upon the burning bush. God speaks to Moses from the bush, telling Moses what he needs to be about. Moses, looking for a bit of borrowed cred, asks God for God’s name. God says, “I am who I am.” Tell those Israelites that “I am” sent you.

Maybe there’s a clue here. Maybe when we define ourselves with a title, give ourselves a label, tie an object to who we think we are, we make ourselves small, we limit our (divine) potential.

Maybe, at the end of it all, one more billable hour booked, one more product sold, one more article published, one more email sent, one more race run, one more mountain climbed, won’t really matter.

Maybe it’s ok just to be.

And damn, what an interesting (and unusual) costume that is!

Happy Halloween.

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This is an encore of a post first published on October 31, 2013.

Love It or Leave It

You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out. –Steve Jobs

I have a client – articulate, driven, highly educated and talented – whose business is failing.

Because she doesn’t love it.

I have a friend who is having a devil of a time landing a job in a field in which he has worked for years – and excelled.

Because he doesn’t love it.

Love for what you do is the only thing that sets you apart.

Love for what you do is the only thing that will sustain you.

Benjamin Bloom (of Head Start fame), while he was a professor at the University of Chicago, did a study of 120 outstanding scholars, artists, and athletes. He was trying to figure out what made them tick; and even more important, what common factors contributed to their greatness.

He controlled for intelligence; he controlled for family background. He discovered that geography didn’t matter; that race didn’t matter; that socio-economic advantage didn’t matter; and that it didn’t matter whether these folks were ‘naturally smart.’ The only thing – the one common denominator – that distinguished these folks was extraordinary drive.

And the only thing that fuels extraordinary drive… is passion.

A love for the ‘game.’

A love so keen that it propels you out of bed in the morning and sets the day on fire.

A love so strong that you can take the heat, endure the pain, keep the faith, go the distance.

There are lots and lots of sales people, countless Internet marketers, a bazillion coaches, more lawyers than real people, doctors out the ying yang. A nearly inexhaustible selection of authors and artists and plumbers and HR managers and executives and electricians.

Your ‘job,’ your position, is not unique.

But you are.

Over the long haul, you can never compete on price, credentials, ‘novelty,’ flashy ads or noise.

Because at that level, everyone looks the same. Your voice disappears in the landscape. All noise; and no signal.

But when you’re on fire, you stand out.

When you’re filled with passion, there is no one else who looks like you. No one else who can possibly compete.

When you claim your own authentic voice, there is no competition.

None at all. Your success is guaranteed.

Your energy signature is yours alone. It carries the day.

Here’s the truth: Just because you’re good at something, or have done something for a long time, doesn’t mean you should keep on doing it.

Dale Carnegie once said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” league84382_774_logo

And you can’t possibly have fun unless you’re really feelin’ the love.

Steve Jobs said, “[T]he only way to do great work is to love what you do…. Don’t settle”

Each of us is called to do great work.

Find that love.

Don’t ever settle.

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This is an encore of a post first published on October 10, 2013.

Where Are You?

Are you thinking about what just happened a moment ago… or yesterday? Are you pondering what’s next… the next call, the next email, the next meeting, the next…?

Doubtful you are here. Right here. Right now. In this present moment. Because it’s so hard to be right here.

Not because we don’t have enough in this present moment; but because we have too much: too much information; too much noise; too much stimulation; too much to do.

We’ve become addicted to the stimulation and outside input, checking and re-checking our smartphones and our tablets and our emails; responding incessantly to the phone calls and messages and notifications and alerts. Overwhelmed and inundated by the expectations and the deadlines and the demands, endeavoring to pay attention to everything and succeeding only at a continuous partial attention.

We’ve become addicted, as Jim Collins, author of that wonderful business book, Good to Great, says,… we’ve become addicted to “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”

Perpetually distracted.

Untethered, unfocused, unproductive.

And despite our hyper-connectivity… isolated and disconnected.

I love the power of still photography; and yet I am aware that every time I put my eye to the viewfinder, I pull myself away from the moment as it is right in front of me; from the intimacy of the experience as it is.

I love the power of social media; and yet I am aware that when I am thinking about how much fun or interesting it will be share my experience, in that instant I have left the experience itself.

I love the power of technology; and yet I am aware that the very technology that allows me the freedom to live and work anywhere in the world also can enslave me.

Our distractions dishonor; and disempower.

So here are some simple things that have worked for me that you might do to reclaim the power of the present moment:

  • Avoid your email inbox first thing in the morning.
  • Turn off all of those annoying alerts on your smartphone and desk top
  • Don’t multi-task; it can’t be done
  • Work in block time; do just one thing
  • Let your calls go to voicemail
  • Don’t flit in and out of social media
  • Have a smartphone free dinner (or evening)
  • Carve out some (dedicated) time to read, write and reflect
  • Make (real) dates with yourself; and your loved ones; and honor them
  • Go off the grid entirely from time to time

Life unfolds only in this moment. Our power to impact, to influence, to make a difference, to touch a life, to do an act of kindness, to smile, to hold, to love, to leave a mark, exists only in this moment.Screenshot 2014-10-14 10.35.18

What is past is gone. And the next moment is promised to no one.

So be here now. In this one and only moment.

Mutitasking Costs Too Much

I like to pretend that I can multitask. Except that I really can’t.

No one can. It’s not physiologically possible.

Certain repetitive, habitual type things, of course, can get done at the same time, like tying your shoes while carrying on a conversation. But two or more things that require focused attention simply can’t be done at once.

What happens, really, when we attempt to do two things at the same time, is that we handle them sequentially; our brains toggle between the tasks.

Some of us can toggle fast. Screenshot 2014-10-07 07.50.36

I’m a really fast toggler.

But there’s a huge cost to toggling.

There’s an energetic cost. It’s wearing to toggle. We end up feeling tired and overwhelmed when we’ve spent our day toggling.

There’s an acuity cost to toggling. It’s not possible to focus well when we’ve got a lot of balls in the air. We make mistakes when we toggle; sometimes catastrophic ones.

There’s a time cost to toggling. Studies show that it takes anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes to re-attend to a task once we’ve been distracted by another task. We’re actually less efficient when we toggle.

There’s a productivity cost to toggling. When we’re trying to do lots of stuff, few things get done to completion; and little gets done well. We’re actually accomplishing less when we toggle, not more.

There’s a human cost to toggling. Toggling causes us to be fragmented, distracted and superficial in our relationships. We fail to show up; we fail to be present; we fail to listen deeply. We dishonor our connection with one another when we toggle.

Toggling causes us to live in a state of continuous partial attention. Distracted. Stressed out. Spread thin. Mentally blurred.

“Deep thinking demands sustaining a focused mind,” Goleman writes in his bestseller Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Peak performers know the power of focus; they harness the power of attention.

They do just one thing; the most important thing. And then they do the next thing. And the next.

If you want to be a peak performer – or if you only want to restore some sense of sanity to your life – stop multitasking.

It costs way too much.

Take A Shower

Take a shower; or a warm bath. Walk in the woods; or along the beach. Sit in a Jacuzzi; or in a rocker. Watch the sunrise, or set; or both.

Get away. Away from the overwhelm.

Get out of your office, out of the maelstrom, out of your head; get off the grid, off the wheel; turn off the alerts, shut down the phone.

Put aside the to-do list; and the demands. Let the worries go; and the tensions.

Allow your mind… and your body… to relax.

Just be.

Here. Now. In this moment.

It may be that reflection has gone out of fashion. It’s certainly counter-cultural. Our model of success is to work longer, harder, faster. And yet the science shows that slowing down and stepping back actually boosts performance.

Think about it: Your best ideas don’t come when you’re stressed out and spread thin, driving forward at breakneck speed, wrapped up tight in Gordian knots.

They come to you when your mind is at ease.

Those moments of ah-ha; that grand vision for your life; that new product; that problem solved; that chapter written. They happen in those quiet moments; that place of peace.

So open up that space for yourself. Often. Screenshot 2014-10-01 07.51.23

Give that gift to yourself.

And to the world.

Because in that space – in that stillness – is your power.