Just Go Away

This is a popular time of the year to take a vacation. Except that a lot of folks don’t.

Last year, there were about 169 million unused paid vacation days that were forfeited by U.S. workers, amounting to over 52 billion dollars in lost benefits. Forty percent of workers will leave paid vacation days unused this year.

Culturally, in many organizations, workers are explicitly or implicitly discouraged from using their vacation time. On my first day at The Big Law Firm, my mentor said to me, “You get three weeks of vacation.” And then he lowered his voice, looked me square in the eyes and said, “But no one ever takes them.”

This is dumb. GoAway

Vacations help you to:

  • Recharge
  • Refocus
  • Re-boot

The Huffington Post reports an internal study of Ernst and Young employees in which it was found that “for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took, his or her performance ratings went up by 8 percent — nearly 1 percent per day of vacation. That means companies where employees are leaving two and three and four weeks of vacation on the table are foregoing an enormous productivity boost.”

Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, says that “the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.”

We know that, in athletics and physical training, rest and recovery are keys to peak performance. For some reason, though, we pretend that this principle is not applicable to our work lives. So we just keep on going like hamsters on a wheel; which results in stress, burnout and poor productivity.

When you take a vacation – a real vacation (yes, that means away from the tether of your computer and your smartphone) – you come back rested, refreshed and ready to take on the world.

So go.

And if you decide to forfeit your days, please give them to me. I promise that I’ll put them to good use.

Why I Hate Fridays

Do you know that more heart attacks happen on Monday than on any other day? That’s because Monday is the most stressful day of the week.

Many people dread Mondays.

I know I did. For years. I was a gladiator. I did battle as a trial lawyer. I’d come to the end of the weekend and, as Sunday evening encroached, I’d feel a dark, black cloud settle over me. And on Monday morning, I’d drag myself out of bed and trudge to work.

“How are you?” I remember asking the State Marshall, a familiar face just beyond the metal detector at the courthouse where I often worked.

“Well, one day closer to the weekend,” he said.

It was Monday.

Too many live lives, if not of Thoreau’s quiet desperation, then of silent despondency. (Indeed more than 70% of Americans report that they are unhappy in their work; the number is 90% among attorneys; higher still among physicians.)

We don’t have the luxury of living just for the weekends. The sands of our lives run way too quickly through the glass.

We have the opportunity to choose a different way.

We have the opportunity to wake up every single day excited and on fire about what we get to do. In fact, we have the obligation to do that.

We get to create the work and the lives we love. Lives filled with purpose, passion and joy-filled possibility.

Steve Jobs once said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” Screenshot 2016-06-22 16.10.31

I have the great privilege of working every day with those brave entrepreneurs and professionals who hear the ticking of the clock, who have the audacity to confront the status quo, and who have the courage to envision a better way. I have the great privilege of standing with them to bear witness to their creations: Work and lives that allow them the freedom to express their unique gifts in the world, and the joy of abundant prosperity.

I get to Fridays now and feel a vague melancholy. How did another amazing week fly by so fast, I wonder? And all weekend long, I look forward to Monday morning and the opportunity to begin again.

You. You get to wake up every single day excited and on fire about your work and your life. If you want to. It’s your birthright. To do otherwise, I believe, is to abdicate the gift of your unique humanity.

If you are in that prized minority, and love every minute of the work you do, please share this post with someone who needs a nudge to reclaim their sense of hope and possibility.

If you are living from weekend to weekend, do you hear the ticking of the clock?

_____________________________________________________________________

A decade ago, the life I live now, with the freedom and flexibility to work around the world with the most amazing entrepreneurs and professionals on the planet, was beyond imagination. And yet I knew in my bones that there was something more; something better; I knew that I couldn’t compromise, that I couldn’t settle, that I couldn’t continue to muddle through. My own journey, and the journeys of the now countless entrepreneurs and professionals I have witnessed, are testaments to what is possible when we listen to call of our hearts. When the noise of the clock in your head gets to too loud for you, let’s talk. Email me at: walt@walthampton.com

 

That Lie We Tell

I’ve had the great privilege of spending time with graduating high school and college seniors in anticipation of their commencements. Screenshot 2014-06-16 19.03.54

One of the things I tell them is: Don’t believe “the lie.”

This is the lie we tell; the lie that was told to me; the lie teachers and parents and well-meaning adults tell; the lie I myself have told my own children; the lie we tell ourselves; the lie that each of us must battle every day:

IF you work hard, take all the AP courses get good grades, join lots of clubs, get involved in student government, do lots of extracurricular activities, do community service, take an SAT preparation course, write a great essay, graduate at the top of your class, get into a great college, one with a great name, an expensive college, work hard, get good grades, get involved in student government, volunteer, get an internship, get two internships, graduate at the top of your class, get into graduate school or a professional program, work hard, write for a journal, publish, present, graduate with honors, get a good job (you know, one with benefits), work hard, settle down, find a partner, get married, buy a house in a nice neighborhood with a big mortgage, get a nice safe car like a Volvo or a mini-van, in fact, get two nice cars, have 2.2 children, get a place at the shore, work a lot of hours, stay really busy and productive, see a lot of clients, sell a lot of product, network a lot, volunteer, sit on a lot of boards, belong to lots of civic organizations, become the boss, the manager, the partner, the senior partner, get the corner office… then… then… finallyyou will be successful… and then…then… finally… you will be happy.

It’s an empty, hollow promise.

In groundbreaking research at Harvard, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has demonstrated convincingly that it is happiness that fuels success, not the other way around. Happiness comes first.

Many folks who have lived that lie for decades find their way to my doorstep for coaching feeling discouraged, depleted and demoralized. They have all the toys, all of the indicia of “success;” and yet, inside, they are empty and miserable. They can’t figure out why.

Because, happiness is not “out there” just beyond some “cognitive horizon” (as Achor says).

Happiness is here; it is now; it is in this moment.

May we claim it for ourselves.

May we have the courage not to perpetuate the lie.

Get Out Now

So many really talented entrepreneurs and business professionals toil in their businesses without ever experiencing the prosperity and success that they deserve.

Because they are toiling in their businesses, and never really working on their businesses.

Michael Gerber describes the typical set-up for this brilliantly in his book, The E-Myth Re-Visited.

A future entrepreneur (perhaps an accountant, physician, attorney, coach or consultant) comes out of school with a wealth of knowledge and information, goes to work for an organization…and excels. The organization derives extraordinary benefit from the effort… and the would-be entrepreneur wakes up one day and says: “Why am I doing this for someone else, when I could be doing it for myself?”

The now excited entrepreneur goes out, hangs up a shingle, and starts to toil…only to discover a roller coaster ride of feast and famine, insecurity, inconsistency, uncertainty, and lackluster returns on the monumental investment of time and resources.

The now demoralized entrepreneur can’t figure it out. “I’m so good at what I do; I can’t understand why I’m not making the money I deserve.”

Here’s the rub: Just because you’re a good x (x = doctor, lawyer, accountant, coach, consultant…); or just because you’re a good technician; or just because you’re an expert at the top of your game, doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a good business person. They are two distinctly different skill sets; two different jobs. And you actually need to work them as if they are, in fact, different jobs. GetOutNow

Think about it this way: Imagine you’re a young professional just out of school. You get an internship at a firm that you hope to be employed at someday. And to make ends meet, you work at Starbucks on the weekends. During the week, you’re at the firm; on the weekends, you’re at Starbucks pouring coffee. Two different places; two different jobs.

In the same way, in your entrepreneurial life, you actually have to do two different jobs; jobs that are that separate and distinct: One job being the professional, doing the technical work. The other the CEO/CFO/COO of your business, working on the foundation, the systems and the marketing of your business.

Working on the business v. working in the business.

Many entrepreneurs, if they’re aware of this distinction at all, make the error of moving in and out of these functions all day long, never really devoting the time and attention to the management of the business that is required (assuming, I guess, that the entrepreneurial myth doesn’t apply to them). They end up overwhelmed, scattered, stressed, exhausted, and poor.

What changes the game is when the entrepreneur learns to take off the professional’s hat, and put on the hat of the business manager on a regular, systematic basis. (As in punching out of the internship clock, and onto the clock as the barista.)

In its most powerful expression, the entrepreneur is blocking off days of the week, or parts of days during a week, to concentrate solely on the business of the business. And then, at least every 90 days, stepping out of the business completely for a day or two to ascertain exactly what’s working and what needs tweaking; then formulating a focused 90 day plan to guide the business through the next quarter.

Those entrepreneurs and business professionals who enjoy extraordinary success and prosperity know that the work on their businesses is every bit as important as working in their businesses.

So… if you really want that success, get out now!

_____________________________________________________________________

Walt Hampton, J.D. is President and Chief Operating Officer of Book Yourself Solid® Worldwide. Book Yourself Solid® is the fastest, easiest and most reliable system for getting more clients and customers than you can handle, even if you hate marketing and selling. If you’d like to get booked solid® worldwide, email: walt@bookyourselfsolid.com

Why You Want To Use The F Word

Growing up, we never talked about the F word. It was never, ever tolerated. My mother was an especially difficult taskmaster. The mere possibility of the F word would incite her fury; and her condemnation.

The F word: Failure. Bad.

If I brought home a paper or a quiz with a B+, my mother would say, “That’s nice, dear. But it’s not as good as an A.” If I came home with an A, she’d smile and observe, “That’s wonderful dear. But it’s not as good as an A+.” A shadow would hang over a 99; after all it wasn’t a 100. (Not good enough, the story.)

While this spurred in me a drive toward perfection and excellence (and no doubt neurosis), it also deprived me of opportunities. I eschewed risk because risk could lead to failure.

I have come to discover – and appreciate – that there are no failures. Only lessons.

In his fascinating book, Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed contrasts how failure is understood in the fields of aviation and health care. In aviation, pilots and teams are encouraged, without penalty, to disclose and report errors. Failures (accidents) are relentlessly scrutinized (often by analyzing black box data). The information gathered is meticulously analyzed, clearly assimilated and rapidly disseminated so that ever more reliable systems and processes can be implemented. The culture surrounding the aviation industry expects and demands this; and the result has been that the fatality rate in aviation has plummeted.

Aviation accidents now are rare.

Health care, on the other hand, has a culture of obfuscation when it comes to failure. It tends to deny and cover up its errors. Physicians have a aura of infallibility. The hierarchical structure discourages the questioning of a physician’s decisions. Bad outcomes are clothed in euphemisms. Incident reporting is often frowned upon, and sometimes punished. There is no industry-wide error reporting system.

Preventable medical accidents are now rampant… and increasing. (By one estimate equal to a jumbo jet falling from the sky every single day!)

In aviation, failure is the opportunity to learn. In health care, it is a call to circle the wagons… and hide. FWord

What will it be for you?

Too often, fear of failure has caused me to keep my head down, to play it safe. Too often I haven’t pushed the edges: Those edges where we grow. (And beyond those edges – oh my, that’s where the magic dwells.)

Too often, I have made failure personal, a sad story all about me. Rather than saying “It didn’t work,” I would think, “I didn’t work. Poor me”

But what’s true is this: Great minds, great creators, great artists, great athletes, great innovators… they embrace failure. They seek it out. They see it as part of a magnificently generative process. They see it… as opportunity.

They know that the faster you iterate, the faster you fail, the faster you learn what doesn’t work, the faster your journey to success.

I have made a gentle peace with failure. I’m not yet courageous enough to seek it out. But when it shows up – as it often does – I sit it down and listen to it. I study it; and learn from it as best I can. And quietly remind myself that “it” didn’t work; that I’m ok.

Because I have come to know this: When we study failure -and learn from it objectively – we grow, our businesses flourish, and our lives become richer. When we fear and eschew failure, we deny our humanity, we narrow our potentiality, and we disserve our destiny.

There is a weary world that needs us, that desperately needs us to show up now, with those gifts and talents that only we can share, unburdened by any of our sad stories of inadequacy.

Fail forward fast.

And fear not the F word, he says.

____________________________________________________________________

Ready for your next step? Your next chapter? Is it time to take your business and your life to a whole new level? Let’s talk. Email me: walt@bookyourselfsolid.com