Life Lessons from Comedian Tim Minchin

Comedian Tim Minchin recently shared 9 inspiring life lessons with a college graduating class.  For brevity, below is my annotated version of his talk.  Please … don’t leave your life to chance!

Enjoy these lessons, and please give thought to how you might include them in your life.

You don’t have to have a big dream. There’s nothing wrong with having a big dream.  And if it’s a big enough one, it will take you most of your life to achieve, so that by the time you get to it you wind up staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement.  Meaning, you must live your life today.  Peace of mind is not something you will experience at some far off point when you’ve achieved a big goal. Why?  If you aren’t at peace today, you’re unlikely to magically become at peace when big dreams are finally realized.

Instead, I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals.  Be micro-ambitious.  Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you.  You never know where you might wind up.  Just be aware that your next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery, which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams.  If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing waiting for you that’s just out of the corner of your eye.”  Live today.

Don’t seek happiness.  If you think about happiness too much it goes away.  Instead, keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some happiness as a side effect.  We didn’t evolve to be constantly content.  Contented Homo Erectus got eaten before passing on their genes.

Remember, it’s all luck. You are lucky to be here.  You were incalculably lucky to be born.  Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures, will humble you and make you more compassionate.  Empathy is intuitive, but it is also something you can work on intellectually.

Exercise. I’m sorry, but you simply have to exercise. Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run, whatever, but make sure you take care of your body.  You’re going to need it.  Most of you are going to live to nearly 100, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of.  This long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to challenge you, so be ready for it.

Be hard on your opinions. Our opinions should be constantly and thoroughly examined.  We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others.  Be hard on your beliefs.  Take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous.  Identify your biases, your prejudices, and your privileges.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance.  We tend to generate false dichotomies and then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.

Be a teacher. Please, please, please be a teacher.  Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world.  Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher.  Share your ideas.  Don’t take your knowledge and wisdom for granted.  Rejoice in what you learn and share it widely.

Define yourself by what you love. We have a tendency to define ourselves by what we’re opposed to or don’t want.  Instead, express your passion for things that you love.  Be demonstrative and generous to those you admire.  Send thank you cards and give standing ovations.  Stand for what you love, not against what you don’t.

Respect people with less power than you. Important decisions, big decisions, are often based on personal traits such as how people treat the wait staff in restaurants.  I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, you may be judged on how you treat the less powerful

Finally, don’t rush. You don’t always need to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.  Don’t panic. Life will sometimes seem long and tough, and it can be very tedious and tiring.  You will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad, and sooner than you think you’ll find yourself growing older.  There is only one sensible thing to do with your life and that is to fill it.  

How?  Life is best filled by learning as much as you can, about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, and having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic, and then there’s love and travel and wine and sex and art and kids and giving and mountain climbing, but you know all that stuff.  It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one life of yours.

So good luck, and make the most of it you can!

Who You Must Become: Define What Matters Most

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of achievement.  But what’s the use of accomplishing goals … even BIG goals … if our heart is not at peace, we live in stress, and we are trading what’s truly most important for things that aren’t.

In Leo Tolstoy’s novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the main character is on his death bed and asks a haunting question:  What if my whole life has been wrong.” Then he dies.  End of story.

It can be very scary to start listening to those whispering voices about being more of who you really are.  But doing so isn’t half as scary as facing our end and wondering if we’d gotten it all wrong.

What to do?  Begin with a fearless assessment of what’s really important to you.  Next, begin aligning your life around these personal goals, including  your relationship to work and achievement.  And while you’re at it, help all those around you to do the same.

A business can indeed have a soul.  In fact, when you and your team align around a vision and values that serve a greater good your business performance will likely be stronger for it!  High morale and high performance go hand-in-hand.

In the end what really matters is not what you’ve accumulated, but who you’ve become as a person in the process … and who you’ve helped do the same.  Let’s get it right, and leave a positive legacy in the process.

 

Curiosity vs. Defensiveness

One of the defining characteristics of a person who can learn, grow and change in life is whether they are generally curious or defensive.

A curious person is open, growth-minded, loves to learn, and is willing to listen and give things a try.  They have a solution orientation.  They understand that getting new and better results requires doing something new, and they are willing to give a new idea their best shot.

A defensive person is rigid, closed-minded, and focuses on why something won’t work.  They have a problem orientation. They talk about wanting change but argue for old habits and ways of doing things that don’t work.  Yes, that’s the definition of insanity …. doing the same thing over and over but hoping for a different result.  Subconscious fear usually plays a role.

Working with a business coach can help you overcome your resistance to new ways of thinking and acting, propelling you down a the path of successful change.  Once you’ve got the right mindset it’s easier than you might have imagined.  Not easy necessarily, but for sure easier.  Please let us know how we can help.

Goals and Change: Perception Matters

Scientists tell us we don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brains.  Our eyes take in visual information, then our brain interprets the information based upon based beliefs, experiences, and perceptions.

When our brain perceives something to be a danger or outside our comfort zone, it subconsciously moves away from taking action.  When our brain perceives something as safe and possible, it subconsciously engages in action.

What does this mean?  Do you want to break free from procrastination?  You will be more likely to succeed when the following attributes are present:

Commit to a manageable goal or change,  that you can reasonably accomplish in the near future, and believe you are capable of achieving.

By committing to manageable goals your brain remains in the safety zone, significantly increasing the likelihood of action.  With a modest success achieved you are ready to accomplish another goal, then another, and another, and so on.  With your growing confidence, each successive goal can be a little bigger than the last.  One year later you just might be astonished by how much you’ve accomplished!

“Inch by inch is a cinch, yard by yard is hard.”  Grandma was right!

This advice may run counter to those who suggest establishing Big Hairy Audacious Goals.   You may have to trust me on this, but our clients have been accomplishing Big Things.  It’s just that they’re doing them one small success at a time, over and over.  Yvonne Chouinard, founder of Patagonia clothing company, calls this “raging incrementalism.”  It has also been called the law of incremental improvement.”

Make sense?  If you or your company seem to be stuck and want to start making progress please get in touch.  We’d love to help you break free!

The Paradox of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees, but less sense;

more knowledge, but less judgment;

more experts, but more problems;

more medicines, but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.

We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are times of fast food, but slow digestion;

tall man, but short character;

steep profits, but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

H.H. The XIVth Dalai Lama

Improving Performance: The 4 Stages of Development

We all want to improve our performance.  But all too often our desire to improve doesn’t translate into actual improvement in daily performance.  The 4 stages of development model reveals techniques for achieving actual gains in  performance.

Stage 1:  Unconscious incompetency.  Our performance is weak, but we aren’t consciously aware.  In stage 1 there is no chance of improving since there can be no conscious intention to change.

Stage 2:  Conscious incompetency.  Our performance is still weak, but we’ve taken the important step of becoming consciously aware of the weakness and form an intention to improve.

Stage 3:  Conscious competency.  We’ve now made a plan for improving our performance in a specific area, and are taking daily focused actions to improve.  This is referred to as conscious competency because we must  consciously pay attention to remember the new, more effective actions.  Progress is being made!

Important:  Focus all your attention on one specific area for improvement and consciously practice the new skill or habit for a minimum of 30 days.  Don’t tackle too much at one time.  Seek support from someone who will encourage you on a daily basis as you work through the discomfort of change.  A piece of wisdom:

“More than one improvement objective at a time, and you have none.”  

Stage 4:  Unconscious competency.  Having focused intently on one improvement objective and practicing the skill or habit again and again, your brain has memorized this new activity as an unconscious habit.  Congratulations!  You no longer need to “remember” to perform at the higher level, it’s now on auto-pilot working on your behalf.  You have achieved and will maintain an improved level of performance.  Well done.

Now, it’s on to the next improvement objective.   Repeat the above steps for the next skill or activity for 30 days and you will have two specific increases in your performance converted to unconscious competency.

Imagine the cumulative power of this method.  Within 12 months you will have made 12 specific improvements to your performance.

 

As a Leader are you “in charge,” or taking care of those “in your charge?”

When team members become highly competent at the technical work being performed they are often promoted to manager.   In most cases, however, they are not properly trained for these new responsibilities.

New managers often mistakenly believe they are now responsible for all the work getting done by their subordinates, and must take charge.

According to author Simon Sinek, the real job of a new leader is not being “in charge,” it’s taking care of those “in our charge.”  New leaders must go through a transition from being responsible for doing the job, to being responsible for the people who are responsible for doing the job.  This is a vital distinction that most new leaders are not trained to recognize.

This style of leadership requires empathy in which we care not only about performance, but also about the team member as a person.  When a problem occurs, we ask the person how they are doing and if there’s any way we can support them.  This leads to high engagement and morale.

Ineffective managers, on the other hand, focus on the performance problem and threaten termination if they don’t improve.  This leads to disengagement and low morale.

We hear often about getting the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off.  This assumes that the people are the problem.  The reality is that most low performance is the result of poor leadership, leading to disengagement.  In the right environment most team members enjoy their work and are motivated to perform.

Let’s evaluate the culture and engagement in our organizations.  As a leader, are you in charge, or taking care of those in your charge?  The difference will be reflected in the morale and performance of your team members.

If your team is struggling with low morale and performance please contact us to discuss how you can create an environment in which your people thrive!

 

 

Procrastination:  Does Getting Started Stop You?

Are you one of the millions of people who struggle with procrastination, a condition that often robs us of peace of mind and progress towards our goals.  It’s time to let go of the guilt as your brain is wired for procrastination.  You might also have ADHD or other focus issues.  You aren’t lazy or weak.

Being a person who has struggled with this issue personally I understand what you’re going through.  You are not alone.  Procrastination is “normal” for our type of brain.  It’s time to stop resisting.  And it’s time we celebrate our condition, make light of it, and have fun with it.  Yes, I said to have FUN with it.

David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, said “It’s hard for me to do the mundane things in life.  I have an easier time planning a 20-aircraft fleet than I do paying the light bill.”

 If you totally understand David’s comments, this blog post is designed to share actionable insights and ideas to help you make progress in your life … one small action at a time.

Background insights:

 Procrastination is a psychological condition.  There’s nothing structurally in your world that is making you procrastinate.  Instead, the neurological wiring in your subconscious brain is sending signals that make it psychologically difficult – if not paralyzing – for you to take action. That’s good news because we can consciously create new ways of thinking that support taking action.

The key psychological problem caused by procrastination is getting started.  We often associate the feeling of procrastination to the particular task at hand, but that’s not what’s happening.  The problem is the mental resistance to getting started doing almost anything. This is important.  If we erroneously ascribe the procrastination to the particular task at hand we will be tempted to abandon the activity and search for something we think will be easier to do.  This rarely works.  The key is breaking through the resistance to getting started on our important work, not finding an activity that’s easier to start.

Actionable ideas:

Plan your start time and the specific action you will take in advance.  The subconscious brain greatly dislikes uncertainty and ambiguity.  If you don’t plan the specifics in advance your brain will have a dramatically harder time getting started.  I know that planning in advance will be a challenge too, but make it part of your disciplined strategy.  Don’t skip this vital step.  And, before you finish your first task, plan the next task before you take a break.

Schedule your week in advance in blocks of time.  I know this will also be a challenge, but again, you must make this part of your disciplined structure.  Focus on your priorities and most important tasks, and do them first in the day as often as possible.

Make it a small action.  The smaller the action, the easier it will be to get started.  The bigger the action, the more the subconscious brain will resist.  Once you get started you will have momentum to keep going, so make getting started as psychologically easy as possible.  Break your large tasks down into manageable pieces.

You won’t feel like taking action, so make a decision to start despite the resistance.  You must act your way into a new way of feeling.  I promise you that once you push past the initial resistance it gets easier to keep moving.   This is the Law of Momentum.

Accept an MVP – Minimum Viable ProductPerfectionism can send us into a never ending cycle of over-thinking and over-working in an attempt to perfect things.  Simply put, this leads to failure!  Instead, allow yourself to work through the task as fast as you can.  Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook hung a sign on the wall in the early start-up days that read, Done is better than perfect.”  Shoot for 80%.  You can always go back and make things a bit better, but you will be surprised how good a product you create with this method.

Make a 100% commitment.  There’s a phrase, “99% is a bitch, but 100% is a breeze.”  At the planned time, simply take the planned action.  Don’t think about it!  If you leave the door open even 1% you are far more likely to give in to the procrastination impulse.

Identify your most vulnerable pain points and make a psychological plan.  For me, my pain points are getting out of bed, getting started working, getting started after lunch, getting started after dinner, and getting to bed on time. The same is true for getting started on the weekends.  What are yours?  Identify them, write them down, plan your specific time and action, and have a psychological strategy in place so you don’t fall into procrastination at each pain point.

Identify your “not to do” list.  We procrastinators have subtle coping actions we take instead of getting started working.  What’s yours?  Is it spending a few minutes checking social media (a few minutes … yeah right!), browsing the internet, clearing your email in box from last year, wasting time on something truly unimportant…?  Knowing these “not to do” actions will help you notice and then resist the impulse to veer off course.

Work with a support partner.  Find someone that understands you and will support you throughout the day when you are most vulnerable. Consider a 5 minute phone call at your wake-up time, or emails to each other during the day.  Ask for help in completing your plan.  Find what works best for you.  Celebrate the victories with each other.

End each day with a review.  Spend a few minutes each night evaluating your success during the day.  What did you learn that could help you tomorrow?

Find the gift.  Rather than resent your procrastination challenges, look for the gift it also brings. Are you creative, highly intelligent, great with relationships, a visionary?  Pushing through the feeling of procrastination will unlock your potential and release your gift to the world.

Celebrate your victories, and keep score.  Make this fun, make it a game, decide on your rewards, and celebrate the victories.

Accept yourself fully and live with gratitude.  You are not flawed.   Live in gratitude for who you are, just as you are.  Procrastination is not a flaw, it’s just a tendency and you can push through to personal victory.  Don’t let other people define your identity, or worse, don’t define yourself as someone with a “problem.”

Try these ideas for 30 days.  You can force yourself to do almost anything for 30 days.  You will already be well on the way to developing new mental thought patterns and disciplined habits.  Get started and keep going.  With each day of success you build momentum and confidence, and it’s easier to have success the next time. You can do this.  I know you can.  I believe in you.  Your freedom is close at hand.

And now … let’s get back to working on that most important task.   Please let me know if there’s any way I can support you!

Determination Overcomes Doubt

Determination is when desire is stronger than doubt.  Determination is when we expect with confidence and believe with conviction that we will prevail somehow when we stay the course and do the work at hand.

Doubt is common, and impacts us all in some form or another.

Some doubt is OK, but it’s essential that your determination and confidence are stronger than your doubt.  Unchecked doubt will slow or prevent you from achieving your goals and intentions.  Doubt unnecessarily becomes a limiting factor that inhibits your level of accomplishment.  Ouch!

Where does doubt come from?  It’s a normal subconscious reaction to uncertainty.  It arises when we may have previously been unsuccessful at something, or when trying something new.

How can we gain more confidence?  For starters, it’s vital to remember that doubt is strictly a byproduct of your thinking, and is therefore not something outside of you.  Because it’s your thinking that’s creating the doubt, you always have the power inside you to begin thinking more confident thoughts instead!

You can only hold one thought in mind at a time, so the next time you find yourself thinking doubtful thoughts, choose to begin thinking confident thoughts instead.  I realize this might sound simplistic, but once you learn to take control of your own thinking you harness the power of your mind.  Determination becomes stronger than doubt.

People often say to me, “Coach, I can’t control my thoughts.”  I ask them, “Have you stopped to consider who’s thinking your thoughts?”  YOU ARE, so it’s time to gain power over your most powerful resource …. your mind.  Mental training is an essential skill that will help you achieve more with less effort.

If you need to build more confident and positive thought patterns, please contact us for resources to help you get started.   We’re certain you will quickly make progress.

 

Attention Management vs. Time Management

People routinely ask me for help with “time management.”  But since we all have the same amount of time, we really aren’t managing it.

So what will help us be more productive and effective with our use of time?  Attention Management.  Why? Because more than we need new productivity tips (we aren’t using the ones we already know!) we need to lessen the impact of being distracted.

Distractions can be external including the phone, email, coworkers, etc.  Perhaps even more challenging are the internal distractions resulting from a restless mind (Squirrel!).

Tip:  Set aside several 75 minute blocks of time first thing in the morning to work on your most important priority for the day.  During this block of time focus intently and exclusively on the work at hand, completely eliminating all distractions.  While we can’t successfully do that all day long, nearly anyone can do it for 75 minutes!  No emails, no phone calls, no coworker interruptions, no internet searching, no mental resistance, no nothing.  Do this three times a day and you may see your time spend on your key results activities double or even triple.

The next time you find yourself wondering what happened to your plans for the day, ask yourself:  How could I have better managed my attention today?  You will be well on your way.

If you’d like more information on managing your attention please contact us.  We’re always here to help you focus on getting your most important work done, more of the time.