Word-Of-the-Week #740: Fate

October 11, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Fate a circumstance or situation outside of your control. 

Do you think that fate is predetermined? Do you believe that forces outside of your control make things happen? This is an interesting word as it has both very positive and negative meanings!

This week’s WOW is the polar opposite of last week’s Comfort Zone with this UT article by Phil Blair What to do when flames of fate come your way.”

“I’ve always enjoyed not knowing what each new day will bring, what fresh issues or crises will arise. And I like the thrill of finding solutions to whatever comes my way.

No matter what happens, I try to glean something positive that might help me deal better with any similar experience in the future.

All of which is my way of reflecting that it’s been nearly 15 years since the Cedar wildfire of October 2003. In my community, the devastating wildfires covered more than 280,000 acres and claimed a total of 232 homes, including our family’s home.

I remember how we felt as we stared hopelessly at what used to be our home, now charred and virtually barren. Only chimneys, flower pots, burnt-out dishwashers and a murky swimming pool remained. Everything else was ash, much of it still smoldering.

Our home had quite literally disappeared and with it decades of memories and mementos of a happy, fulfilling life shared with my wife and two sons. I knew things would never be the same, but then I realized: There was nothing any of us could’ve done to prevent our house from going up in flames.

I happened to be away when the flames swept though. My wife was able to grab the dog and cat, but that was all. Firefighters worked valiantly and saved more homes than were lost, but ours couldn’t be saved.

  • There was nothing else for me to do

The next day I decided to go to work. There was nothing else for me to do at that time. Of course, the fires were the big topic of conversation around the office, through only a few people knew about the fate of our house. I remember a colleague at a meeting that morning lamenting that thick ash from the fires had drifted over to his neighborhood that was otherwise unaffected.

To him, it represented a messy clean-up job, a real pain. But to me, it represented my children’s art projects, my grandfather’s rocking chair, much of our personal belongings, so much more. I was not alone. There were 231 other families whose homes went up in flames who were forced to go through those same emotions.

I know my colleague would’ve been mortified if he had realized how his comment affected me. At first, I was going to say something but quickly realized it was an innocent remark, one that was forgivable and did not warrant a response.

Because inside, I was already looking forward to a new life for me and my family, which would now need to rise up from those ashes. We were very fortunate to have had strong support from our friends, family and community. And good insurance.

Rather than dwell on our losses, we asked ourselves: How could we make our future even better and more fulfilling than the past?

  • Each dawn brings a new opportunity

Of course, all of us have sudden obstacles thrown at us when we least expect it. But as I say, each new dawn brings a new opportunity, a chance to do something good, new, even better. You can never change the past, but you can choose how to react to it.

What does all that have to do with losing my home to a fire 15 years ago?

Only this: As I think back to that challenging time for me and my family, I’m reminded how suddenly our every-day lives can turn inside out. In a flash. Think unexpected illness, injury, job loss, even death. Bad stuff happens all the time.

Yet I constantly meet people who have lost a job and six months later they are thrilled with their new job and acknowledge they never would have left the old job without the boost of a merger, downsizing or just plain being terminated.

I never thought I’d lose my home to a fire, but I’m convinced that our family’s positive outlook helped create a better outcome. I’m glad I went to work the next day, kept the house fire in perspective and moved on”

This week’s focus is about dealing with situations outside of your control. Would you see it as an opportunity to make your future better? If something bad happened to you would you be able to keep it in perspective and move on? Can you say you have a strong support network of friends, family, and community?

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Word-Of-the-Week #739: Comfort Zone

October 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Comfort Zone that place where you feel safe, in control, at ease and without stress. 

How often do you allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone? How does it feel to be without your “creature comforts?” When was the last time you took a risk?

Incredible timing on this UT article by Michelle Manafy “Camp allows adults to connect, without cell coverage: Something magical happens when entrepreneurs and investors unplug.”

“I was one of those city kids whose mom packed her off to a few weeks at camp every summer. We moved a lot, and the camps varied from year to year. At the best ones, I enjoyed a life entirely unlike my normal one. I could reinvent myself, if only briefly, and do things that were wholly unlike my day-to-day urban youth.

However, some families make a next-level investment in the summer camp experience. Starting as young as six or seven, these kids make an annual pilgrimage to the same spot in the woods and spent a month or more, year after year (sometimes generation after generation). Fellow campers and staff become a second family and the campgrounds grow as familiar as their own city streets or suburban backyards. I never understood this alien world, the profound allegiance to one’s sleepaway camp, the aching goodbyes that quickly evolved into annual anticipation and excitement, this rustic coming of age story.

I never understood until Fireside.

Two boys, Steven Pulver and Daniel Levine, grew up in this world, both having attended Camp Walden. Steven went so far as to climb the ranks as camper, counselor in training, then full-fledged counselor. Then the two went off to college, eventually becoming lawyers and – like many former Camp Walden alums – stayed friends. Sharing an interest in technology, the two traded stories of the many tech conferences they attended, where (unless they were pitching) everyone spent much of the time staring down at their phones. And together, Steven and Daniel wondered: Could there be a better way? Just maybe.

The pair, who stayed in touch with a vast number of their Camp Walden community as well as camp owner Sol Birenbaum, decided to try to port the immersive, transported experience they had growing up to the tech conference circuit. This meant gathering hundreds of people in the woods hours outside of Toronto, Canada. Oh, and they had to convince entrepreneurs and investors that they needed to make this epic trek only to end up somewhere without cell coverage or WiFi. Only three years ago, they launched their first Fireside with a crowd of about 100 bold souls. In year two, the audience more than doubled.

This year, in his keynote addressing the nearly 500 attendees of Fireside, Sol explained that a subtle but significant thing that takes place for the kids who attend Camp Walden is the transformative power of discomfort. Likening it to the micro-tears that allow us to build muscle, Sol pointed out that being away from the safe and familiar surroundings of home helps campers build new strengths that empower them in whatever they do.

At Fireside, attendees not only have to live without the reassuring buzz of their phones, they also have to forgo conference hotels to share cabins with strangers, sleep on bunks made for kids, without heat in weather that dips into the teens at night. Despite excellent food and well-stocked campfires it is, without doubt, both physically and technologically, uncomfortable.

Yet what occurs is nothing short of magic, warmed by campfire light and reflected in the kind of star-filled sky you only see far from the pervasive light of so-called civilization. People make eye contact. They introduce themselves. They watch speakers without the distraction of tweets or email. They walk and talk in twos and groups, reflecting on what they’ve seen and heard.

In this lovely, odd, uncomfortable, disconnected place, people take risks: professional (pitching for formidable Accelerators, VCs and Angel Investors like TechStars, Jeffrey Hayzlett, and Jason Calacanis); personal (heart-rending group discussions about the mental health of founders); and even physical (axe throwing and blindfolded nature walks).

In a performance the last night of Fireside, Canadian musician Peter Katz debuted his new song, “Paper Thin,” which is due out next year. He sang: I feel my eyes adjusting to the dark/ I can see the light of far off stars/ If I let myself get far enough away/ From the city of our lives.

Fireside demands that attendees disconnect, with the promise of connecting. Without a doubt, there’s something to that. All of us in search of our next big thing, big break, or big investment need to take big risks. While a few days in the woods without a phone hardly qualifies, getting far away from the glare of the screen might be just what’s needed to really see the stars.”

This week’s focus is about getting out of your comfort zone. How often have you gotten away from your safe and familiar surroundings? When was the last time you connected with another person without the distraction of tweets or email? Knowing that the transformative power of discomfort creates new strengths; would you be willing to get out of your comfort zone more often?

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Word-Of-the-Week #738: Habit

September 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Habit a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. 

So how did you do last week on actively listening? How much time did you devote to reading and learning? What one habit would you like to break or adjust?

This week features the 2nd part of “Break the Habit Loop” by Ilya Pozin with “Lifestyle Habits That Will Make You Successful.”

To Recap: Breaking (and Making) the Habit Loop – Every repetitive action that we take in our daily lives, good or bad, is a habit we’ve built up over time. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, this is due to a three-step pattern he calls the “habit loop.” The decision-making part of the brain goes into a kind of sleep mode when the habit loop kicks in, which is why we continue even problematic behaviors.

Like peer pressure, habits can make you do stupid things or spur you on to achievement. But what are those habits that are most in need of an adjustment? Try working on these, and you’ll be on your way to a more successful life:

  1. Don’t talk so much.
  2. Read as much as you can.
  3. Give it a rest.

Why do you think Calm — an app that features sleep stories read by narrators like Stephen Fry and Anna Acton — was Apple’s 2017 iPhone app of the year? It’s all about soothing the mind and encouraging a restful state. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview with Thrive Global that he gets eight hours of sleep every night, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t prioritize a healthier shut-eye routine.

Some of us find catching enough Z’s easier said than done, but there are some tricks that can help you reach dreamland without medication. 2920 Sleep, an online mattress retailer that focuses on improving sleep quality, recommends writing down one bad habit that’s agitating your sleep — like too many nightcaps — and trying to kick it for just five days. As with Peters’ “LISTEN” note, the simple act of writing it down can spur you to take corrective action.

  1. Rethink your relationships.

One of the greatest predictors of health, happiness, and longevity has nothing to do with quitting smoking or eating breakfast. Instead, it’s about cultivating stronger, more fulfilling relationships with others.

An eight-decade, ongoing Harvard University study shows a strong correlation between healthy relationships and healthy individuals. Improving not just the quantity of your relationships but the quality of them will go a long way toward ensuring you live a long and happy life.

By taking just a few small steps, you’ll be paving a clear path toward the happiness and fulfillment you’ve been seeking your whole life.

This week’s focus is on creating healthy habits. What habits are most in need of an adjustment? Are you getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night? Are you cultivating strong and fulfilling relationships?

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Word-Of-the-Week #737: Listen

September 20, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Listen – to give your full attention while someone is speaking. 

How good of a listener are you? Do you have a tendency to want to talk before the other person has fully expressed their thoughts? How does it make you feel when you have the full attention of others?

This week features the 1st part of “Break the Habit Loop” by Ilya Pozin with “Lifestyle Habits That Will Make You Successful.”

“Like peer pressure, habits can make you do stupid things or spur you on to achievement. Cultivating these habits will help you become your best self.   

An entire industry has sprung up around the pursuit of success, full of self-help books, motivational conferences, and decorative Etsy items with uplifting messages. But self-improvement doesn’t require shelling out tons of cash for a patented and trademarked formula for success. Your best self is just a few slight adjustments away.

I, for one, know I could add quality and productivity to my day just by eating breakfast. There’s no big cost. There’s no formula. It’s just a bowl of cereal to kickstart my mind and body each day. Too often I rush out in the morning, living on repeat, never correcting my bad habits.

Breaking (and Making) the Habit Loop

Every repetitive action that we take in our daily lives, good or bad, is a habit we’ve built up over time. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, this is due to a three-step pattern he calls the “habit loop.” The decision-making part of the brain goes into a kind of sleep mode when the habit loop kicks in, which is why we continue even problematic behaviors.

While this is great for those healthy, success-building habits, it doesn’t bode well for changing negative behaviors. The good news is that there’s a way to break the habit loop.

What it takes is changing the environment that normally cues up the habit loop. “If you want to quit smoking,” says Duhigg, “you should stop smoking while you’re on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren’t there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life.”

But what are those habits that are most in need of an adjustment? Try working on these, and you’ll be on your way to a more successful life:

  1. Don’t talk so much.

Some of the key pillars of success — learning, building relationships, establishing connections — have one thing in common: You’ll never accomplish them if you’re the only one talking. Training yourself to actually listen during a meeting will make you more effective than mentally drafting your next pronouncement.

Tom Peters, successful business author and writer of The Excellence Dividend, actually writes the word “LISTEN” on his hand as a regular reminder to pass the mic during meetings. Listening is especially important in a business setting, where salespeople tend to prepare their next pitch instead of listening to a customer. Retrain your brain to focus on what others are telling you.

  1. Read as much as you can.

It may seem clichéd, but there’s a reason why being well-read is considered a compliment. A study by University of Edinburgh and King’s College London researchers found that there is a correlation between earlier reading capability in kids and higher cognitive function. Leisure readers even report less stress and happier lives, according to a survey by the University of Liverpool.

Even more impressive, a study published in Neurology showed that seniors who had engaged in regular mental activity like reading throughout their lives were less likely to develop the brain plaques that cause dementia and Alzheimer’s, meaning that the simple act of reading may have helped keep their memories sharp in old age.

This week’s focus is to listen and read more. How would it feel to listen more and speak less? Do you find it easy or difficult to focus on what others are telling you? And what better incentive to read more – so you stay mentally sharp in old age?

And speaking of reading, Joe who contributed last week’s WOW has published two books on the life of Al McGuire, “One of the greatest and most colorful coaches in the history of college basketball.”  Check out his website www.jdmpress.net.

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Word-Of-the-Week #736: Ownership

September 13, 2018 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #736: Ownership 

Ownership –holding yourself accountable for your actions and how you do your job. 

Are you always accountable for your actions? How easy is it for you to admit when you’ve made a mistake?

This week long time friend and subscriber Joe (who is not a CEO) shares his thoughts from last week’s WOW on being accountable at work.

“I have been fortunate in my workplace experience that my co-workers could depend on what I said and what I did. Also, when I said something, I meant it. 

However, when I knew that I could not have something completed when it was needed by a co-worker or supervisor, I was forthright in telling them that I could not complete the task when they wanted it. In those cases, I usually asked when their drop-dead deadline was, when they absolutely, positively had to have it done. I then took care of whatever it was in a timely fashion. The key was to be upfront about what could be completed and when. 

One thing my wife and I are is decisive. When we are presented with a situation we look at the pros and cons and make a decision. Not a rush to judgment, mind you, but a clearheaded yes or no when time was tight. Indecision leads to wasted time and money in the workplace. Don’t go back and forth on how something should or should not look or have to start from scratch. That way you won’t get anything done. And as you know, Susan, that is too many businesses today. 

The best way to manage relationships in the office is to let the talented people do their thing and stay out of their way. They were hired to do a job, so let them do it. There are too many micro managers in offices today who simply want the credit for what their talented people do. When they do a good job, compliment them and tell the world that it was they who deserve the credit for a job well done. The manager will also get credit simply for hiring those good people. 

While I have been able to adapt in the workplace I am not necessarily a fast learner. I am not quick on the uptick. After making a few mistakes I usually catch on, but I am not fast. I don’t have those fast-twitch cells in my muscles. 

When I have made mistakes in the past, I was the first to admit them. What I have found in those situations is that we earn our co-workers and supervisors respect when we stand up and say, “It was my bad.” That also lets people in the office know they should do the same thing.  

If there is anything I have learned in the workplace is that you can’t be afraid to make a mistake. Not only will you not learn to do your job, you will approach every new task with trepidation. If you are afraid to make a mistake, you will never learn.” 

This week’s focus is on taking ownership. Do you take full responsibility for your actions? Are you doing the best job you possibly can? If you were the CEO would you act any differently?

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