Are You Owning Your Mindset?

Are You Owning Your Mindset?

Every day you have a choice. In fact, every day you have thousands of choices. Many unconscious, many conscious. You have a choice on what your attitude is. What your reaction is. What your demeanor is. How you treat others. How you respond to the challenge put in front of you.

Our days are made up of moments. And, it’s entirely up to you on how you live each moment. It doesn’t mean things won’t get hard. It doesn’t mean adversity won’t come daily. What it means is that you have to take an intentional stance on how you will respond to anything that comes your way.

So, how do you harness this positive mindset on a more consistent basis?

AWARENESS

First, you have to become aware of it. What triggers you? When do you get negative? When do you start to gossip? When do you complain? If you need to, start writing it down in a journal or piece of paper. Keep a tick sheet of your negative reactions. Both internal and external. I think you’ll be surprised at how many you default to.

OWNERSHIP

Second, you must take ownership of it. If you don’t own your mindset, you’ll get crushed. Our default is to over react and flee when tough things happen. Our brains are wired for survival. The moment something tough happens, our default is to run and hide. To survive. It takes awareness and really owning it to stay the course and keep a positive mind.

INTENTION

Third, be intentional about being more positive. Think before you speak. If you catch yourself complaining, stop and think about how you can take on a more positive stance. This takes time. It won’t happen overnight but if you can get just a little bit better each day…just a little more intentional each day, you’ll be blown away by the results over time.

Remember, we all have a choice every moment of everyday. $–t is going to happen to you. It just is. The better we can get at anticipating this and embracing the challenges we face, the better results we’ll see.

It’s a battle to build a positive mindset. But the more you’re aware of it, own it and are intentional about staying positive, the greater the likelihood for positive results.

I tell you this as someone who’s battled a negative mindset in many facets. From being a college athlete and struggling mightily with mindset after I got benched to losing a big account a few years ago – I’ve been there and I’ve failed. By the grace of God, I surrounded myself with some great influences and learned about the importance of a consistent, positive mindset on a moment to moment basis. I can tell you first hand that you will be stronger for it. Whatever comes your way, take a breath and find the diamond in the rough. It’s in there.

Adversity always leads to opportunity…you just have to look for it.

Embrace Acute Pain

Embrace Acute Pain

Boy am I in the mix right now.  A week ago I received news of a deal gone South.  I’m a sales guy. Large deals don’t come along that often and this one was signed/sealed/delivered last month.  All that was needed was contract signature.  Then, the curveball.  The deal’s still going to happen, just different terms.

I feel like I read people pretty well – essentially that’s what I’m paid to do.  And, the coaching I do is all about reading people.  I misread this one…

I’ve been pretty depressed thinking about it…what did I miss?  Where did we fall short?  Why didn’t I see this coming.  Again, it’s not that the deal is dead, just was blindsided – and I hate being blindsided.

So, I thought I’d write about and hopefully help someone out there who’s dealing in the trenches with something that’s gone awry…work/life/sports – kind of all the same – things happen. Sh%t happens, as the saying goes.  I used to think that I always had to put on a pretty face…that adversity happens and you just bounce back…while this is true to a large degree, I think it’s dangerous.  When stuff happens, I think you have to let yourself feel it….don’t just sweep it under the rug.  I haven’t slept well all week.  Life is going on…work is going on.  Again, this particular deal is still being salvaged…but it stings.  I haven’t felt this in a while.  I keep trying to force my way out of it…to still close the deal and think about other stuff.  Maybe an extra glass of wine or beer on a few of the nights…I don’t think that’s the right path….we…rather, I, too many times in the past just tried to bounce back…and too many times swept “stuff” under the rug.

The truth is, I need to face it head on.  I made a misjudgment….a mistake.  Not the end of the world, but I need to feel the pain for a bit to learn from it.  So next time, I can get ahead of it.  Now, I’m fighting to still close this deal by the end of the year – my number (sales quota) depends on it.

So, if there’s one ultimate lesson here it’s to not run from stuff when it happens.  If it’s painful that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  As my friend Kary talks about – embrace acute pain….otherwise multiple rounds of acute pain, when pushed aside, turn into chronic pain.  Been there done that.

Embrace the challenge at hand.  Don’t sweep it…embrace it, face it head on…learn from it…get better.  That’s all we can do.

When things don’t go your way

When things don’t go your way

I’ve been reminded of the importance of facing obstacles head on. A phone call with a client on Friday where I received some bad news. A deal we had agreed to a month ago was now off the table. Not the entire deal, just many of the things we agreed to were being asked to be taken out. I wasn’t so much disappointed in the newly proposed structure, it was more of the timing of the conversation. You see, the deal was supposed to be signed Friday. There was no indication that it wouldn’t be until mid-week last week when initial rumblings started to happen. Deals aren’t supposed to go down that way – 17 yrs in the business – and seeing a lot of interesting things, but there was no indication a month ago (when terms were agreed to) that this would happen. Lesson learned for me for sure.

In sales there’s an adage that the deal is never closed until the ink is dry (aka – the contract is signed). I’ve learned to be careful with communicating out any type of closed deal for this reason. I’m glad I didn’t hear.

So, the constructs of the deal have changed…frankly, I was super pissed off about the way this went down Friday. I was mad at the client for how it went down. After reflecting on, praying about, and trying to construct how we go from here, I’ve realized that, ultimately, I have to look at myself and the work I’ve done to bring this home.

You see, after much reflection, and some of the info I received Friday, I realized that we dropped the ball on a couple things. Some were very small, some a little bigger. It’s software, it’s business – balls are going to drop. We won’t be 100% everyday. But it’s a great reminder….that we need to keep striving to be 100%. Whether it’s getting things delivered on time or presenting data to a client – it’s important to take pride in your work – to do everything you can do to deliver huge value.

Many times it’s not the one thing that drops that causes the issues, but it’s the ten small things over the course of a couple years that aren’t 100%, that add up to decisions like we had Friday.

We’ll do better, we have no choice. I’m about to go into a meeting to salvage the deal today. We’ll still do business, just the constructs have changed. The good news is that I learned that we are lacking trust at the client. Regardless of my thoughts before Friday, that’s the world we’re in today. We need to reset….our team needs to buckle down…and deliver what we say we’re going to do….it’s a striving for greatness….a relentless pursuit of delivering on everything we set out. It’s not easy….it takes discipline, hard work, consistency, perseverance….probably most of all – looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying – we’re going to do our best today.

Stuff happens. The question is, when obstacles arise, are you going to make excuses or are you going to pick up wherever you are and make lemonade out of lemons.

Monday…here we go…

Success Habits – The 3 Pillars of Achieving High-Level Results

Success Habits – The 3 Pillars of Achieving High-Level Results

Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and take a deep dive into the minds of over 40 business executives, sales leaders, sports coaches and entrepreneurs. These were lengthy, in-depth conversations around what made them successful…and, furthermore, what held them back. My findings were pretty fascinating and I thought I’d share some of this with you. What started as a small project last November quickly became an obsession of finding out what the best of the best did to keep their edge.

I was really suprised by how different everyone went about their day to day work.  I’d say for sure that everyone had things they do really well and things they can improve. One of the objectives was to uncover both and help everyone get a little bit better. And, of course, to tease out what some of the consistent themes were so that I could help add value going forward.  Finally, and selfishly, I wanted to learn : )

I really believe no matter how much success you have or how “good” you are today, if you’re not looking to get better it’s a recipe for disaster. I say that from experience. Nine years ago I got a big promotion. I was 30 yrs old and if I’m being honest – got a little complacent. I stopped pushing the envelope and thought I had “made it”. Thankfully, I got a wake-up call a few years ago and my mindset is all about continuous growth. Hard lesson, but a great lesson.

Back to my research and some key findings. I’ve been blown away by the candor and how different people approach things. I liken the conversations to that picture of the iceberg where all you see is what’s above the water. You know the one I’m talking about – where you can only see a small piece above and there’s this huge piece below the surface we never see. This was such a big theme – everyone had so much they did on a day to day basis that they really never thought about. I found that many never thought about their daily habits and what made them “successful”. I put that in italics because success is certainly different for everyone. I can definitely tell you that although important, financial success was rarely the primary factor. In fact, the idea of serving and adding value was a big theme for most. The best of the best definitely had a contribution mindset that set them apart. That was cool to see.

I thought I’d list out a few key learnings and the cool part is this has opened up a much larger conversation about how we can all learn from each other.
Three core themes stuck out and they are as follows:

Theme #1 – Mindset

Everyone has challenges in their daily lives. It was a pervasive theme. The best of the best have a resiliency to them. They know that things won’t always go their way but they’re focused on moving forward. Carol Dweck, who wrote the book “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success” refers to two different types of approaches. One is a Fixed Mindset and the other is a Growth Mindset. Here’s what Dweck says about Fixed Mindsets – “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.” Here’s what she says about Growth Mindsets – “People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.” Make sense? We can all get better. Whatever cards you’re dealt today are simply the hand you are dealt. You have a choice with how you play that hand. This is crucial – without this foundation, I’m not sure anything else matters.

Theme #2 – Planning

The best plan their work every day. They don’t let the urgency of others own what they do. They utilize their calendars to schedule important tasks and meetings. As Stephen Covey said in “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, the best definitely “Begin with the end in mind”. Abraham Lincoln has a great quote, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Think about that…we often times want to dive into our email or daily grind….but are you really thinking about your work the right way. The best focus on high impact work and plan their day around that. There are many different approaches to how people plan and execute, but the important thing is that you’re not just falling prey to what comes at you. The best of the best had specific tasks or projects they work on for the day and they get after it. Those that leverage their calendars to plan out specific tasks are certainly on the higher end of performance. One of the key habits that came forth was around identifying a small list of specific outcomes for the day and having an intense focus on achieving those before working on less impactful things. Quick tip – Write down the top 3-5 outcomes for the day and block time in your calendar to start the day (start with 90 minutes). Start with the top outcome and work your way down that list. Do this first and do it everyday…you’ll start to see some results, I promise.

Theme #3 – Fuel

Simply put, the best fuel for optimal performance. This means they think like an athlete when they work. Whether it’s what you put into your body (food/liquid) or how much you sleep, I can assure the best of the best are thinking about this. In fact, I talked to a very successful CEO who chuckled about the notion of CEO’s pulling all nighters and working 80 hour weeks. He counted sleep as one of the primary components to his success. The average amount of sleep per night was about seven hours for these top performers. There were some that operated on less but I can tell you that their stress level was a lot higher. When it comes to what you put in your body, if you ever played a sport, did you perform well if you just at a Big Mac and Vanilla Shake before your game? I think we both know the answer – so, why would you eat a bunch of junk during your work day? To perform at an optimal level, you MUST think about what you’re fueling your body and mind with.

These are definitely the top three themes that came to the surface but there were a lot more that are important to the daily success. I can tell you that most wake up early but not all. I talked to some very successful folks who aren’t early risers…they still do high impact work. The fun part is that the conversation continues to evolve.

How can you take action?
My encouragement for you is to pick one area that you want to get better. If it’s planning better, schedule 30 minutes in your day just for planning. If it’s mindset, I recommend journaling about what brings you down and makes you think from a negative state. On the flip side, think about what brings you up. Just being aware is a great first step. And, remember, life isn’t perfect. If you can focus on production over perfection, you’ll be so far ahead of the game. If it’s fuel, think about what time you’re going to bed. Start your bed time routine a little earlier. Try putting your phone in airplane mode so you won’t get buzzed right when you’re going to bed. Think about your energy throughout the day. Start to think about your food intake as fuel for your body, mind & soul.
I’d love to hear from you. What’s the one habit/ritual/thing that helps you achieve what you set out to on a daily basis? Furthermore, what’s the biggest challenge you have when it comes to daily “success”?

Would love to hear in the comments!

Thanks for reading.
Jon

Get Uncomfortable

Get Uncomfortable

I’m learning more and more about this concept from coaching. It’s funny how our brains work but I can’t stress how much I’ve learned from coaching youth soccer.  Not just about the game, but about business and life. It’s a daily lesson in human psychology. Hats off to all the youth sports coaches out there – if you can build a team the right way you’re doing some cool things. And the psychology piece is the biggest variable, I believe. 

Over last two weeks, I’ve been tinkering with our training sessions. Instead of working mostly on technique or even playing to goals, we’ve spent a lot of time simply playing keep away with two teams.  5 passes in a row is a point and the other team has to do push-ups (yes, it’s competitive). Here’s the catch – we always restrict the touches when we do this. Either two or three touches max. If you go over, possession goes to the other team. 

Most of the kids don’t like it so far but they are coming along. I even had one kid tell me how it made no sense because “you don’t have restrictions in the game”.  Ha. Exactly. That’s why we’re doing it, I told him. 

You see, the faster we think in practice, the slower the game becomes.  The more we get comfortable being uncomfortable in practice, the better we will play in games. 

I see them improving each practice. In our game yesterday I even scrapped the traditional warm up. No more shooting with no defenders…we just did his possession drill.  Trying to make it more game-like.

The result?  We won 5-0. I really don’t care about the score but we absolutely imposed our will on this team. And guess what – we lost to these guys 3 weeks ago and narrowly beat them last month. Wasn’t even close this time. The difference?  I believe the game is slowing down for us. Why?  Because we are practicing at a high level and forcing the issue. 

Look, I’m not naive. I realize we will continue to struggle at times. That’s part of growing…but I’m encouraged.  These kids are a challenge at times. Some of my guys can’t seem to grasp the concept of effort and pushing themselves. They’re getting better but it’s a constant push. 

I’m reminded about all the teams I’ve been on…in sports, in business…and in life. 

It doesn’t happen overnight.  We need to focus on incremental improvements on a daily basis. Get a just a little bit better each day. Just a little bit. And, over time, you should have some good things happen. 

So, my advice to you (and to me) – keep getting uncomfortable. That’s where real growth happens. 

Here’s a video with some similar thoughts as well:

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How Gritty are you?

How Gritty are you?

In 1940, researchers at Harvard decided to test a group of students. Over 100 sophomores performed in a study where they were asked to run on a treadmill for up to five minutes. The angle was steep and the speed was fast – the average of the 130 students was four minutes with some running as little as one minute and thirty seconds.

The test was designed to be exhausting. They were testing not just the physical capacity of the students but also the mental capacity (or “strength of will”).

The goal of the study was to determine if there was a correlation later in life to various “success” factors. They monitored things like marriage status, income, career advancement, self-reported satisfaction with work and marriage, social activities, psychological medical history, etc. The researchers tracked the participants every two years and the study continued into their later years.

Here’s what they found out – The participants who were able to stay on the treadmill the longest had the highest performance on the factors they rated later in life.

Angela Duckworth and “Grit”

Angela Duckworth is the author of the book, “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”. Duckworth is a psychologist, former Consultant and School Teacher. She’s observed a lot of people – that’s what she does for a living. Her research points to this “Grit” factor as the defining trait of the most successful people. I get that “success” can be defined in many different ways, but I think, overall, any type of performance or result is usually accompanied by many struggles. The best of the best simply have this Grit deep inside them.

It’s interesting in that a study that I conducted last year where I interviewed over 30 high performing sales reps and leaders, the results were very much in line with Duckworth’s work and the Harvard Team’s research.

Sure, many other factors play a part in overall performance, but the best of the best were the most resilient and, ultimately, viewed obstacles as opportunities. In fact, if I had to big one overriding trait of the top performers, it was easily their mindset and their capacity to overcome challenges and still perform.

Back to Duckworth’s research. Although the Harvard test was a good indicator, she talks about the willingness to come back and do it again the next day. This, she says, was an even closer identifier of true Grit. Essentially, are you willing to get back up once you’ve fallen down?

She also outlines a formula which I believe is really profound on right on:

Talent x effort = skill

Skill x effort = achievement

Here’s what this means.  Of course, you need some sort of talent to get any type of achievement.  Talent, however, only takes you so far.  For example, let’s say you have a very talented youth soccer player.  By the way, I see this all the time, as I coach my son and his U10 club team.  So, you have a talented kid – this is JUST the beginning.  Next, comes the Effort.  When you combine Talent with the Effort, then you develop skill.  I have some very talented kids who are still learning to put in the right amount of effort.  It’s been pretty astounding to see some kids with less talent start to surpass the more talented kids, simply because they are outworking them at practice.  Once the skill is developed, now you add some more effort onto this and that’s where you get the achievement.

Effort Times Two

Here’s the secret sauce – there’s a reason effort is in both equations.  Talent without effort doesn’t get you very far.  Furthermore, once you develop a skill, you need to keep working hard to get to any form of achievement.  I tell my kids all the time – I’ll take effort over talent all day long.  We’re a work in progress still but I definitely beat this drum every time we’re together.

This isn’t easy.  Grit takes awareness.  Grit takes intention.  Grit takes a daily approach and deliberate practice to get really good at it.  I don’t think people are born with grit.  I think some may be predisposed to it, sure, but I think everyone has the capacity to dig deep and push out of their comfort zone.

If you’re struggling to perform at whatever it is your trying to do, think about these equations.  Talent only gets you so far.  Once you develop a skill that, too, only gets you so far.  It’s the consistent effort over a long period of time that leads to achievement.

We tend to see successful people – whether that be athletes, musicians, business leaders, parents or coaches – and we think they were born to succeed.  The truth is, you don’t see what they’re doing when the cameras are off.  You don’t see the early morning wake up calls or the countless hours honing their craft.

Take the Grit Test

So, how gritty are you?  Well, the good news is, Duckworth created a test that was part of her research.  She calls it the Grit Scale.  You can take it there – http://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/ (by the way, I scored a 4.0 which is about 65% – some work to do here for me)

I’m a firm believer that this is one of the most important things we can teach the younger generation.  I think, in this day and age, kids want things right away.  We live in a 140 character world where things happen fast.  Focus is pretty much non-existent.  Heck, I’ve read that our avg attention spans have gone from something like 12-13 seconds to 8 seconds in recent years.  That’s not good.  I think it’s turning many of us to adopt a “want it right now” mindset and we patience and discipline are going out the window.  I tell you this from experience – I struggle with this just as much as anyone.

Good & Bad News

Here’s the good and bad news for all of us.  The bad news first – we’re going to miss out on many opportunities if we can’t get beyond the constant noise in our heads.  Let me ask you this – how often have you found yourself reading an article, a book on your tablet or been on social media – and the next thing you know, you look up 45 minutes later and you’re doing something totally different than what you set out to do?  C’mon, be real – I’ve been there many times, haven’t you?  We chased the rabbit, so to speak.  So, as amazing as social media or the internet may be, it’s designed to grab (no crush) our attention.  Now, to the good news – those that can see above the noise and find the awareness to not fall victim to this constant struggle give themselves and opportunity to get some really amazing things done.

It takes awareness first and grit second to do things like put your phone away for a day (or even a couple hours) and spend real time with your family and friends.  It takes grit to wake up every day and read one more chapter in the book you’ve been wanting to read.  It takes grit to sacrifice the short term gain of eating those french fries for the long-term gain of feeling healthier and living better.

Grit isn’t easy.  I think Duckworth is spot on.

How can we all take action?

The first step to any change or any achievement is Awareness.  The second step is Action.  Here’s something really practical for you as a next step – Take the test, find out if where you land on the Grit scale.  If you don’t like your score, be intentional about setting a plan to get better in this area.  Put a reminder in your calendar twice a day – 7am and 2pm that just says “Be Gritty” and set it recurring daily for 30 days.  When that reminder hits each day, just stop to think for 5-10 seconds and ask yourself two questions “Am I exuding Grit?” and “How can I be more Gritty?”.  Feel free to write down your thoughts or just think about.  It takes intentional practice to get better at anything.

Here’s the test again – http://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/

Good luck and shoot me a note or enter a comment below and let us know how you did.

Until next time…

Jon

Sources:

“Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”Angela Duckworth

Harvard Research Study – The Treadmill Test, 1940 (later expanded on by psychiatrist, George Vaillant) – you can learn more about George here.

Duckworth’s TED talk is worth watching as well – only 6 minutes – watch it here.

 

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

A Sunday afternoon in early Spring.  Heads hung low.  One kid is crying…then another.  Like Dominoes.  Blaming each other.  Blaming the ref.  10-1.  Final Score.

I have the privilege of coaching my son’s soccer team.  They are 7 and 8 yr olds.  Young…very impressionable.  We walked off the field a few weeks ago as 10-1 losers.  Down early 2-0, we decided to pack it in.  Lots of pouting, lots of negativity.  2-0 quickly become 5-0 at halftime and I knew during the halftime talk that I lost them.

I don’t usually do this but I called a meeting after the game with both our players and parents. Look, I get that these kids are young, but this was about more than some sport.  This was life stuff.  This was an opportunity masked in adversity.  We wear a slogan on our shirts – “Become Better”.  We talked that day about responding to adversity.  We talked about stepping up when things don’t go our way.  We talked about not pouting and being resilient.  I wasn’t sure how it would resonate.

Fast forward two weeks.  We played the same team, different result.  4-3 loss.  We were in it. There were signs of resilience being born.  The seed was planted….or so I hoped.  One week later, playing the best team in our age group in Columbus – down 4-1….we decided to fight back…we ended up losing 5-3.  Progress…

Over the course of the next few weeks, more of the pouts and sulking turned into grit and focus.  Every game, every practice, it was a constant melody line.  Step up.  Respond.  Control what you can control.  I know – just 7 and 8 – you may be thinking I’m crazy….but, the opportunity to teach was staring me in the face.  These boys are like potter’s clay right now.  We continued to beat the drum.

Three weeks ago.  A sunny Sunday afternoon.  Our third Final in the last two seasons.  We were ready.  We just stepped up in our early morning semi-final and played our best game ever.  We were ready.  The game turned south quickly.  Parents were yelling, refs were yelling – it was, frankly, too much pressure on these young kids.  We were the better team that day in the first half but couldn’t put the ball in the net.  That frustration added on to the intensity of the game turned into a debacle in the second half.  We started to complain again.  We stopped controlling what we could.  The emotion of the game took over.  Result – 3-0 Loss.  The good news – we didn’t totally give up like we did a few weeks back.  Another teaching opportunity…

So, we continued to talk about stepping up….being resilient…our melody line.

Our final tournament was this past weekend.  This would be our last time together as soccer in the US is changing the way the age groups are laid out.  The team, these boys, will be splitting up this Fall.  So, the test was upon us.  How would we perform?

In our two early games, we found ourselves behind.  As I said earlier, our MO had been to pack it in when things weren’t going our way just a few weeks ago.  We found a way to win both of those.  I started to hear some of my players pick each other up.  I could see it in their faces.  Focus, resilience – a beautiful thing to watch.

So, we were on to our Final….and an opportunity to redeem our game from two weeks earlier – we were playing the same team.  Let’s just say the last game didn’t end well.  There were hard fouls and words between coaches and parents.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was actually everything that’s wrong with youth sports.  Thankfully, we were able to work with this team, the refs and the parents, to ensure the atmosphere would be a positive one for both teams.  It was intense, but much more palatable for these kids to have fun and compete.

Five minutes in….my boys our down 0-2.  Familiar territory.  This time, though….no quit.  I even heard one of my players yelling on the field to “keep fighting”.  I felt good about this one.  We indeed battled back…made it 2-1 by halftime.  Tied it up in the second half, then took the lead 3-2.  After conceding a late goal, we went to a Penalty Kick Shoot Out.  It’s a crap shoot in those things and I feel bad for anyone who’s on the losing end.  Our first player missed his, they made.  Not a good start.  Second player (my son, Gabe), makes, their kid misses, so we’re back in it.  Our third and final shooter has to make to send it to Sudden Death Penalty Kicks, where you go one for one. He makes.  Talk about pressure on these kids.  Our 4th and 5th players both scored….so did they. So, it came down player 6…our Goalie makes a save.  Now, it’s down to one of my little guys – I wasn’t even sure if he could get the ball to the goal.  He steps up and buries it.  We win.  The joy on these kids faces…

But…the result didn’t matter.  It really didn’t.  These kids already showed what they were made of.  2-0 down no longer became the cause for panic…the catalyst for blaming each other….for sulking.  2-0 down now becomes the rallying cry.  The opportunity.  The melody line.

I learned a lot of lessons coaching these kids.  It reaffirmed a lot for me on how to handle situations in life and in business.  We all have a choice.  Every day.  The cards may be stacked against us in many ways.  In fact, you should expect from time to time that the cards are indeed stacked against you.  The question though….what are you going to do about it?  Will you see it as an opportunity?

My hope is that these seeds are firmly planted inside these kids.  They see the fruits of their labor. They tasted what it was like to be resilient.  I pray that they will look back on this experience many years from now as they push through whatever it is they’re facing in life.

Success Habits

Success Habits

I had the opportunity recently to dive into the minds of over 35 business executives, entrepreneurs, business developers, key project leads, etc.  My findings were pretty fascinating and I thought I’d share some of this with you.

What started as a small project back in November as I reached out to a few colleagues around what makes them successful, turned into a full-blown research project, where I had the opportunity to spend many hours with very successful people in many lines of business (over 75 hours of research and deep conversation!).

First, for some background.  I work for a tech company, CCC Information Services, out of Chicago in a sales role.  I’m half way through my sixteenth year (I know, who works for anyone for sixteen years anymore??).  It’s a great company.  Very forward thinking, very high performance culture. We’ve averaged approximately 24% yr over yr Return on Equity during this time.  I tell you that not to brag, but to point out that many of the people I talked to work for CCC….and it’s definitely a high performance culture.  The results are there – but I can assure you that everyone goes about their work in a different way.  Some better than others….most have the good and the bad – things they do really well and things they can improve.  One of the objectives was to uncover both and help everyone get a little bit better.

I started the project because I knew I’d be able to learn something from some of my colleagues about what they do on a day to day basis that sets them apart.  I really believe no matter how much success you have or how “good” you are today, if you’re not looking to get better it’s a recipe for disaster.  I say that from experience.  Nine years ago I got a big promotion.  I was 30 yrs old and if I’m being honest – got a little complacent.  I stopped pushing the envelope and thought I had “made it”.  Thankfully, I got a wake up call a few years ago and my mindset is all about continuous growth. Hard lesson, but a great lesson.

Back to my research and some key findings.  I say it was fascinating because I was blown away by the candor and how different people approach things.  I liken the conversations to that picture of the iceberg where all you see is what’s above the water.  You know the one I’m talking about – where you can only see a small piece above and there’s this huge piece below the surface we never see.  This was such a big theme – everyone had so much they did on a day to day basis that they really never thought about.  I found that many never thought about their daily habits and what made them “successful”.  I put that in italics because success is certainly different for everyone.  I can definitely tell you that although important, financial success was rarely the primary factor. In fact, the idea of serving and adding value was a big theme for most.  The best of the best definitely had a contribution mindset that set them apart.  That was cool to see.

I thought I’d list out a few key learnings and the cool part is this has opened up a much larger conversation about how we can all learn from each other.

Three core themes stuck out and they are as follows:

  1. Theme #1 – Mindset – Everyone has challenges in their daily lives.  It was a pervasive theme.  The best of the best have a resiliency to them.  A grit factor, I’ll call it.  They know that things won’t always go their way but they’re focused on moving forward.  Carol Dweck, who wrote the book “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success” refers to two different types of approaches.  One is a Fixed Mindset and the other is a Growth Mindset.  Here’s what Dweck says about Fixed Mindsets – “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”  Here’s what she says about Growth Mindsets – “People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”  Make sense?  We can all get better.  Whatever cards you’re dealt today are simply the hand you are dealt.  You have a choice with how you play that hand.  This is crucial – without this foundation, I’m not sure anything else matters.
  2. Theme #2 – Planning – The best plan their work everyday.  They don’t let the urgency of others own what they do.  They utilize their calendars to schedule important tasks and meetings.  As Stephen Covey said in “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, the best definitely “Begin with the end in mind”.  Abraham Lincoln has a great quote, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Think about that…we often times want to dive into our email or daily grind….but are you really thinking about your work the right way.  The best focus on high impact work and plan their day around that.  Quick tip – Pick your top one-three most important projects for the day.  Write down 1-3 definitive outcomes you aim to achieve today for each….then set a timer for 90 minutes and get to work on those and those only.  Don’t check your phone, don’t go on social media, don’t get lost in email. Focus for 90 minutes on your top three projects.  I promise you that if you can do this on a continuous basis, you will build great momentum and will start to really get some high impact results.
  3. Theme #3 – Fuel – The best fuel for optimal performance.  This means they think like an athlete when they work.  Whether it’s what you put into your body (food/liquid) or how much you sleep, I can assure the best of the best are thinking about this.  In fact, I talked to a very successful CEO who chuckled about the notion of CEO’s pulling all nighters and working 80 hour weeks.  He counted sleep as one of the primary components to his success.  The average amount of sleep per night was about seven hours for these top performers.  There were some that operated on less but I can tell you that their stress level was a lot higher.  When it comes to what you put in your body, if you ever played a sport, did you perform well if you just at a Big Mac and Vanilla Shake before your game?  I think we both know the answer – so, why would you eat a bunch of junk during your work day?  To perform at an optimal level, you MUST think about what you’re fueling your body and mind with.

These are definitely the top three themes that came to the surface but there were a lot more that are important to the daily success.  I can tell you that most woke up early but not all.  I talked to some very successful folks who aren’t early risers…they still do high impact work.  The fun part is that the conversation continues to evolve.  I haven’t written much lately as my focus has been on other projects, but I plan on diving deeper on this topic.

Especially now, with so much coming at us on a moment to moment basis, the habits we build and focus we put into place is essential to achieving any type of result.

I’d love to hear from you.  What’s the one habit/ritual/thing that helps you achieve what you set out to on a daily basis?

Thanks for reading.

Jon

What are we chasing?

What are we chasing?

I read this parable many years ago and once again saw recently in a Jimmy John’s as I was with my son, Gabe.  I think it’s a really great lesson for anyone chasing success and wondering what really matters.  It’s a question all of us should ponder consistently as it’s easy to get caught in the trap of chasing down things that may seem to matter on the surface, but ultimately, don’t provide you with real happiness.

The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker (Author Unknown)

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time was right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

If this resonates with you, I strongly suggest you save it somewhere and read it from time to time.  It brings to mind a great bible verse that brings a similar message –  For what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul – Mathew 16:26.

Have a great week.

Jon

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Filling Buckets…

  
“Let’s fill other people’s buckets full so you can have friends.” – Gabriel Giganti (7 yrs old)
Wow. I can’t tell how happy this makes me. Michelle has a quote board up in our kitchen. It’s usually a quote or bible verse from another source. This quote is from my son, Gabe.  And, I love the 1st grade misspellings : ). That makes it extra special!

We always talk about filling people’s buckets. Build people up – don’t tear them down. It’s not always easy but if you’re intentional about it, it can change the world! 

So, how about you?  Do you focus on building people up?  How about your bucket?  Are you surrounded by people and influences that add to it or deplete it?  If it’s the latter, think about how you can associate yourself with bucket fillers. 

Author Tom Rath wrote a great buck called “How Full is Your Bucket” where I learned this metaphor a few years ago. The kids version is even better. 

So, go fill some buckets!