Carpe Momentum: Two tips to accelerate success

“I could be so successful, if only I had more time…”

Have you ever started the sentence, “If only I had more time…” then finished that sentence with realization that you would fill that extra time with more hassled, stressful tasks that would leave you even more exhausted than you already are?

Time, precious time

Author Harvey Mackay says that time is the one commodity that we can’t reproduce, alter, capture or revisit. We each have the same quantity of time on a given day, day after day. How we use that time makes all the difference.

Think about the Food Network television show, “Chopped,” where several chefs open a mystery box with a tiny window of time and a mission to create fabulous food fare. Invariably, one contestant groans as the clock runs out and Chef Ted shouts, “Time’s up!”  The contestant stares at the unfinished dish below and states as if it’s the first time this has ever happened, “I ran out of time” as their reason for not including all of the required ingredients on their plate, or for not cooking their dish to the judges’ satisfaction. Each chef had the same ingredients, the same cookingtimesup station, the same pantry, and the same amount of time. Why were the other chefs able to finish on time with the intended delicious outcome, while Joe/Jane Too-Late is standing with a raw slab of pork on the station?

So how to make the most of this precious, limited resource? How do super-successful time managers seem to breeze through tasks and still have time to show up at the kids’ soccer games or catch a concert in the park?  Continue reading

Kintsugi: The art of embracing damage.

Is it possible to be more beautiful in the broken places?

Recently, I sent a message to my friend who was struggling, in hopes of lifting her spirits.

My friend had been feeling down. Defeated. Convinced that she wasn’t capable or deserving of success. I knew better, of course. I’ve known her more than half my life. I’ve watched her rise from an aspiring writer to international best selling author. Countless reasons, I could offer, as to why she’s more than capable and perfectly deserving of success.  With indignance, I wanted to shout at her, “You’re already successful! Do you know how many people would dream to live your life for even just one day?”

I had really good intentions that day. It was a thrill, in fact, to think that I could be of help to a hero. Here was little old regular me, being asked to Help…Fix…Repair…Heal…this amazing role model of mine, who happened to be struggling. Being able to nurture and support this person who has served as a model of excellence for me for decades. Here was my chance to make a difference!

And the way I chose to help this supersuccessful person to feel better? I denied her feelings. Not a good thing, turns out.

I countered every single negative thought she was having with a reason why she was wrong and “should feel great” or “ought to forgive” herself or “was being too hard” on herself.

Thinking I was helping, actually I was making it worse. I took away her right to suffer. In fact, I teetered on the cusp of shaming her for feeling down.

With all the best intentions, I missed the whole point. She was feeling broken and needed to let the pieces fall on the floor in front of her.

Realizing that I was making things worse by only focusing on the sunny side and by denying her need to feel broken and fall apart, I suddenly remembered a concept I once heard about the importance of being able to “fall into” pain rather than simply denying it. This concept, I was now remembering, was about honoring and highlighting the broken parts. Drawing attention to the damage, even!

So, what is this radical-acceptance-like process of honoring and even highlighting our failures and broken parts?

It’s called Kintsugi, and it’s a beautiful way of turning damage into beauty.

The Japanese practice of “kintsugi” is the art of embracing damage. Check out this Kintsugi video:

“Now you shall transform to a new level, my friend. Think wabi-sabi and kintsugi: the art of embracing damage!”

Now remembering this concept of being stronger in the broken places, I stopped my barrage of “happy thoughts” and apologized mid-conversation to my friend. I acknowledged that I’d been trying to deny the fact that she felt broken. I was trying to pretend the cracks weren’t there. I told her that I’d suddenly remembered this Japanese art of Kintsugi, and that I would send her a video to illustrate the concept right away. We ended the conversation awkardly, and I seriously questioned whether I knew how to be a good friend.

Pushing past my disappointment in myself, I sent her the Kintsugi video, hoping that she was still open to my support, even after I’d botched and Pollyanna’d my way through our earlier conversation. After I sent the note and video link, I started to question myself.

“Who am I to tell this highly successful and internationally recognized thought leader how to live?”

“Why do I always appoint myself as the ambassador of all that is positive?”

“What if she resents my message and sees it as patronizing?”

There I was, spiraling to all my places in my head where my own brokenness lurks.

Worrying about how my friend might feel after I’d missed the point with her suffering, I was spinning in my own broken parts, thinking…

I’ve spent my whole life embracing the broken, the not quite, and the almost…

  • Saving birds with broken wings
  • Fixing toys with broken parts
  • Cheering for the underdog
  • Coaching those who don’t yet believe in themselves
  • Coaxing sunshine from clouds

Just as my negative self-talk was reaching a fervent pitch in my head, the phone rang.

There was my friend, laugh-crying through the phone line, telling me how she finally felt understood. The video just spoke to her. Captured her. She told me how she felt connected to this concept of embracing damage. How she IS kintsugi. How this concept of mending the broken pieces with gold and proudly displaying them was exactly what she’d needed. It was a great moment, and not just because my friend was feeling better or because I’d been able to help her. It was a great moment because she and I were creating Kintsugi in real time. We were piecing back together a set of broken shards of a conversation and making the resulting product even better than when we’d started.

I knew on that day that I would never look at broken pottery in the same way again.

Now, whenever either of us faces a rough patch in life, or when things fall apart altogether, a single word helps us both begin to put the pieces back together and to anticipate an even more beautiful outcome than the original situation could have intended.

Kintsugi.

Embracing the damage. More beautiful in the broken places.

 

Humility + Iteration = A Leader’s Saving Grace

Being likeable will help you in your job, business, relationships, and life. I interviewed dozens of successful business leaders for my last book, to determine what made them so likable and their companies so successful. All of the concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Below are the eleven most important principles to integrate to become a better leader:

1. Listening

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors. Here’s why the best CEO’s listen more.

2. Storytelling

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McAfee Brown

After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you’re telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video – storytelling wins customers.

3. Authenticity

“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” -Oprah Winfrey

Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social internet has blurred that line. Tomorrow’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.

4. Transparency

“As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” -John Whittier

There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night – unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one.

5. Team Playing

“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” -SEAL Team Saying

No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likeable leader. You’ll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.

6. Responsiveness

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

The best leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder today is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a a tweet, responding shows you care and gives your customers and colleagues a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organization.

7. Adaptability

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Ben Franklin

There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.

8. Passion

“The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.” -Steve Jobs

Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.

9. Surprise and Delight

“A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” -Charles de Gaulle

Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likeable leaders underpromise and overdeliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. There are a plethora of ways to surprise without spending extra money – a smile, We all like to be delighted — surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

10. Simplicity

“Less isn’t more; just enough is more.” -Milton Glaser

The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so today’s leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.

11. Gratefulness

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -Gilbert Chesterton

Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great! Donor’s Choose studied the value of a hand-written thank-you note, and actually found donors were 38% more likely to give a 2nd time if they got a hand-written note!

The Golden Rule: Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated

By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers, and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company’s likeability and motivates others to work with you. This seems so simple, as do so many of these principles — and yet many people, too concerned with making money or getting by, fail to truly adopt these key concepts.

Which of these principles are most important to you — what makes you likeable?

Simple ways to amplify your leadership impact

The Fortune profile on Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, provides some valuable insights on how to maximize your leadership impact. Brian devised his own simple leadership rules:

The final rule – refilling the reservoir – resonated with me. How do you refill your reservoir? Please mention them in comments below!

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Brian Chesky is an American Internet entrepreneur who co-founded the hospitality exchange service Airbnb. Chesky is the CEO of the company and was named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People of 2015

The Spaces Between: Taking time for your personal development

What if you spent 30 minutes on your personal development every day? Reading. Blogging. Journaling. Drawing. Imagining. Networking. Planning your future. A half hour. Every. Single. Day.

A friend recently told me that in a “How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile” seminar, she learned that we should spend a certain amount of time each day focused on our personal and professional development. Each day? Wow, that sounded like a lot. I mean seriously, how many meaningful moments do you average each day, working on developing your strengths? Or your resume? Or your network?  Pffft, my answer to the question wasn’t all that great, so I decided to try out the concept.

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For one month, I’ve spent 30 minutes each day with focused attention on my personal development. Reading, writing, sharing, listening, and absorbing myself in energy focused on my growth as a professional and as a person. The results are predictably exciting and positive, but not for the reasons I’d expected.

Of course I learned a lot through tuning in to authors and speakers and mentors and idea-makers. But it wasn’t those active learning moments that made the biggest difference. It was the spaces bewteen that yielded a refreshing and unexpected rush of creativity, clarity and focus.

I believe that investing in your personal and professional growth is an iterative process best achieved through small, meaningful steps over time. Just like a great athlete or musician or speaker, it takes sustained and consistent effort to build the muscle memory needed to become fluent in any worthy pursuit. Intentional practice in directional increments is often said to be the secret to reaching a development goal. But I believe that in between those efforts of intention, the silent “pauses” are just as important. A pause can be a time of silent introspection or just a rest from the norm of day-to-day goal pursuit.

The pause is for me is about allowing thoughtful spaces between my rushed and hurried emails, calls, and meetings. It’s about protecting and valuing those spaces, rather than rushing to fill them with urgent-but-not-important matters…Allowing those spaces to be dedicated to developing my strengths and focusing on where I want to be, not just where I am.

English musician Gordon Sumner, better known as The Police’s Sting, once said,

“Paradoxically, I’m coming to believe in the importance of silence in music. The power of silence after a phrase of music for example; the dramatic silence after the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or the space between the notes of a Miles Davis solo. There is something very specific about a rest in music. You take your foot off the pedal and pay attention. I’m wondering whether, as musicians, the most important thing we do is merely to provide a frame for silence. I’m wondering if silence itself is perhaps the mystery at the heart of music? And is silence the most perfect music of all?”

What are you doing with the “spaces between” in your life?