Let me teach you the best of what I know when it comes to building a happy and productive career and lifestyle! My blog posts contain the best insights and lessons-learned from my years as a corporate strategist, product management leader in the high tech software industry and yoga teacher. I’m also drawing on my current insights as an Executive Coach for leaders at top-notch tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and numerous startups.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, pauses for a moment to ponder a question he is asked, lets out a relaxed breath and says “I don’t know anything.”
A chuckle ensues, which then ripples into roaring laughter throughout the audience. After a moment of stillness, he begins to speak, and the words that flow from his mouth are dead-on perfect in addressing the question. What he said was exactly matched to what this audience, at the Vancouver Peace Summit many years ago, needed to hear. The content of the question and answer are not relevant for this post, it was the manner in which the question was replied that is insightful.
It’s as if the Dalai Lama’s statement of “I don’t know anything” both enabled him to access a deeper source of authentic wisdom and creativity, while simultaneously putting the audience at ease and in a more receptive mood.
Or perhaps, His Holiness is showing us an even more powerful lesson than the eventual answer he provided, one of how to tap into our own inner power?
Is admitting you don’t know something, a key to accessing a deeper source of wisdom and creativity?
There is no doubt in my mind that multitasking, that seemingly harmless ability to juggle multiple distractions and projects at once, is secretly waging war against your career and holds the potential to ruin your life as a result.
In a world that increasingly values depth and expertise, multitasking is keeping too many people from building up the levels of focus and concentration needed to make the breakthroughs that society and their careers require.
It’s not just that multitasking is a significant drag on productivity (up to a 40% productivity hit for someone juggling multiple complex problems). It’s that the world, and many of the products and services we love, are being designed to keep us from turning our attention to the things that matter.
This post is intended to lay out what’s at stake when it comes to multitasking, why you should care, and what to do about it.
Yesterday I decided to go on a social media detox.
The idea occurred to me as I was driving back from a bucolic 25-mile trail run in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For the duration of my five-hour adventure, I was disconnected from the pings and pulls of the social world. My respite ended abruptly. In the middle of my run, my cell phone came alive with reception (1-bar!) and a “ping” rang out. My device, hungry for attention, cried out. I promptly stopped running and pulled out my phone to see what was going on.
Then, the absurdity of my situation struck.
Returning home, I removed all social media from my phone, and also resolved to test a specific hypothesis:
By radically reducing my engagement with social media, I will not miss anything of substance and will simultaneously improve my capacity to enjoy life and do work that matters.
If I didn’t sit at my desk and start writing this post, using pen and paper first thing in the morning, it wouldn’t have happened. My computer is turned off. My TV is off. My phone is on but silenced and resting on the living room table. I have no newspaper to read. My dog, patiently waiting for his morning pets, is also tuned out.
Nothing is distracting me, and yet, I feel a tug in my mind to check Facebook. I do wonder how many people visited my blog yesterday. Randomly, ideas pop into my head that I feel compelled to add to my reminders list on the computer. How far shall I run today? I resist the pull of these thoughts.
I’m ignoring all the distractions, not for the sake of productivity. I’m doing it for another reason. To sit with boredom to get to what’s on the other side, my own original ideas and thoughts.
There is a benefit that comes from being bored. It’s both undervalued and obvious.
There are lots of people (and books and products) out there claiming that they can teach you how to be successful, wealthy, better-looking or intelligent. I don't think those are the right things to pursue. They are outcomes that are very hard to control.
Instead, you will have better experiences and more joy if you approach things with a desire to be useful. Let me explain this idea in two different contexts: your health and career.
Grit is an underappreciated trait that I’m convinced has more to do with success and achievement than talent or luck. I distinguish grit from its cousins, hard work and effort.
If you read any of my writing, you know I’m not a fan of the term “hard work.” It conjures up everything I despise about what it means to make a living and what it takes to be successful.
People use “hard work” as an excuse people use to push themselves hard, regardless whether an outcome is desirable to not. Hard work I consider to the application of extreme effort against a consistent plan. Things, however, rarely go as planned. I also find that hard work is often done in pursuit of someone else’s dream. I don’t consider this a good thing.
After all, if you are putting in proper effort to pursue your dreams, would you call that “hard work”? I wouldn’t.
You’ll see me write a bunch of stuff for the foreseeable future, starting with the month of May. Some of my writing will be formal and “blog post worthy”. Much of it will be meandering streams of consciousness.
I’ve known that the way to improve in anything is to do just do it and do it often. Since I want to be a better writer, I’m committed to writing more.
If you listen to social media and the prevailing wisdom of water-cooler chatter, which I hope you don’t, you would think that the path to living an exceptional life is paved by hard work, toil and sacrificing yourself to achieve gain down the road.
Instead, focus on the things society tells you are important. Make more money, climb the corporate ladder, adopt a bigger title, and eventually, success will follow. If the promotions are elusive, just start your own company and instantly become CEO!
Then, in your old age, enjoy as many marshmallows as possible! Assuming you make it that far.
How to achieve this thing called “success”?
Conventional wisdom will say: “work hard.”
Trying that still not getting results?
Well then, “work harder” your peers (or boss) might say!
This is the party line. It’s especially true if, like I used to be, you are surrounded by motivated and successful professionals and working in a fast-paced industry. If you work in the tech industry, aside from the unicorn firm that has embraced a different work culture, a hard work ethos is likely ingrained.
This blog post is all about self-care, and how it can help you reclaim your life and counter-intuitively improve your capacity to be of even bigger service to the world.
It’s a tricky question and one that I find impossible to answer with any sort of precision. There are lots of things that create happiness, sometimes, but not always. Ice cream. Taking Duke (my dog) for a walk. Running (slowly) on trails. Coffee. House of Cards. They all spark joy at times. Other times they don’t. Therefore, I enjoy those things but don’t consider them consistent sources of happiness (though spending time with Duke is almost always the one exception).
It’s easier for me to identify the few things that make me consistently unhappy, and by eradicating those things from my daily, bring about happiness in a reductionist sort of way.
This is the art of negative thinking, also referred to as "via negativa" in Nassim Taleb's book "Antifragile."
This post will examine how to use this way of thinking to find greater happiness, in a reductionist way.
Hard work can pay off for a time. Eventually, however, hard work will just get you stuck and keep you there.
I’ve noticed more and more people in the interwebs talking about the merits of hard work. Just a few years ago, it seems like everyone was talking about how to #hack your way to success by working less. Tim Ferris’s “The Four Hour” empire ushered in the era of optimal minimalism in all areas, especially with regards to work and health.
Now, I’m noticing more and more blogs and posts by people I follow espousing the merits of hard work. Perhaps it’s to be expected that the pendulum would swing back the other way.
In Proverbs 29:18 it is said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Numerous studies show that goal setting works and intrinsically links to increasing motivation. There is also an arsenal of self-help books and blogs (including this one!) that will teach how to set goals.
Why then, do so many people have a difficult time figuring out what they want? I am not just talking about long-term visionary goals, like what they want their legacy to be or what they want their business impact to be over the long-term. I’m talking about even near-term desires, like what to eat for dinner, what exercise to do or what movie to watch.
My trip last week into the mountains, a short two-night ski trip to our usual Nordic Ski trails, was looking more and more inconvenient the closer it got.
Skiing is good fun, even if it is of the aerobically-inclined Nordic variety that I often do. Unfortunately, I had a backlog of work and tax preparation that required a quiet weekend at home to plow through. I was on the verge of canceling the trip, something we booked months in advance.
Canceling would have been easy and logical. AirBNB would let me do it without penalty, even a few days before departure. Nobody was depending on me to head into the hills, and my wife was ambivalent about going too. I didn’t have to worry about letting others down. It would have been easy just to stay home.
Everyone runs into a barrier at some point in life.
The car gets a flat tire. The co-worker throws a fit. The internet is slow. A loved one passes away. There is nothing to watch on Netflix. The cookies didn’t turn out as planned. The flight is canceled. The dream job didn’t turn out as expected.
The obstacle might be significant. The obstacle might be more appropriately considered a nuisance. Or somewhere in between.
Regardless of the size, obstacles exist and are inevitable.
You can also overcome obstacles, with the right mindset.
This blog post explores this opportunity we all have to turn trials into triumph.
It might not be an easy one to make every day, particularly if you hate your job, but it still is something we can choose, regardless of circumstance.
I am not talking about positive self-talk and affirmations. I am not talking about ignoring the terrible situations you might be putting up with right now. I am also not talking about wearing rose-colored glasses during your work day.
What I am referring to is the innate capacity we all have to see problems as solutions waiting to happen and to see the inherent benefit in any obstacle you might face as possessing a powerful opportunity for learning.
It is pretty hard to be upset and unhappy when you are learning. It is, even more, difficult to be ticked off when you see a problem as a solution waiting to happen.
Let’s explore this idea of being happy at work, examine what scientific evidence there is regarding it and clarify some ways to make your job a more joyful experience than it already is.
I’ve met a few Navy SEALs, and even worked with one who transitioned to the corporate world. However, I never had the chance to meet a particular Navy SEAL, who had inspired and amazed me since following his exploits online starting in 2006.
His name is David Goggins.
In this blog post, I share my learning from following his exploits and what it means to set bigger goals in life.
We are all capable of accomplishing more than we think is possible. To reach our potential, we first need to want to do so!
That's how much information research shows that a typical adult faces every day.
This information is coming through conversations with people we meet, things we read and shows we watch. With this deluge of data coming at us, it is no surprise that one’s ability to focus is a vital skill.
This blog post is all about focus, training your attention and learning proven strategies to overcome distraction at work.