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Cope or Control (That is the Question)

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013


Stress is bad, right?

Bad for your health, bad for your relationships, bad for your life.

Or is it?

Actually stress can be a positive motivator.

So perhaps it’s not stress, but how we handle it.

The article may be looking at kids, but kids grow up to be adults and genetic traits come along for the ride.

One particular gene, referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable, or in the memorable phrasing of David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, more of a warrior.

Granted, the researchers were looking at short-term, i.e., competitive stress, but the solution was still the same as it is for stress that lasts longer. (The COMT gene also has a major impact on interviewing.)

They found a way to cope.

For many people stress is the result of losing control.

But if there is anything experience should have taught you by a very early age is that you can’t control your world; not even a tiny part of it.

I learned that lesson as a child of five when my father died and nothing ever happened after that to change my mind.

If you put your energy into controlling stuff to avoid stress you are bound to fail.

Energy spent on control is energy wasted.

Energy focused on coping provides exceptional ROI.

Flickr image credit: Eamon Curry

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Ducks in a Row: Give Thanks

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010


Thanksgiving is about excess. Excessive food, excessive drink and excessive appreciation.

We give loud and exuberant thanks for all sorts of things at work and at home—people, actions, happenings, things, stuff—a lot of which we take for granted the rest of the year.

Why not take a different path this year and give your loud and exuberant thanks every day starting Thursday (or today if you are ready).

Offer thanks for the little things as well as those that loom large and make sure the thanks are sincere.

Appreciate the good stuff and the not so good, since our best personal growth often springs from how we handle the negatives.

Reach out, instead of waiting to be approached.

Give the people in your world the benefit of the doubt as well as the benefit of your experience.

Give others the spotlight and be thankful when they rise to the occasion—even if it takes some prodding.

Put away your thoughts of quid pro quo and what’s in it for me.

Do it for the next 365 days and I guarantee that your 2011 Thanksgiving will be the most amazing one of your life.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

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Derek Sivers @ TED

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Saturday I recommended spending some of your valuable time on TED, so I thought I’d offer a sample of it that I really liked.

Derek Sivers received a standing ovation for his 3 minute talk on leadership using the video below.

Too often people over focus on the moving pictures, so be sure to pay full attention to what Sivers is saying in conjunction with what is happening in the video.

Because the words are so important you can read a transcript at Siver’s site (along with other good stuff). I hope you take a moment to do so.

I’m not backing down on my contention that leadership is for all, but I completely agree that everyone can’t be leaders simultaneously and that following is just as important, if not more so.

Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:
It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.
There is no movement without the first follower.
We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.
The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.
When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Image credit: dereksivers on YouTube

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How to Kill Initiative 1

Friday, February 12th, 2010

questions“What’s more important to you, being right or winning?”

That is what I asked a caller today.

“Frank” has been sequestered on jury duty for several weeks and when he returned to work he found that right after he left his team was assigned a new project and they were just finishing.

Frank said that the project had gone well, was on time and in budget, but he was upset that they had used a different approach from the one he preferred.

That’s when I asked, “What’s more important to you, being right or winning?”

You’d think that was an easy answer, but I was met first with silence and then with multiple reasons proving his approach was better.

He agreed that on time/in budget was a win, but still felt they should have done it his way.

So I ask you, “What’s more important, being right or winning?”

Image credit: immrchris on sxc.hu

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Feel younger, Have More Time

Monday, December 28th, 2009

thunder-boltDo you get a lot of spam? Mine is well filtered, but I still have to glance through the junk file to be sure that nothing important was inadvertently caught.

If spam is any guide it seems that Americans sex and meds dominate the American psyche.

Recently I noticed this subject line: Feel 10 years younger in bed today. I’m sure you can guess what product was being hyped.

However, that’s not what hit me and I’ll bet most of you will agree with my reaction—I’d much rather feel 10 years younger out of bed.

Around this time of year I hear from a lot of people looking for answers to the question: How do I keep going? And I’ve heard variations year in and year out, whether the economy is up or down.

Most of the people who ask aren’t down or depressed; rather they are in jobs they like, in line for, or just gotten, a promotion, have kids they are proud of, spouses they love, but still they ask.

They ask because they are tired, not exhausted, but tired, mentally and physically.

So much to do in too few hours; so many balls to keep in the air.

So a pill that made people feel 10 years younger would be worth billions.

There is no pill, but there is something that helps—declutter.

Not your home, but your world.

Prioritize. Decide what truly matters to you and how that fits with others in your world.

Once you have your list start eliminating everything that’s not a true priority.

I’m usually told that they’ve done all that, but it turns out they still Twitter, spend a couple of hours on Facebook and follow hundreds of blogs,

When I hear this I tell them to start again at the beginning and use the thunderbolt screening method. That means looking at each item and deciding if you’ll be struck by a thunderbolt if you stop doing whatever.

For example, you are more likely to be hit with one if you miss your daughter’s soccor game than if you read your email a couple of hours later or don’t update your Facebook wall.

I’m not being fatuous, I’ve seen folks who had them reversed.

If you have trouble with ruthlessness give me a call at 866. 265.7267 or email miki@rampupsolutions.com and I’ll be happy to help.

Tomorrow is my last post and the end of Leadership Turn, so if you enjoy my views and writing don’t forget to bookmark MAPping Company Success or subscribe via RSS or EMAIL.

Image credit: idarknight on flickr

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Ducks In A Row: Noticing the Obvious

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowMany times the solutions we seek are waltzing around in full sight, but we don’t see them.  Let me give you a personal example.

I started RampUp Solutions in 1997, but finding a simple way to describe what we did took several years.

In the show Gypsy there’s a song that says, “Ya gotta have a gimmick” to succeed and I doubt that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

I wanted one clear, concise term that gave insight to RampUp’s coaching approach, not a couple of paragraphs—no matter how well written.

When the light finally went on I had to laugh. The term I settled on was MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and the humor comes from the fact that I’ve been talking about mindset, attitude and philosophy my whole life—even using those terms.

But formalizing it never crossed my mind, which just goes to show how blind we can be.

There’s a reason ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’ achieved the status of an adage more than a century ago.

Some people are focused on trees, while others have the opposite problem and focus strictly on the forest—neither offers optimal performance.

In my case it didn’t matter that much, sure, it would have been easier to create the company’s marketing messages, but it didn’t cripple us.

However, if your forests are made of people then it’s critical that you see them both.

It’s only by seeing your people as both individuals and collectively as a team that you can recognize the obvious solutions you miss when you focus on just one view.

Since Leadership Turn is ending December 29 I’ve been encouraging you to click over and follow me at MAPping Company Success.

Ducks in a Row will continue every Tuesday; check out Why ‘Cracked Pots’ are Good For Your Team and you’ll know why you should subscribe via RSS or EMAIL.

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Image credit:  ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

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Quotable Quotes: Change

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

changeAs you probably know by now there is change afoot at Leadership Turn. Specifically it’s ending, as all good things end, and that means change for me and you.

But that’s good.

As Harold Wilson said, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

Edwards Deming said it more simply, “It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.”

Well, I plan to survive and we sure aren’t dead, so change it is.

When change hits have you noticed how much energy people expend looking for reasons not to change? John Kenneth Galbraith said it best, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

I don’t mind big changes, such as moving from California to Washington, but I hate changing little stuff, especially personnel changes in the companies with which I frequently deal.

When that resistance kicks in I remind myself of something I read years ago—if nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. Good thought—change as metamorphosis.

Pauline R. Kezer said, “Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”

Kurt Lewin opines, “If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.” Boy, is that true.

But it is John Lilly who really understands what change means, “Our only security is our ability to change.”

Change should be embraced, even when you’re not sure what it will bring.

Since b5 notified me the Leadership Turn was ending I’ve wondered what the change would mean to me. Will you migrate to MAPping Company Success and continue inspiring me to explore articles I read and share my off-the-wall ideas? Will you read a blog that doesn’t have ‘leadership’ in the name?  What will I do with the extra time?

What kind of butterflies will this change bring?

You can answer some of these questions by subscribing today via RSS or EMAIL.

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Image credit: David Reece on flickr

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What Do You Choose?

Friday, December 18th, 2009

feed-the-animalsLife is about choices; we make choices every day that affect not only the immediate subject, but also those around us and our future.

Sometimes we don’t even notice the choices we make, but that doesn’t change the size of their effect.

The following is a teaching fable that has been around in various forms for years.

An old man told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “The battle is between the two animals that live inside us all.

One is Evil—it is made of anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good—it is joy, peace, love, authenticity, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, and compassion.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wins the battle?”

The old man replied, “The one you feed.”

It is with your choices, not just the conscious ones, but all of them, that you feed the beasts.

You can never rid yourself of all the traits that comprise either the evil or the good beast, but you can control their size, frequency and intensity.

It’s your choice.

Leadership Turn is ending; its last day is December 29. I’ve enjoyed writing it and our interaction since August 16, 2007 and I hope we can continue at my other blog.

If you enjoy my views and writing, please join me at MAPping Company Success or subscribe via RSS or EMAIL.

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Image credit: Joe Shlabotnik on flickr

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Quotable Quotes: Universal Russian Proverbs

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

RussiaToday was a super cool day for me. I met my Russian business partner Nick Mikhailovsky, CEO of NTR Lab, for the first time, although we’ve worked together for a decade.

So when I started thinking about today’s quotes Russia was on my mind. And when I think of Russia I think of proverbs.

I find proverbs to be fascinating proof that no matter the color, culture or time there really is only one race on this planet—human.

The basic concepts of human action and interaction span the globe. In fact, I’ll bet that your culture has a saying that embodies the same concepts as these do.

War has been around as long as the human race as has the desire for peace, which only proves the truth of this proverb, “Eternal peace lasts only until the next war.”

Common sense underlies this proverb, “as long as the sun shines one does not ask for the moon,” but people rarely follow it.

Real Estate people are fond of saying that the there are only three things that matter, location, location, location, but I’ll bet that this proverb predates that by decades, if not longer. “Don’t buy the house, buy the neighborhood.”

It is well know that age is no guarantee of wisdom, knowledge or smarts, but “long whiskers cannot take the place of brains” is a more elegant way of saying it.

My next offering is one that has always been true, but has been proven in spades over the last couple of decades. “With lies you may go ahead in the world – but you can never go back.” Bernie Madoff has decades to think that one over.

“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.” This is one that all of us need to take to heart. We need to find out about our politicians, financial managers, corporate chieftains, religious leaders and any others we choose to trust.

Speaking of politicians, we should never forget that “when money speaks, the truth is silent” and we have condoned a culture of political silence.

There is a universal applicability and truth in this proverb, “When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.”

Maybe the reason for the universality of these thoughts is found in my final offering, “Proverbs are the people’s wisdom.”

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Image credit: Ed Yourdon on flickr

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Good Enough?

Friday, December 11th, 2009

enoughI often do work around my house, fixing, redoing and maintaining stuff, as do most of us.

When I moved and bought this house in March 2003 I found that every time it rained water ran under the garage door. Typically, I’m a jerry-rigger, especially fixing stuff around my home, but I thought I would do it “right” this time.

Over the next few years I spent over a thousand dollars on drywells, barriers, etc., but was still getting water under the door.

Having run out of affordable do-it-right options, I went back to jerry-rigging and usd a clear, vinyl shower curtain, tape, and a few bricks—no water under the door since then and I just check the plastic each fall.

This got me thinking, how much is too much?

How “right” does a fix need to be?

How “fixed” does a challenge/problem need to be to count as solved?

Every day we all face a myriad of challenges, any number of which may upgrade (downgrade?) to the status of problem in the blink of an eye, so this isn’t a casual question.

What do you do?

Managers, like the rest of us, have their own routine for evaluating and deciding on solutions, corrections and fixes.

I’m not saying you should change yours, but I am suggesting that you give thought to what end results you really need in order to avoid overkill in your decisions.

In other words: Does it need to be “right” on some cosmic yardstick—or does it just need to work.

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Image credit: TheMuuj on flickr

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