Archive for July, 2012

Are You Out of Your Right Mind?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

imagesIf you are talented, hardworking and ambitious – why aren’t you in the career position or business that truly actualizes you? What has gone wrong with the way you manage your work life? Why are so many people ignoring you, turning you down or letting you go?

If it’s happened once or twice in your life – that you were overlooked for a promotion or downsized out of a company that stayed in business – it’s an anomaly. If you’ve had more experiences of being undervalued and underpaid, then it’s something you are doing. The regrettable behavior is probably unconscious.

There is something wrong with your brain.

Well, not exactly your brain, more like your mind.

In Dr. Daniel Siegel’s new book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, there’s an exquisite discussion about what’s wrong with your neural wiring and synapse firing. The good news is, you can fix this, if you are truly motivated. Your brain remains elastic and trainable at any age.

If you’re not motivated by the less than stellar circumstances you’re in now, then you may continue to pound the path from your couch to your refrigerator (with a side trip to your bathroom), through more days, weeks or years of mediocrity or worse, until you are motivated.

By then your personal brand and work history might be sufficiently flawed so there’s no one who feels good about hiring you or recommending you. Motivated now?

Check up from the neck up! A good guess is you’re failing to manage your prefrontal lobe functions. That would be the part of your brain that forms your mindset under stress, including:

1. Bodily regulation – breathing, eating and sleeping properly

2. Attuned communication – intentionally listening to other people who are experiencing events that you share with them

3. Emotional balance – managing how you act despite your internal mood spikes or swings

4. Response flexibility – being able to choose how you respond, before you impulsively speak or act

5. Fear modulation – distinguishing the magnitude of concern that’s reasonable during a rebuke from your boss versus being jumped on by a tiger

6. Empathy – appreciating how others must see and perceive experiences differently than you do

7. Insight – understanding what might trigger your over-the-top reaction to situations that other people handle more smoothly

8. Moral awareness – taking stock of what’s good for everyone before you take action with only yourself in mind

9. Intuition – accessing your wisdom based on what has happened in the past

Get Out of Your Own Way – Or We Will

Your business or career may be drowning in a sea of your own unconstructive yet overpowering emotions, moods, desires, physical sensations, and self-absorption. Even if we like you personally, at work we don’t want to deal with people who are difficult, argumentative, unyielding, selfish, aggressive or tiresome.

RX: Act Better

Change your behavior – even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable to do things differently. Try to surprise yourself with your concern for other people, your interest in their well-being, and your acting as if something greater and more precious than your ego, opinion or impulse matter.

There is still time for you to succeed, but only if you’re in your right mind.

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Why Compassion Pays Big

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

scientificamericanmind0712-9b-I1If you watch enough reality TV, political debates or just follow the lead stories in the news – you come to believe that hate sells. You would be right. Hate like violence is fascinating to watch, from a distance.

Take crime shows. You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a CSI crime scene, but it sure is fascinating to watch murder and violence on TV.

Scathing, scorched earth rhetoric accompanied by down and dirty destruction is absolutely compelling, as long as you’re not the one being ripped or ripped off.

Case in point: house inspector Mike Holmes’ HGTV show. He goes in to a damaged home and rips apart the reputation of the first house inspector. The first guy must have been a total idiot or worse, because Mike finds mold, water damage and assorted critters living among the debris behind the walls of homes sold to the duped or dim buyers. You’re awash with shock and misery about dangerous wiring and icy cold basements and heartened when Mike demolishes someone else’s handiwork.

In business, we’re just as fascinated by the cutthroat, anything-for-another-dollar mentality.

You couldn’t get better ratings for saying, “You’re fired!” than The Apprentice’s Donald Trump.

Consider why the crowd cheered when Republican candidate Willard Mitt Romney declared, “I like being able to fire people!” Hint: they must have secure employment at someone else’s company.

Or how HP’s Meg Whitman filled shareholders with hope, with one stunning firing of 27,000 people!

Abject disregard for people’s feeling or wellbeing is fascinating. The Kardashians make a fine living with exactly that.

But don’t forget – that ruthless disregard is only compelling if you are separated from it by a screen or a better job offer. Then enjoy.

Compassion – The New Business Model

In a new book, Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us, social psychologist David DeSteno details a number of studies that show people will act generously when they are proximate to someone who is acting with compassion. If they feel some attempt to find common ground – even with someone who otherwise cheats – they will act with compassion toward them.

Yes. People will be forthcoming with their money, their time, their information and more, if you show them compassion for them. Think about that the next time you interview for a job, pitch a new client, chat up an investor or ask anyone for anything you need.

How about showing up prepared to be compassionate as well as articulate?

Sure there are tricks that subliminally telegraph commonality. You can breathe in the same rhythm they do and mirror their body positions. You can assume their gestures and even echo their voice intonation or speech pattern.

But I like it old school.

If I meet you, I like finding common ground with you. I’m sure that as humans we are fundamentally alike, if I get the time to get to know you. I like hearing your stories and yes, even feeling your pain. I want to understand your real concerns, including what you fear will happen next if you don’t solve a problem gnawing at you.

It’s only then that I can figure out if I can help you, and by then if we like each other.

Remember: people buy from people. It’s not the genius solution that makes buyers buy. It’s the show of compassion and the feeling of common ground that ignite the trust that must be in place before anyone signs a contract and wire transfers the payment to your account.

And that feels good.

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Changing Anything Starts with Changing Something

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

money-graphics-2007_880151aIn their new book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, Kerry Patterson and co-authors discuss the three dimensions in your life that merit scrutiny as you seek to do better in your life, business or career.

The three dimensions are:

1. Personal

2. Social

3. Structural

The need for change

As you do what it takes to reach a higher level of achievement and satisfaction, you must cast off some beliefs, people, practices, and even places that have been bringing you down. You’re also going to need to add in some extras that you might never thought you needed.

This is a bit like the Keith Richard myth/truth that in order to pass a drug test, the ye old Rolling Stone had his blood exchanged. He’s both denied that and admitted it, so even if it’s half-truth – he passed the test and we suspect something changed to accomplish it.

Perhaps the most painful finding in Change Anything’s scientific look at successful change, is the notion that you are going to have to exchange your friends for better ones. There’s good evidence that bad behavior is contagious.

For example, obese people typically have obese friends, and they all didn’t start out that way. It’s just that over time, they engaged in activities together – like lots of eating and an equal or greater amount of sitting – that did them in. And, because people naturally compare themselves with their peers, well, if you’re about as out of shape as everyone you know then you are NORMAL. At least when you’re in that group.

The real surprise about career or business success, is that lack of achievement is akin to engaging in poor eating and exercise habits. That is, if you’re with friends who all complain about their bosses, their companies, their clients and their colleagues, well: you’re going to do the same. And no complainer does well, except among other complainers.

So consider your situation. If everyone you know is unemployed or underemployed, then you are likely to be as well. If not now, then just watch the clock. Your time will come.

First step to moving forward

Check your friends and see if they are accomplices in spiraling you downward – or more like coaches who encourage and support your ascent upward.

–       Are your friends enjoying cultural events?

–       Are your friends abusing substances?

–      Are your friends putting aside money while they’re employed, so they can start a business on their own in the near future?

–       Are your friends buying video games or shoes with every extra dollar they have?

The questions can go deeper and wider, but you get the drift. If you look around and see people who don’t reflect where you want to be – who aren’t go-getters, and lemonade-from-lemons kind of people – then consider putting some distance between them and you.

Your transformation may not be as difficult or dramatic as Keith Richards, but remember his buddy and band mate Mick Jagger graduated from the London School of Economics. Not bad company to keep.

Now what’s your next step? How about starting with a friend inventory and performance evaluation? Then take remedial action. Sound harsh? It’s nothing compared to going nowhere with them.

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Oh My Stars! YouTube Style

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

girlsintechYouTube’s Next Up stars are an elite group of lip-dubbing, indie-band interviewing, and action-comedy producing grassroots talent pulling in okay bucks from not only YouTube’s partners program, but also a cash prize that came from making the Next Up list.

No one is suggesting that being a YouTube phenomenon is a good job. Or, that it’s easy. Or that it’s anything other than an aspiration with worse odds than earning a spot in the NBA.

Plus, your parents weren’t hoping for this. I promise. Not with that geology degree from MIT. Or even State. Or wherever you went and whatever you got the day you graduated.

Yet, consider the field of competition for a paltry return on effort. Hard to imagine but true: your average three minute upload competes with 72 hours of other video uploads added to YouTube every minute.  Every minute.  72 hours of video. My calculator makes that 103,680 hours of new content uploaded each day.

Good luck on your cuddly cats sleeping with their arms outstretched!

No wonder no one can pay off their student loans.

The YouTube payoff

YouTube’s Next Up is akin to winning the poor man’s lottery. That is, this lottery rains down a mere $35,000 (cash – no strings!) and the right to keep producing content in your bedroom. I believe this would put winners close to the poverty line, albeit in a self-employed occupation with low overhead.

But, a YouTuber does not live by winnings alone. These self-made stars are reportedly among the “hundreds” who earn around six figures from an intense commitment to their art and their audiences.

Thinking you’re going to be a thousand-aire from YouTube might lead you to produce a clip as good as “Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song,” which also netted it author Jimmy Wong a moment on NPR to explain himself.

It appears that YouTube is to paid content as Ebay is to paid stuff you want to get out of your parents’ garage. It takes nearly 3 shifts a day everyday to monitor and prod this income producer along, but it’s worth it because you may need that garage longer than you’d hoped, and are starting to think about living more spaciously with better insulation.

So, really! What is the lesson to be learned about your own personal branding, given the relative success of the Next Up stars?

These talents have

“worked their way up from small audiences with whom they tend to interact directly on the site’s comments boards… Building audience is a challenge.. It means the audience actively and intimates creates its stars,” per the New York Times magazine article profiling these heroic achievers.

On your personal brand

On sites like LinkedIn and other places like your blog: what are you doing to produce and push content that stands out from the clutter of other people who are trying to gain the attention of the same audience you are? That audience might be recruiters, employers, prospective clients, referral sources, new partners, or maybe even investors.

How are you interacting with these audiences once you’ve netted a comment or a link?

Is your web presence what you do? Or is your web presence something that you have?

The world and its fortunes large and small will go to people who earn their personal brands everyday, the hard way. By working it – putting great stuff out there, shopping around for where your audience is, and attracting them to go see your stuff. Use every social media and networking form you can try. Stick with those that seem to need you. Ask them to like you. And show how much you value them.

You might be next up for the next great job, promotion, project or capital investment.

But before you are next up? You’ve got to show up.

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