Archive for November, 2014

Caution: Giving Thanks Can Be Self-Defeating

Friday, November 28th, 2014


In the US, the upcoming national holiday is called Thanksgiving, which infers you should be thanking someone for something you valued. Thanks for what?

None of us are the original Pilgrims and very few of us are having dinner with Native Americans, who deserve a whole lot more than thanks. You may be sitting down to eat with your family and close friends or perhaps you are doing a pot luck with acquaintances or even having an HGTV marathon alone. I’m not sure it matters, except to say that I hope you’re doing what you want to do and eating what you want to eat.

In effect, most of us have morphed this holiday into a day off from work and discounted shopping.

I say this with some regret, because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love to cook the meal, decorate the house, and generally treat family and friends (and a few strays who have no where to go) to a festive day.  I have a ritual where I clean for a week, get the house organized and buy a few new things to spruce up the place.

In other words, Thanksgiving is a luxury for me. I focus intensely on something other than work and school.

So however it is you take this day, I hope it’s the same kind of joyful destination for you. In other words:

Let Thanksgiving be whatever YOU want it to mean.

I think a fixed day and time for gratitude may be dangerous. Similar to a day of religious confession, atonement or writing in your gratitude journal every morning: a forced ritual of emotional work can suck the meaning out of your life.

The scientific literature now shows that being grateful lowers your blood pressure and is a good stress reliever. So, certainly I don’t recommend against feeling grateful. Gratitude is a great way to reframe negative experiences. It’s a way of getting over trauma. Gratitude gives you a way to acknowledge and leverage what happened in a positive way, since you learned a lot from a bad experience. But you don’t want to try to feel grateful before you have digested what happened and expressed how you felt about it.

Do be careful about manufacturing gratitude in the face of bad circumstances or to people who aren’t really rooting for you. Be sensitive to your true feelings and express them. Then, you may genuinely feel like you have want to express gratitude for the learning or growth you have experienced, and the people who really helped you.

And, when you are ready to be grateful and give thanks: make sure to include yourself at the very top of the list. You have been there for you all along.

Have a great day doing what you want to do: eat, sleep, binge watch or indulge in a favorite book or hobby. I’ll be doing the day my way, and thanking the people who help clean up!

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What Your Lack of Personal Intelligence Costs You

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Sad-person-at-desk1When people think about lowering their bills, a lot of small purchases become suspect. Your daily Starbucks habit, at $32 per gallon if you calculated it that way, is an easy mark. A lot of people cut the cable, start eating most meals at home and buy a space heater rather than warm up the whole house.

It’s always a good idea to take a look at where you are throwing money away, and cut back where you can. But the real savings isn’t in these incremental differences between small, affordable luxuries and no luxury at all.

Stop thinking small. You’ve got a much bigger expense hiding in plain sight.

Your lack in personal intelligence is costing you a fortune.

Your lack of self-understanding and self-worth is what undermine your salary, when you accepted less than what you deserved or needed. A raft of mistaken beliefs about yourself created your blind spot, which obscures your future prospects.

You likely have never even seen someone with personal intelligence. Most people are walking around with an unexplored consciousness, so how would you have known what you are missing?

On a daily basis you fail to leverage your largest asset – what you have made of yourself.

Every one of us is self-made.

That truth often brings groans of dismay from my audiences. After all, if you can’t blame your boss, your co-workers, your student loans or anything else: who gets responsibility for what you fail to achieve or reap?

Sure other people have undervalued you and even trash-talked you. After all, like your first language: you had to learn it somewhere. Typically your disconnection from yourself starts at home when you’re young – not because your parents were malevolent. It starts because they worry for your safety, your health, your happiness and their own peace of mind. They communicate all that or simply fail to praise you, for as long as you are present there.

Then, when you leave, you never leave behind the self-image you built there. You are filled with self-doubt, worry, and a general lack of self-confidence, because you rarely if ever heard anyone say:

Wow! You are the best. You are loved. You are right.

Unbury the treasure that is you. Here’s how to start.

Yell STOP, anytime you’re giving yourself a dose of negativity. Yes, you can “yell” silently. Read stories about people you admire and compare yourself favorably. Yes, you and Angelina Jolie are both concerned about helping people. Yes, you and Lady Gaga both look good in a wig. You and President Obama like to enjoy bourbon now and then.

When you consciously raise your estimation of who you are, you raise ours. With that reappraisal, you raise your prospects for compensation, promotion and opportunity.

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Start Your Naughty List Now

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

good_versus_badHow could it be coming on the end of the year? Where did this year go? Is that how you feel?

Are you looking back and thinking where did you go wrong?

Do you have a sense that this year could have been so much bigger for you?

If you are looking back with some regret, with lingering doubts that you did your best: there is a solution.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to PLAN for the coming one. Take out a big sheet of paper and mark down the milestones you will reach. Write down the actions that you must get to. Imagine what can happen when a fresh new calendar is awaiting you.

There’s only one catch. You must acknowledge what you meant to have happen this year. You have to account for what got in the way. It’s time to write an annual naughty list, so you only reward and move forward with the nice.

If you want to avoid repeating the same patterns that led you astray from your goals, it’s time to take a hard look at what- and who – didn’t work for you this year.

I am sorry that blame has become a synonym for self-righteousness. It’s ridiculous that we don’t value pinpointing the people or processes that were the inflection points of failure. I dislike the trend that no one bears any responsibility for water that has gone over the bridge, milk has been spilt and dreams have been dashed.

I prefer to look failure in the eye and get really granular with who got in the way. Of course, sometimes it’s just the woman (or man) in the mirror.  But, sometimes it was a friend, partner, boss, client, or subordinate who just made progress too hard.

This is a good time to ask:

  • who got in your way?
  • Who needs to be crossed off your holiday gift and email list?
  • Who needs to be reassigned and taken out of your collaboration circles or team?
  • Whose opinion needs to be unsolicited this coming year?
  • Who dropped the ball, took too much time and otherwise just didn’t perform?

If you are going to be an A player, you need to be with A players. You can be friends with everyone, but your closest circle needs to be red hot with motivation, aspirations, and the ability to work hard – especially when the road is rocky.

Take a quiet moment. Make your assessments. Use your judgment. Then decide what next year is going to be made of – including the people and processes on which you will depend.

Then give thanks you, get another year to do better and go bigger.

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Today’s Very Bad Rap On Millennials’ Reputation

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

BA-BB758_Millen_G_20130426235731Harvard University Institute of Politics reports that most Millennials will not bother to vote in the midterm elections. According to Fox News, Millennials are too busy “looking hot” or “depending on the government” to vote, and they should be discouraged from going to the polls to vote for their interests.

Millennials? Could this be true? The generation who experienced the 2008 economic collapse perhaps harder than any other, along with the unending costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? You are going to be no-shows at the polls? The Millennials  – who will suffer the legacy of those decisions for the rest of your lives – you are NON-voters?

In perhaps the oddest reaction to the potential power of the Millennial vote, Fox News hosts have been actively discouraging young women from going to the polls for the midterm elections. Fox News host Jesse Watters referred to female Millennials as “the Beyoncé voters, the single ladies.” In an unanswered slur to young women, he said, “You know, they depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. They need things like contraception, health care, and they love to talk about equal pay.”

“The Five” co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle discouraged young women from participating in elections and serving on juries. “Young women on juries are not a good idea,” she said. “They don’t get it! They’re not in the same, like, life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, health care.”

States are taking away voting access from urban city dwellers and students at universities away from home. They have moved polling places out of densely populated areas where young people tend to live, and into suburban areas where the family-centric voters are.

This bad rap on Millennials’ voting is intolerable.

You are being run off and counted out because your interests don’t jive with those who have already gotten theirs – and don’t want your voice heard. There’s fear about your potential to vote your interests.

Most Millennials need fair and equitable pay for yourself. You might need a strong working class and middle class, if for no other reason than these are the folks who buy stuff. You probably need clean energy and investment in infrastructure: because when the old folks are gone, you will be breathing the air, drinking the water and crossing the bridges and roads that are now crumbling. You’ll be living out whether radical climate change is science or not.

Don’t believe the bad news about yourself. Show up and vote your interests. It’s what the old folks did in their day, and they shouldn’t have the last word on your future.

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