3 States of Being… Yourself

For a while now, articles about self-awareness keep coming across my screen: Everyone needs to be self-aware in order to improve their life. And, this is true. The better you know who you are the easier it is to adapt to the world. However, most of the techniques proffered require time and discipline; something most people just don’t allow themselves. My take on the subject is – I think – more practical and provides faster results.

Without going into the whys and wherefores, the human being exists in 3 states:

  1. Physical Being; this is your physical and physiological self. This part of yourself is the most basic animal part of who you are. It eats, drinks, pees and poos, reproduces, uses the five senses, and so on.
  2. Intellectual Being; this is the thinking and reasoning self. This part of your self (or just “You”), is responsible for abstraction, creativity, calculation, reasoning and such.
  3. Emotional Being; everything you feel deep down inside you, in your heart.

I have met so many people who let their emotions dominate their lives; they are raw. Likewise, I have met – and, am considered to be – people whose bodies exist to just carry around their heads (thanks Rory Sutherland) because they deal with the world from an entirely intellectual point of view. And lastly, I even know of people who go to work with fear in their gut (that’s just nuts, if you ask me). I’m sure you can all see in your mind’s eye people just like these; people dominated by just one state of being. When you live your life out of balance it is often the result of finding refuge in that state of being. It protects you from the world. However, it also keeps you from knowing your true self.

Any self-aware person will be aligned with all 3 states of being. In other words, all 3 “yous” have to been given equal weight. Try it, you’ll like it!

Live your life paying attention to all 3 states of being to find your true self.


The Six-Year-Old Expert

Modern psychology tells us the formative years are between 1 and 6; that’s when our personality develops. Malcolm Gladwell argues that 10,000 hours are required to be proficient. Interestingly, being awake for 5 years equals around 10,000 hours. So I will ask you to use this statement as a working hypothesis:

By the age of 6, you are an expert at being you.

That is about the same time you start going to school, pulling you away from who you are. Some us even get pulled very far away.

Nonetheless, we go through life trying to adapt to the rules and norms which govern our community: studying hard to get a good job, getting a “good job”, marrying the “right person”, starting a family, buying a home, and so on and so forth until we hit middle age, at which time we look back on our life and say, “WTF!….” Some of us have mid-life crisis, blow everything up, by the Porsche,… Basically, we pretend we can have a do over. I say pretend because at one point or another our 6 year old self comes running up behind you and gives you such a swift kick in the pants that you knock yourself flat on your face, start seeing a therapist, and work very hard at reconciling with yourself and the world.

Younger readers will have no idea what I am writing about because you are too immature yet to have experienced any of this. Then again, maybe some of you oldies are too immature to get this as well. No bother. I can’t connect with everyone. Although many of you will.

Back to my argument.

So many people I work with, like so many people I encounter, tell me this story about their lives in their own way. And I look at them in disbelief because I just don’t see my life in that way. I know. Many of you are thinking I must be immature too. Maybe? Read on and make up your own minds, snarky!

If we go back to the beginning of this article and take our working hypothesis ti heart – by the age of six, you are an expert at being you – then a more constructive way of looking back on your life is to see how each and every decision and action you took since you were 6 was motivated by the desire to bring the best possible you to bear on and touch the lives of those you were involved with at that time. To be clear, each interaction was and is an opportunity for you to bring your expertise – you – to benefit your community.

I have a quirky sense of humor so some of you might not appreciate this argument. Sorry. Think back to when you were dating. Often enough we meet people we like and start to see them more frequently. Some times we even feel “love” for them so we say “we love them”. And then, everything goes down the crapper and we don’t know why. In other cases, maybe we end up marrying the person and only many years later do things fall apart. In either situation we don’t really know why. I want to posit a solution:

What you are really feeling is not love for that other person but the irrational exuberance that comes from being free to take your 6 year old self out to play in the world. In other words, that person provides you with circumstances and conditions within which you feel safe enough to give full flight to your expertise, being you. When that irrational exuberance is reduced or diminished in some way you feel anger toward that person for having taken something away from you. The playground was closed so the 6 year old you gets mad.

Does this make sense?

I think it does. I think it explains a great deal.

We like to go toward situations in which we can be the best us possible because it makes us feel valuable to the community with which we are sharing ourselves. We feel sad, or even angry, when that feeling is taken away to one degree or another. And, we simply seek to avoid situations in which we can’t contribute anything of ourselves to the community with whom we come into contact.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense to see all of our choices in life as being driven by the desire to live a full a complete life. Or, as I say, we live our life in order to give expression to that primary motivator which is so important to our sense of identity, our expertise. Your choices about who to be friends with, what to study, your profession, where to live, to have children or not, to share you life with,…are opportunities to be you. They are all opportunities in which you can give expression to your motivator.

In fact, when I work with some of my clients, we often need to identify what exactly that motivator is in their life. When we work on career management, leadership, personal branding, and entrepreneurship to name just a few, knowing what motivates you to see the world as you do is fundamental to differentiation and identification. Here are a few examples:

  • Integrity – everything this gentleman does is driven by his need for integrity in the world, the people, the rules, the roles,…
  • Have your back – this woman is pivoting her existing business to focus on customer care; external and internal clients should feel they matter.
  • Relatability – this musician who to bring people together through his music and events.
  • Love of language – a social media entrepreneur love sculpting messages for their filmmaker clients.
  • Limitations – this marketer helps her clients see and overcome their blind spots.

Tapping into and nurturing that expert 6 year old in you will help you to live a happier and fuller life.

As a leadership coach, I have not met one person who is an effective leader without first being able to lead themselves. Think about. Read all the articles you want. You cannot put someone else’s interests ahead of your own if you are not first able to lead yourself.

If you, or someone you know, wants to identify their motivator please contact me. It is a long and some times difficult journey of self-discovery but one that is oh so rewarding.

3-Hours to Better Leadership

I know it sounds hyperbolic to you because it sounds that way to me. Nonetheless, the work I do with my clients allows me to make such a claim: 3-hours of coaching with me and they leave with a clear vision for their business, and some times for themselves. My method is really very simple.

The typical service consists of 3 one-hour sessions over 3 consecutive weeks, same day of the week, same hour of the day.

Hour 1

The first session starts with the client presenting themselves and their business, after which I present the ROKC™ Methodology which states:

Businesses exist because they own and/or control a asset that be used in a product/service that provides customers with a competitive advantage, that is it reduces their uncertainty of achieving some task. Businesses survive because they puts in place processes and manage risks in such a way as to produce an excess of value to be reinvesting in their future.

The remainder of the session focuses on helping the client understand how ROKC applies to their business.

The client usually leaves with a head full of ideas that challenge the way they understood their business up until then. Their homework for the week is to integrate this new paradigm into their everyday way of thinking and identify the asset underpinning the business.

Hour 2

The second session is dedicated to verifying the asset the client has identified by exploring the different alternatives available to them. Often enough we are able to agree on one before passing on to the next stage which involves evaluating its market strength and potential. After all, not all assets are as strong as they were when the company was first established.

Some assets depreciate through use, while others lose value from competition and others are simply weak by nature. In any case, the evaluation is always based on the asset’s ability to provide the customer with a competitive advantage. All assets are only as valuable as their ability to reduce a specific customer’s uncertainty of achieving a specific task, in a specific market. In the ROKC method, we argue that competitive advantage is customer-defined.

The client leaves this second session with a firmer grasp of the requirements to evaluate its asset’s strength within the market conditions they know so intimately as well as the company’s value proposition.

Hour 3

In the third session, we review and revise the asset and the competitive advantage to insure alignment before taking a look at how the business can develop both in its market and new ones. Thus, the client completes their 3 hours of ROKC training with a clear vision of their path.

Of course, not all clients are able to identify the asset that underpins their business’s raison d’être. These are often smaller, customer-facing businesses that depend almost entirely on the founder’s talents, or personal attributes. In these cases, the second and often a good part of the third hours are dedicated to identifying what makes them, as individuals, different from anyone else in their market. In this case, it is they who are the asset and not a tangible or intangible asset on the company balance sheet. For these businesses it is simply a question of maturity; they are still young and can scale over time as this personal asset gets reinforced and strengthened by other assets the company either buys or develops. Nonetheless, they leave with a clear vision of the path they want to follow as well.

So, if you have 3-hours over 3 consecutive weeks, on the same day, at the same time, and want to be a better leader, contact me for an appointment. Some clients are so satisfied with the ROKC methodology that we enter into a long-term relationship that continues weekly.

Although I am American, I have worked almost all over the world. I am familiar with how business is conducted in many countries and in those I do not know you can coach me. I speak English, Italian and French fluently; a very basic Spanish. With Skype we can work anywhere in the world, however I am in New York City and meeting face-to-face is always nicer. Let’s talk soon.

To Lead, Remember to Breathe

What do you do, have done all your life, that people are constantly asking you to do?

This is the question I found myself asking several of my leadership clients this last week. I don’t know why. Maybe there has been a recent rush of blog posts or news articles on personal development? Then again, maybe it is coming from me? Whatever the reasons, this week’s subject has centered on personal development, and taking leadership of one’s self.

The ROKC™ Method provides a framework for understanding why a business exists thus providing clarity for leaders to better influence outcomes.

However, it would be myopic of us to assume that such a model exists in a vacuum. It does not. It is actually the mirror image of personal development. The ROKC view of business is based on the organization owning and/or controlling an asset that provides customers with a competitive advantage. That is, the benefit of the product/service resides in reducing the risk of achieving an uncertain outcome for the customer. Something similar can be stated about each individual. Every person has a particular asset–an individual quality, talent, or faculty–which can be used to provide their community with a competitive advantage. If this sounds familiar to some readers, I wouldn’t be surprised. This idea provides the framework for the hero myth, which is very strong in Western culture, as seen in works from The Odyssey, in ancient Greece, to the Star Wars trilogy, in the 1980s, to the recent animated movie How to Train Your Dragon 2 and so on.

In a previous article, Easily Moving into the Leadership Role, I suggested that the people who assume a leadership role do so because they have mastered an “x-factor” that allows them to be recognized for that particular attribute and the benefit this attribute provides the community. This makes sense for the very simple reason that those supporting the leader must know what they are supporting. After all, a leader is someone who can help others see a less uncertain world, which inspires them to take collective action to make this world a reality.

Perhaps the following story will help to illustrate my point. I work with a brilliant young man who has an encyclopedic understanding of IT, and has risen to a leadership role but cannot manage to go beyond that particular level. In fact he is beginning to lose ground. For years, all his attention has been focused on the technology. He went to one of the finest engineering schools, got an MBA, worked for very large companies in different countries, managed very complex projects–you get the idea. When he came to me, he was convinced that it was his knowledge of all these different technologies that had brought him his success and by learning the newest, most cutting edge ones, he would be able to move up the ladder to a greater leadership role. After several months of our working together, he began to understand that there are many people who have the same education as he but do not reach his leadership level; and, that there are people who don’t know half of what he knows and yet they hold higher leadership roles. So, the key to achieving a better position within his organization is not to be found only in a mastery of technology, but must also lie elsewhere. There must be something he is doing with the information he has amassed that is different from what those around him are doing. But what is it? We started down the path of discovering his x-factor by asking the question above:

What do you do and have done all your life that people are constantly asking you to do for them?

And we found it! He is all about integrity. In everything he does – be it professional or personal – he wants to understand the integrity of the system. “Integrity” in its multiple senses: regarding honesty and moral character, as well as soundness, wholeness; whether this be the wholeness of a community, or the perfect condition of a piece of machinery. Thus, this search for integrity focuses on the people with whom he surrounds himself, as well as the systems with which he works. He is very interested in his own personal integrity, which is what drives him to spend hours learning about all the cutting edge technologies. Upon reflection, he realized that he has been obsessed with understanding the integrity of people, places, and things since a very young age. Likewise, he was surprised to learn that this is not a driving force for everyone in the world. (We all assume the rest of the world is a reflection of our self. No harm there.) When we applied his x-factor to his employment history we saw a pattern emerge in which the value he brought to his community was the result of his ability to see the integrity, or lack thereof, in an IT rollout and correct it. He can now move forward firmly rooted in the knowledge that what he brings to the party is integrity.

Another client, a woman, who has her own marketing business, went through a similar process in our discussions, and discovered that her x-factor is discerning limitations. For someone else, his x-factor is understanding why things are the way they are. And yet another, it is a love of language that drives most of her life. In all these cases, the x-factor is natural and easy for them to do, requiring very little effort; it’s as easy as breathing.

But here is the rub. All of them reached a point at which they felt blocked because their worldview, largely shaped by the culture, sees leaders only as those individuals with a certain wisdom acquired from years of study or from life’s experiences. To be more exact, a person lacking this kind of wisdom cannot become a legitimate community leader. By shifting the focus from a skill set to individual qualities expressed through that skill set we are able to break through this limiting paradigm to unlock the true source of their leadership skills and put them back on a path contributing to their community.

This opens up a whole bunch of other exciting areas of discussion like religion, mindfulness, self-awareness, political structures, economics, privacy policies, and so on, so I think this is a good place to stop. However, if you are interested in keeping the conversation going please use the comment section below or contact us through LinkedIn or via our website www.returnonkeycomponent.com.

Tuck School of Business

Easily Moving into a Leadership Role

This week I received a tweet from Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business linked to article Management Transitions: From Specialist to Generalist, Michael D. Watkins, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change, IMD Business School, Oct 16th, 2014, which left me wanting. So, the nice folks over at Tuck obliged me by sending over a link to a more complete article by Dr. Watkins on the Harvard Business Review site entitled How Managers Become Leaders, June 2012. For this I thank them. However, this missive left also me wanting.

After much consideration, I came to realize that although Dr. Watkins quite correctly describes the symptoms of transitioning from a functional leadership role to that of general management, he eschews their underlying causes. As in medicine, you want the doctor to treat the causes of what ails you and not the symptoms. Dr. Watkins, in these articles, at least, stick to the symptoms.

From my point of view, that of the ROKC™ Method, the cause of these symptoms – the Seven Seismic Shift™ – can be attributed to a psychological state referred to as “anchoring”. In layman’s terms, you stick with a pre-existing mindset even though the situation has changed; or, a failure to adapt to the new environment. To give an example most of us are familiar with, you are driving down the highway at 70 mph and continue to do so even when you get off it onto smaller roads where the speed limit is 35 mph; it just feels too slow because you are anchored in the experience of driving at 70 mph. It is basically the same thing for a person transitioning from a functional leadership role to a general management one; they are anchored in the previous experience and fail to adapt to the new situation.

This is quite understandable even though hazardous. Each of us, either by the process of formal or informal education, learns a skill they subsequently use in employ of a customer who pays them for their time and contribution. In Dr. Watkins article he refers to the fictitious Harald who works most of his life for a product line working his way up the corporate ladder – successfully I might add – until he is given a general management position in which he trips and stumbles. This is when the HR department comes in with a leadership development program in the hopes of helping out poor Harald.

In most cases, leadership development programs fail because they treat the symptoms and not the causes. However, once we recognize these symptoms as an anchoring problem it becomes much easier to design and implement a program to assist in transition phase. By helping the new leader to see they are anchored on the technical skill set of their education and need to shift their focus to the asset that underlies the business – what we call the “Key Component” they can significantly reduce the amplitude of the Seven Seismic Shifts.

Even though focusing on the business’s Key Component can help the de-anchoring process it is too mechanistic an approach to what is ultimately a human challenge. As with the highway example above, there is a continuity between the two situations that is found in the person driving the car. Likewise, there is continuity in the transition into a leadership role.

In fact, wee should add another layer of analysis by asking the question: “Why did the company decide to promote Harald to such a position in the first place?” To answer this question without knowing the fictitious Harald is impossible. However, we can say that Harald, like many people presently occupying leadership positions in business and elsewhere, exhibited certain leadership qualities early on which led management to fast-track his career and ultimately assume a general management leadership role.

Thus, Harald has a personal “X factor” that he uses to help his community see a less uncertain reality and inspires them to work together to make it a daily fact of of their lives. Whatever this “X factor” may be is not important. What is important is to recognize that beyond the technical skills acquired through training, he has a personal quality that allows him to assume the mantel of leadership. And, regardless of the situation Harald found himself in over the course of his career he was able to call upon and use this “X factor” to be successful and create new opportunities for himself and his community. Any investigation into a transition from “specialist to generalist” cannot be complete without taking this “X factor” into consideration.

In helping Harald through this transition phase not only is it important to change his change in focus from his technical skills to the asset underpinning the business’s existence but it is also, if not more, important to help him to identify his “X factor” and discern how he has used it in the many roles he occupied on his way to the top. Thus, not alienating him from the leadership role he is assuming.

In business, we work with leaders to identify their company’s Key Component – the asset it owns and/or controls that underpins its very existence. With leaders, we strive to achieve the same thing by identifying their personal asset, the “X factor” – that personal attribute that underpins their success. If you wish to discover either asset, please contact us by email or LI messaging. If you wish to learn more about the ROKC Method, visit our website at www.returnonkeycomponent.com and read our articles and buy our book.

Better to Adapt than Change

When I was in college when I had the good fortune to meet a well respected Time magazine journalist who set me straight on the importance of language – using words with their proper meaning – I have been a stickler – read pain in the …. – ever since. This obliges me to actually listen to others. But, more importantly, I must hearwhat they are saying. So, the other night, for the umpteenth time, someone was talking about how they don’t like to change things in their life and hairs on my back started to rise.

Let’s face it, people only rarely change. On the other hand, people do adapt to changes they perceive in their lives!

Basically, as I learned in my high school physics class, like electrons, we all live at our lowest energy level until such a time when some outside stimulus makes us – or the electron – move to a higher energy state. It is the environment that changes and we adapt to that change. Or, as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution states the most adaptable of the species will survive.

This same frame of reference is pertinent to leading an organization. Way too often, the leaders I speak with want to throw the baby out with the bath water by changing almost everything in their company. This is simply way too destructive and almost never provides the results they seek. Change brings about a break from the company’s foundation, turning it into a Frankenstein monster.

Adaptation is a much more subtle approach for a business responding to a new environment. Regardless of the company’s stage of growth, adaptability means reducing – not eliminating – the influence of the past while placing more importance on some other aspect of the present.

In the ROKC™ Method, we explicitly recognize that the asset on which the business is built, the Key Component, will lose its ability to provide customers with the competitive advantage they seek. Consequently, if the business is to survive, it will to be enhance the value it creates by focusing on a new Key Component. If I think back on my college economics class, this is called the law of diminishing returns. Over time, the returns the first Key Component provides will diminish requiring the focus to change to a new Key Component that will provide higher returns. When the second Key Component wanes, focus will pass to a new one, then another and another and another, and so on into the future.

ROKC_CA_over_TimeLayer upon layer, the business adapts to changing conditions but strengthens itself around its each preceding Key Component.

If your business is challenged by changing market conditions don’t listen to anyone who tells you have to change. However, do listen and hear those who tell you your company needs to adapt.

The Power of Intent

Intention seems to be the leitmotif of the last week. So, it seems like a good subject to share here.

To many, I am the poster child for living a life with intent. I rarely do anything without it. In my view, it obliges you to take a stand and fix your point of view on a matter. Some may even say, you are fixing a point in space. Some times the intent with which I do something falls short obliging me to redouble my efforts. But those times when I exceed my intentions are truly wondrous achievements.

People who lead their life with intent are solid and dependable. They strive for authenticity. They don’t flip-flop on subjects and will – usually – only change their position after much persuasion. You really get a sense for who you are dealing with.

Although living your life with purpose is important, it is doubly so in business. A business without a sense of purpose will not last very long. As a business leader, you are entrusted with the intent of the organization and the lives of all those who contribute to it’s success. Truly understanding the intent of the business is the first step to enhancing your leadership skills. If you need a little bit of help to do get a clear sense of why your business exists reach out to us so we can give you a hand.

Don’t Hide Behind Titles And Names. Show Yourself!

At ROKC ™, we focus on strategic leadership as it applies to the business as well as to the business’s leadership. We work primarily with C-level executives and above, but for the rare and extraordinary candidate we will make an exception. After all, they are the “real deal”.

Recently, while working with one of our clients we came upon a very hard nut to crack. Although an excellent professional, the client could not help looking at his world from the outside in. Almost every sentence uttered, or written, involved the name of a position, a company, a software product, a hardware product, a technique,… You get the idea. They had mastered them all. However, in applying the ROKC Method, we don’t place the emphasis on how fulfilling – literally, in the sense of filling you up – all these tools make you feel. We seek to reveal the opposite; what the user brings to the tool in providing their product to the customer.

In order to help our client turn things around, we gave him an exercise to do with his resume. Review each professional experience, explain what he brought to the job, and what the team and customer were grateful for receiving in his contribution. Suffice it to say, this caused our very accomplished and up-coming leader a great deal of frustration. Nonetheless, he persists in this endeavor as I write.

A few days ago, we enjoyed an email exchange which he found “… [a] just marvelous summary and reflection on what [he had written] with a very formulated response which seemingly came out effortlessly,…” Given the value our client found in our words, we decided to share our thoughts and considerations with the larger audience in the hopes that you too can benefit from the ROKC Method as it applies to personal leadership.

Thank you for sharing your frustration with me.

I know this is a difficult assignment but unfortunately it is a mandatory passage. Let me see if I can communicate what I see in your writings below as a way to help you see and then change direction.

Just about everything you write … is from the outside toward you. It is an expression of what fills you up. Well it fills your mind in any case. What I am looking for you to understand is how you fill up the world around you. You are close but you have to flip your perspective around.

For example, [you write] : ‘I reading newer technologies. Putting them together as a solution. Ability to play around with it’

Everyone can read about a new technology but everyone will come away with a slightly different understanding. Consequently, each person will use the information they acquired in a different way. How do you see what you read and how do you use it in the world.

Another example: “today my fascination is with Open Source Technologies”

Are you building these open source systems? Not to my knowledge but may be you are. A person who adds to the open source system by writing lines of code, debugging other programmer’s work, and adding the work to the system library is very different from the person who simply uses the system. I use drupal and wordpress but don’t understand how to code – although I can read it – so everything I do is limited to using modules and plugins built by others. I can build a simple website using these open source platforms much more easily than I ever could when I used ASP.NET. Many frustrating moments back then. I have even tried my hand at Ruby On Rails, JavaScript, JQuery and Java without much success because I just don’t have the ability to start from nothing. Nonetheless, I have wonderful ideas I would like to see out in the world and have put them out there only to see them take flight and then fail. What do you do with open source? How do you use it? What do you bring to the tech? Does it meet with limited success and then fail?

Last example, …: ” I was fascinated with new business models and how things like Porter’s 5 force analysis worked and how it went to compliment Gary Hamels theories on competitive advantage”

Ok, you were filled up by these ideas. That’s fine. How did you understand them? What did you do with them? Did you contribute to them? Improve them? Use them for the benefit of someone else? Did they value your use of their application?

In summary, all these people (Porter, Hamels, Open Stack, journalists, editors, programmers,…) provided you with their riches and this touched you in some way (piqued your curiosity, inspired you,…) that brought you a perceived sense of value. What did you do in return? For them or anyone else? Was your contribution appreciated and valued? Why?

I will tell you how I define business: A business exists when the organization has an asset, they own and/or control, that can be used in a product or service that provides their customer with a competitive advantage, that is, reduces the customer’s uncertainty in life. A business survives only if it is able to implement the processes and manage the risks inherent in their activity such that the difference between the customer’s level of uncertainty and the business’s level of certainty sufficiently important to generate value for both so they can continue to exist in the future. The asset I am referring to, is the Key Component.

What is your key component, …? It is in you so you own and control it but how does it reduce uncertainty for your community? The jobs you have had, like those you will have, are simply the processes you employed at that time to make your key component available to others. You got paid so you could provide for your family and save for the future; it reduced your uncertainty of present of future existence. Each job as given you another opportunity to use your key component. Every future job will too. But if you focus on the job you risk missing the real value which is what you bring to the job. Jobs come and go, technologies come and go, but you stay. You can’t allow your happiness or existence to be determined by the currents of time because that would mean you have no influence over your life; that’s called “free will” by the way. In good times and bad, you have to be you and adapt to changing situations. You can’t change who you are, so you adapt. Technology changes. Jobs change. We don’t change, we adapt who we are. This is why I keep asking you to stop looking at the jobs, companies, and technologies, and to focus on you. Focus on “what you bring to the party”.

I hope this helps.”

And, we hope this also helps our readers with their own personal leadership challenges. If you want to reach out to us with your challenges, we will address them as needed.

Who Has Your Back?

Think about this question and you will see how very important it is to our sense of well-being. Truly, very important. To illustrate what I mean, let’s take a typical day. No, not even a whole day because that would take too much time. Let’s take a small fraction of a day.

At the start of the day most of us depend on our alarm clock going off. In order for that happen we depend on the clock manufacturer having made a clock that works, at least up to that morning. We also depend on others who live with us not having changed the time or the alarm setting. We depend on there not having been a power outage on the electrical grid or the battery conking out. As you can see, this one act depends on so many people near and far having our back.

Interestingly, we all have networks of people we depend on to support us both personally and professionally yet we don’t pay them any mind until things go wrong. We just assume they work and will continue to work until we decide otherwise.

Our personal network extend to family and friends, to acquaintances and colleagues, clients and suppliers, all the way to the leaders of our state. Each individual within our network is expected to fulfill a certain place so we feel secure in our very existence. A tall order indeed.

Then there is our professional network of companies and organizations we hope have our backs. From the toothpaste we brush our teeth with in the morning to the supermarket that carries our favorite breakfast cereal we depend on these economic actors to provide us with healthy and nutritious products. We delegate this responsibility to them and often blindly assume they are living up to this moral contract for in actuality most of us have no idea what those long technical terms on the packaging mean, we just know we like it. We expect these producers to have our back.

We have similar expectations about just about everyone we meet and everything we use, every day of the year. We expect the local restaurant we like to lunch in twice a week to have our back regarding a whole slew of things from good food, having our favorite dish, good service, cleanliness and hygiene, pricing, climate, beverages, and so on and so forth. We want the bus on time, traffic to flow, the sun to shine, our colleagues to be helpful, our boss to not fire us,…. In sum, in our world of modern conveniences we have delegated our sense of well-being to just about everyone on our path. All these actors have our back.

Usually that is, with the exception of ourselves!

Did you have your own back? Did you do anything to ensure your own sense of well-being?

Did you truly have anyone’s back today or did you make excuses for yourself?

Think about it and leave me your thoughts in comments section of this post.

Photo: Sarah Hamilton/Lebeast Photography

What Do You Bring To The Party?

Almost every day, at least once a day, I find myself asking my clients the same question: “What do you bring to the party?” This may sound like a silly a question but in this context it is full of meaning.

The world most of us live in is very object-oriented. This is an unfortunate way of saying that we tend to live life based on what is outside us. We have the expectation that what we acquire will bring us value without our having to do anything. A simple example is buying a hammer and expecting it to bang in a nail without someone swinging it. In fact, the reality is just the contrary. Even though a hammer is a simple tool a great deal of dexterity is required to use it properly.

A more complex example can be found in education. A person goes to school where they graduate with a degree of some kind and expect to be able to benefit from it immediately. Regretfully, before being proficient in an area some form of apprenticeship is usually a requirement. However, the situation doesn’t stop there. Some professions – most in fact – require the operator to continue learning over their lifetime.

Focusing only on the object is not enough to make you successful. Whether that object is a hammer, a law degree, a product or a technique, it makes no difference. You have to bring some of yourself to whatever you are doing in order for it to be of value. So: What do you bring to the party?

Some of my recent clients have come to me seeking guidance for a business or career that has stagnated. And each time my diagnosis has been the same: Stop focusing on the object and start focusing on the subject, you. Here are a few examples.

A wonderfully generous woman came to me with what she described as an energy bar business. She wanted to scale it up but didn’t have the resources or knowledge to do so. After a few sessions and trying her products, we agreed she did not have an energy bar business but a product development business. This woman has the gift of being able to make some of the most exciting flavor combinations many of us have ever tasted. Her ability to combine flavors in an unusual and unexpected way, and with an extraordinary combination of textures, makes eating her energy bars a true culinary experience. Interestingly, once we came upon this definition of her business she began to see a number of seemingly disjointed events in her life as a continuity that led her to where she is today. Over the course of her lifetime she had taken great joy from creating unusual desserts, for which many of her friends and family asked for the recipes. Similarly, she had recently been asked to develop products by three different companies. By realizing what she brought to the party, she was able to better define the value she brought to her customers and how best to serve them.

Another client came to me with a cheesecake business but, through the same exercise, understood the cheesecake was a vehicle for bringing people together, to create joyous moments of bonding or community. When he realized this was the true value he brought his customers, a whole bunch of projects he had worked on over the years began to make sense to him. He now had a way to help others to effectively communicate the joy and happiness of creating memories with those we love.

On the other hand, a client questioning his high-tech career of 15 years was unable to identify what he brought to the party and instead focused on the technology he had mastered. But when that technology was no longer in demand he could not change his focus, stumbled, and fell down the rabbit hole. This was a tough lesson he is now working his way through.

Another similar case is that of an artist who encountered a great deal of difficulty in defining her style. Until she was able to sufficiently differentiate herself from most everyone else in her profession, there was no compelling reason for potential customers to hire her.

It is challenging for most of us to see what makes us unique in a world where there is so much supply of talent. It is very difficult. Especially when we are not assisted by those around us. But, if we open our eyes and take the time to observe ourselves, we can gain the clarity necessary to define our special “X factor.” Here is the approach I use with my clients:

  • What do you do every day that comes to you naturally, effortlessly?
  • Have you been doing this for many years? Maybe even since you were a child?
  • Have you been regularly asked by family and friends to do this for them?
  • Have you done this for others but because it is so ridiculously easy for you, you would never think of asking anyone to pay you for it?

Once you can answer these four questions you will begin to see how this special ability you possess has been influencing your decisions your entire life. It has influenced your choice of educational orientation, friends, mate, how you educate your children, your work…everything. And this is normal, for nothing makes us happier – makes us feel more fulfilled – but to be in situations that allow us to express who we are. This authentic way of being is our individual “key component”, and we continuously seek out opportunities to be successful at being ourselves.

So, whether you are just being yourself with family and friends, starting a business, applying for a job, working, or in a moment of transition, answering this very challenging question will unlock a whole new way of looking at the world.

What do you bring to the party?


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