Less is More

The common phrase ‘Familiarity Breeds Contempt’ is a familiar dictum to many managers and leaders, who have had this concept drilled into them since their earliest days of MBA school and management training. I’ve heard it from family members, teachers and employers. Indeed I am sure you can can recall horror stories about bad managers who lost control of their authority by becoming too familiar with their juniors and people they were meant to be leading.

So a crucial leadership question is, does the familiarity really breed contempt? If it does, how does the leader maintain the perfect balance (the so called Goldilock’s Syndrome) where he/she has to get it just right level of familiarity? Is less more which would offer camaraderie and also avoid the potential contempt by the subordinate? In the first decade of the 20th century, an obscure British journalist came up with a newer version of the phrase. His name was Holbrook Jackson, and he was pretty well known among the journalistic intelligentsia of the time. He said,

Familiarity breeds not contempt, but indifference

The far better known (both at the time and subsequently) Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton’s had a particular preference for paradox, and was never hospitable to platitudes. Chesterton adds to the Jackson quotation, with an acidic,

But it can breed surprise. Try saying ‘Boots’ ninety times.

Excellent, and worth a try! Benjamin Franklin went further (not in a management sense) and proposed that fish and visitors have something in common. Both begin to stink after 3 days. The present research offers empirical support for Franklin’s quip. The more people learn about others (and anyone who has had houseguests knows all too well how much one can come to know in a short time) the less they like them, on average.

The present neuroscience research shows that although people believe that learning more about others leads to greater liking, more information about others leads, on average, to less liking. It seems ambiguity (i.e. lacking information about another) leads to liking, whereas familiarity—acquiring more information—can breed contempt. This less is more effect is due to the cascading nature of dissimilarity. Once evidence of dissimilarity is encountered, subsequent information is more likely to be interpreted as further evidence of dissimilarity, leading to decreased liking.

The evidence seems to be on the whether familiarity always breeds contempt, is that it depends on a variety of factors. However is seems that familiarity can breed contempt, more often than does not. To give some hard evidence and big data for this theory, Sirota Consulting, they surveyed and looked at employee job satisfaction of 1.2 million employees at 52 companies over 30 Years. According to Sirota’s research there is a significant decline in overall job satisfaction after an employee has been working with an employers for an average of six months or more.

The leaders who always maintained a safe distance with subordinates at all times, so that those employees did not cross the line of respect, earned more respect. It certainly involved non-transparency from leader in various matters, but the show still went on successfully. There were absolutely no complaints, even though the annual raises were poor and performance ratings were below average. The subordinates often praised the leader, and even justified the low raises as not being the leader’s fault (Stockholm syndrome )

It seems the leaders who offered total transparency and camaraderie to their subordinates, often found some of their subordinates being disrespectful and deceitful towards them, despite their good deeds and commitment to employee development and promotion. interestingly there were complaints from employees who always received good raises, but received only one time low raise and below average rating (which was fair and just because of the subordinate’s poor performance).

The 4 things that seem to matter most are (and are regarded as being savvy):

  • Equity – to be treated fairly
  • Achievement – to be proud of the job and company
  • Confidentiality – knowing when not to share
  • Camaraderie – to have good, productive relationships with fellow employees

It always makes sense in keeping the correct and careful balance in maintaining professional relationship between the leader and the subordinate at all times. Socialising with those we lead is to be cautioned, for it can most probably lead to contempt and loss of respect. Nonetheless, the leader can still opt to socialise with subordinates at company functions or special occasions, yet always maintaining the socialisation at arms-length.

In summary there is no doubt that familiarity can breed contempt, but the savvy manager must understand how to develop a working camaraderie without crossing-the-line into revealing personal details.
 The last word and best insight on this Familiarity Breeds Contempt story comes from Mark Twain, who said it most appropriately:

Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Leadership Excellence: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Leadership Excellence: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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Don’t look back in anger. Leaders (and potential leaders) will do well to remember their past and quote it correctly. While not being limited by dogma, they might be wise to acknowledge the body of work that has proceeded them.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

While this quotation can be traced to at least the 12th century and is often attributed to Bernard of Chartres (in Latin, nanos gigantum humeris insidentes), its most familiar expression is by Sir Isaac Newton. It is found in his 1676 in a letter to Robert Hooke. Sir Isaac Newton used this expression with respect to his own accomplishments and he accepted that his scientific breakthroughs owned much to those who had gone before him. Despite centuries of scientific progress, Newton’s discoveries and theories continue to influence today’s generation of scientists. Indeed Stephen Hawking’s compilation of works by the greatest minds Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein is entitled On The Shoulders of Giants. The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy, (Running Press 2002).

There is a common misconception among some leaders that you have to do everything all by yourself: you are the leader, you are responsible and it’s all you. This is, in my humble opinion, misleading, dangerous and wrong. Business leaders operating within the new economy are often quick to dismiss the received wisdom and practices of an analogue age. Every generation likes to challenge the views, conventions and behaviour of the previous one, but we appear to be experiencing a particularly profound generational shift within the world of business.

Leaders have to understand that they have a very talented team around them and it’s only the collective whole of the team that can result in a win, not any one individual effort. The smart business leader also knows when to borrow from the past and to recognise that despite the almost limitless possibilities of a digital age, the core business principles and practices, developed and codified by earlier generations of business leaders and theorists, are just as relevant as they have ever been. Google Scholar has adopted the motto, Stand on the shoulders of giants.

In the great book What’s Next, Gen X, Tamara Erickson describes how,

Today’s businesses are facing new, unpredictable challenges. What we’ve thought of as leadership skills – setting direction, having the answers, controlling performance, running a tight ship – are less relevant in an environment of constant change. Increasingly, leadership is about creating a context for innovation and inclusion in the face of ambiguity and the unexpected.

Not only should this resonant for leaders and potential leaders, it asks some fundmental questions. Warren Bennis is an American scholar, organisational consultant and author who is widely regarded as the pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership. Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at USC. My favourite two quotations are:

1. Three words leaders have trouble dealing with:‘I don’t know.’

Good leadership will often start with questions whose answer is: I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.

2. None of us is as smart as all of us.

I think that both these quotations have the quality of If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Sir Isaac’s wisdom is in challenging us to remember and use the nuggets of those who came before us; Professor Bennis’ words invites us to use the people around you. The smart business leader also knows when to borrow from the past. They recognise that despite the almost limitless possibilities of a digital age, the core business principles and practices, developed and codified by earlier generations of business leaders and theorists, are just as relevant as they have ever been. Indeed if too much ego or too little discipline prevents us from showing we care about those with whom we work, we are taking up room where giants are needed.

If you ever forget the importance of this nugget (and you live in the UK), the £2 coin bears the inscription STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS on its edge. The challenge for all of is to find those shoulders to lift others up to see more, and to be all they can be. If we don’t invest time in knowing the needs, values, and passions of those we lead, we by omission invalidate their real worth. Great Leaders in my opinion need to:

  • Develop new leaders, not followers.
  • Will invest in management training and development.
  • Learn from best practice and develop new strategies.
  • Be humble enough to stand on the shoulders of business giants.

Using Newton’s principle of standing upon those broad shoulders, perhaps we should look to Aristotle. He was the first genuine scientist in history and every scientist is in his debt. Aristotle writings cover many subjects including: physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Aristotle is often quoted as saying:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

The sentiment certainly sounds great, but the trouble is that he did not say it. These words were actually written by Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers. After quoting a phrase from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions), Durant sums it up this way…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit. This is an example of the way that provocative words tend to gravitate toward famous mouths. As the great quote-sleuth Ralph Keyes says, clever lines … routinely travel from obscure mouths to prominent ones.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Design Thinking Changing Training

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Training: see what happens now and repeat.


Like a sad dinner-for-one that is sat at the back of the fridge that’s past its sell-by-date, the current prevailing concepts of training are out-dated. I has been superseded by something better and can safely be discarded. Training is a very commonly used word and perhaps it needs refreshing itself. Transformed into a new design led process, by re-imagining, re-designing and inspiring new methodologies. Learning is in many ways a better way to think of this subject, because learning belongs to the learner, whereas training traditionally belongs to the trainer or the organisation. Training (in my opinion) should be about whole person development, not just transferring skills, the traditional interpretation of training at work.

Design Thinking (crash course here) is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems. When Design Thinking is applied to the new paradigm of learning and training, it can draw upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be, and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the trainee). A design mindset is not problem-centric; it’s solution focused and action oriented. It involves both analysis and imagination.
With this in mind, it is good to look for solutions across different platforms and styles of thought. My favourite scientific rapper (there can be only one) is the very wonderful Baba Brinkman. While covering the theory of evolution and the work of Charles Darwin, equates evolution with how he writes his lyrics thus: Performance, Feedback, Revision.

…..and how do human beings (learning and training organisations) ever learn to do anything? Like this:

  • Performance – Feedback – Revision

…..and how do I generally develop my lyricism (training / speaking / inspiring)? Like this:

  • Performance – Feedback – Revision

Because the performance is necessary to change the words (learning) to decide which have an impact and which to send back to the drawing board.

  • Performance (training people to be amazing, by me)
  • Feedback (from trainees and my peers)
  • Revision (the ‘bits’ that have impact are iterated)

Organisations which approach training and development from this standpoint inevitably foster people who perform well and progress. Importantly their good people stay around for long enough to become great at what they do, and to help others become so. Leaders creating future leaders. The best training methods are not necessarily just conveying information, but that can make receiving data or instructions a much more enjoyable experience, which will keep trainees involved and help them retain more information. The process of design thinking for training might look like this visually:


A modified form of this process for training might include these waypoints:

  • Define the Challenge and Agenda. The start is crucial and doesn’t have to be linear after this.Develop a set of powerful questions to surface opportunities, and frame training and learning innovation.
  • Gather Data. Learn how to gather data through qualitative research such as observation (thick data) and storytelling to augment traditional forms of data gathering. Some powerful tools include Journey Mapping, touch-point analysis and value chain analysis.
  • Reframe and Clarify the Challenge. Make sense of research by seeing patterns, themes, and larger relationships between the information. Challenge assumptions and illuminate opportunities latent in the training process.
  • Explore Play and Create Novelty. Giving a safe place to experiment and innovate. Lower the barriers to what can be done, what could be achieved and direction training might go. Technological and ideological events that allow freedom and true innovative experience.
  • Make Learning Fun. Designing from the basis of fun will make a process inspirational. Trainees will not be enthusiastic if training sessions are dry and dull. Few employees respond to or remember complicated concepts or theories; they want to learn practical information about what they can do to get better results today. If they don’t find the message entertaining, they won’t retain it. Using the design process it is possible to use multiple, diverse and different training methods to engage learning for trainees in a variety of ways.
  • Encourage Artful Reflection. Cultivate your intuition and develop aesthetic ways of knowing. The elegant training solution wins in the marketplace.
  • Powerful Visualisation. Develop visual thinking skills to de-code images, and communicate ideas visually. Visual literacy transcends the limitations of language and activates our senses. Training tools include Mind mapping, sketching and painting.
  • Time to Ideate. Learn six idea generation tools to foster shifts in perception, break out of traditional mind-sets, and generate seed ideas for innovation, including Metaphorical thinking, connecting the dots, and Edison’s invention techniques. The new paradigms for training don’t need to re-invent the wheel but under process like meta-cognition (learning to learn).
  • Evaluate and getting Feedback. Identify the criteria you need to evaluate training ideas; learn the distinction between critiquing and criticising an idea; give feedback that enhances creativity rather than crushes it.
  • Encourage Participation. Use the Design Process to understand how facilitation works. Make the session lively by engaging participants in the learning process. In fact, try to spend close to 80 percent of training time on group participation. Encourage everyone in the training session to speak freely and candidly, because learning occurs most readily when feelings are involved.
  • Fast Prototyping. Create a visual tangible representation of your idea and present it to the group for feedback. Create a feasibility and an adoption checklist to get people onboard.
  • Customer Co-creationand Empowerment. Exploring alternative futures with your internal and external training customers.
  • Interim Assessment. Gather early feedback from prototype. Assess outcomes, and refine your project. Develop a set of feedback questions to get the information you need, i.e., does this add value to the trainee or the client?
  • Use Humour and be Playful. Humour helps keep enthusiasm at peak levels. Trainers can make a point more effectively by using humour than by drowning trainees in statistics or theories. Personal, self-deprecating humor is the safest way to go.
  • Roll out and Implementation. Create an action plan and test-drive your innovation plan for training change.
  • Finally Iterate. Assess results, modify and improve, using this framework to drive the cutting edge of training change.
  • Excellence, always. Goes without saying.

From now on, in big letters across the top of your white boards should go the words:

Performance – Feedback – Revision.

Nice.

Engage Sceptics, Fire Cynics

Engage, hire and develop sceptics; don’t feed the cynics. I think you may agree that we live in very cynical times. There is an increasing distrust of those in leadership and management positions. Indeed many doubt their basic honesty, integrity and authenticity (see also: very low approval ratings of politicians globally).

So what can the new generation of ‘leaders’ do about this? I believe that if you anticipate it and have strategies for coping with it, leaders can learn to turn the cynics into believers. Really. Well we can try to understand how we could effect such a change. In my experience, there is usually a sceptic or cynic in every group, every organisation and each audience. Sometimes, in large groups, there are both and there are lots of them. I have encountered cynics who disguise themselves as sceptics and I find that the difference is very important. One demands evidence before embracing change, while the other resists it at all cost. [By the way, skeptic and sceptic and interchangeable spellings].
The modern definition of cynicism certainly doesn’t have any positive connotations. But the word has an older (and perhaps more innovation-minded) meaning originating with the philosophy of Diogenes and his ancient Greek colleagues. Diogenes refused to do anything out of ‘convention’ or because it was the ‘norm’; for example, it was uncouth to eat in the marketplace, so he ate in the marketplace. This idea of a cynic as contrarian, not pessimist, is something that modern workplaces could benefit from more of. Diogenes’s tradition is alive and well with several modern visionaries.

I have written before about the careless and inappropriate use of words by companies. Some engage in overtly positive statements. Positivity seems to be one of the most valued traits in modern companies. At Whole Foods, the core values areWe Satisfy, Delight, and Nourish Our Customers. At Coca Cola, values includeintegrity: be realpassion: committed in heart and mind, and collaboration: leverage collective genius. All these things are great, but as the New York Times‘ Adam Bryant says,

if there’s a gap between the values you profess and the actions you take, people start shutting down, rolling their eyes, and getting cynical’

My journey towards understanding cynics and sceptics in organisations, has taken a long time. By helping clients, across many professions, towards this one conclusion:you should listen to the sceptics and avoid the cynics when making crucial decisions enthusiasm for the reform of the day. This mean you need to do the following:

  • During meetings, listen patiently to sceptics, cynics and anyone else with an opinion.
  • Engage sceptics, encouraging action research and systematic analysis of the evidence.
  • Sceptics want to be effective educators and seek evidence to support or oppose proposed new policies.
  • Cynics are uninterested in inquiry or research, as resistance to change is part of the change process.
  • Change in any system means a loss of previously accepted practices and challenges to prevailing wisdom.

There are of course, lots of self-help cynics out there. Those who have become totally disillusioned with anything associated to personal development. Until they can see the point why would they change? Of course they wont ever see the point. They feel the entire field is a sham populated by scammers and charlatans. Cynics don’t subscribe to the idea that people can actually change by conscious intent. They are who they are, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

As opposed to a cynic, a skeptic is doubtful but still open-minded and logical enough to consider new input. Sceptics primarily seek truth through the process of asking questions. Sometimes the real truth cannot be pinned down so easily, so the skeptic must learn to live with ambiguity and uncertainty much of the time. For the cynic, however, the mere existence of doubt is immediate cause for labelling an entire field as erroneous. If you try to engage a cynic about his/her beliefs, you’ll usually receive some emotional and very close-minded arguments but little logic. So leaders need to adopt a strategy to turn the cynics and recommend the 6-point plan:

1. Who are you really? A key to credibility is the knowing who you are and what you stand for. It gets back to the fundamentals of having a set of values that guides your behaviour. Be consistent in communicating your beliefs and values. Mixed messages and signals weaken credibility. The Simon Sinek application of Starting With Why?

2. Do What You Say You Will Do. Authentic action is the bedrock of trust, and leaders are frequently reminded to have consistent words and actions.

3. Listen, Listen, Listen (don’t make it any worse). It always sound easy, yet is hard to do. It’s the key to having insights into followers and understanding their needs. Engage in a conversation where you learn what others value.

4. Build a Real Community. To avoid the spread of cynicism in the workplace, leaders must work to get everyone working towards the same vision. Leaders are an integral part of the community. When they stand outside of it or, even worse, seeking to control it, it weakens their credibility

5. Be an Enabler. Credible leaders are open to sharing authority with others and allowing them to be part of the change process. By inviting their followers to take on leadership roles, confident leaders give everyone a stake in the success or failure of projects.

6. Life Long Learning. Here’s another reason why leaders need to always be learning to demonstrate their awareness of what all staff are going through, and to offer compassion when needed. We’re all going to fail at some point. Leaders need to be a part of it, and to do what they can to right the wrongs and to learn from the mistakes and improve.

There aren’t many (any?) great leaders who are cynics, at least not publicly. Leaders have to believe in something, and cynics are too cool to believe. Leaders have to create community, they have to work with their enemies, they have to love and be committed to people, and they have to convince people of their ideas. I find that many cynics are often bullies that don’t see any problem with their verbal attacks on others. If someone doesn’t like what he or she is saying, that is the other person’s problem. While sceptics are reserved about their opinions and very matter of fact, they tend to be very respectful and courteous.

Engage Sceptics, Fire Cynics.

What They Didn’t Teach You in School

Metacognition and the 4 Simple Actions for Success.

Can you imagine your gravestone having your ‘net worth’ carved in it? I hope that you genuinely can’t imagine that; so what would you like on the headstone?

We belong to a remarkably quirky species. We are unique, as a species in understanding metacognition. This is often described as the process of ‘learning to learn’ and what it means is giving individuals a range of strategies they can use to monitor and improve their own development. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc. I have been training people in this technique for years and it is currently coming to the attention of a wider audience.

Our lives are inundated with practicality and productivity. We think that if there’s no purpose to something, there’s no point in doing it. In my own personal journey of trying to be a better person, I realised that it was all about aiming to be Amazing. Nothing more, nothing less. When you are Amazing, you’re effectively better in every aspect of your life. When I coach and train individuals and groups I am encouraged by the powerful changes that result. There seems to be some universal themes to this change and many people report that they have been dealing with these problems since school. This email from one of my clients to another potential client, explains this further,

I hope things are going ok for you there, actually I hope they are going better than ok – but if not, then I have a man I’d really love to introduce you to, he has been training me recently and I have to say that I feel that his insights have been nothing short of revolutionary for me. Things that seem really simple and obvious, but which I did not know. I think 2015 is going to be my year of getting my life back. I am confident that 2015 is going to be the year I get my life back, and you know how long it has been since I have said anything like that.’

You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you? That powerful understanding is what clients seek and really want. Many are challenged by the fear of change. Their need to embrace change and realise it happens for a reason is one of my first objectives. It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it. What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow. You never know. Things change, often spontaneously. People and circumstances come and go. Life doesn’t stop for anybody. It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day. It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.

I always start my training and coaching with 4 Simple Actions; simple life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.

1. Change Your Physiology First. Stop being a headless chicken (Kinesis) and learn to use the power of Eustress. Learn to breath properly and reduce stress, and increase eustress. Being busy does NOT mean being productive. Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect. Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time. We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritise properly, and say no when we should. Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days. Just take a quick look around. Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin. Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time. They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc. They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep. Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations. Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance. But it’s all an illusion. They’re like hamsters running on a wheel

2. Take Action Now: Excellence, Always. Thinking and doing are two very different things. Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it. You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Knowledge is basically useless without action. Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals. Ask yourself,

  • What’s really important to you?
  • Have the courage to build your life around your answer?
  • How would you explain what you do to someone new?
  • What is your remarkable point of view in 8 words or less (R POV 8)?
  • If you got run over by a bus, could you guarantee that your successor is better than you are?

3. Become a Brilliant Listener. Are you a good listener? The chances are are very high that you are not and that you’re getting worse. Some people are very good at speaking, telling their stories and being able to inspire others. But being a good listener is often more important than speaking. It gives a deeper level of understanding about someone’s situation, and helps to know what words are best to use and what words should be avoided. Nothing is more important than the ability to listen. It is a subject that can be studied and mastered:

  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … listener?
  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … at hiring?
  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … at evaluating people?

4. What You Own is Not Who You Are. Material goods that you may or may not have are not relevant. It has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person. Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need. That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.

So imagine what you would have on your gravestone now. What really matters? What will make you say,

2015 is going to be my year of getting my life back?

Be Amazing Every Day

A to Ze of Productivity

There is a ‘element’ that can help in improving productivity, that has been around since 1927; it is called Ze. I believe the biggest barrier to success is just getting started. I have been coaching some clients recently about being more effective and more efficient. It involves re-programming their brain (in a nice way), challenging their beliefs and changing their routines. In today’s busy world, we seem to be obsessed with the idea of productivity and life / work hacks. It’s easy to see why this has become so popular. Being able to get more done allows us to get ahead in life, and even gives us more time to do the things we love outside of work.

There is a body of people out there that believe we should toss productivity out andlive life more in the flow. It may sound irrational, but I bet a lot of you actually avoid doing any work at work—but not on purpose. You might be simply struggling with motivation, or you might just be overdosing on the caffeine. Whatever the issue, getting focused takes lots of time and effort.

The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.
– Peter Drucker

There’s a notable distinction between being busy and being productive. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. Being productive is less about time management and more on managing your energy. It is the business of life. We need to learn how to spend the least amount of energy to get the most benefits. Sometimes, working less can actually produce better results. Additional research in this area surrounding theZeigarnik effect (Ze), suggests that we’re prone to procrastinating on large projects because we visualize the worst parts and thus delay in getting started.

One of the simplest methods for beating procrastination in almost any task was inspired by busy waiters. We remember better that which is unfinished or incomplete. Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found in 1927 that waiters remembered orders only as long as the order was in the process of being served.When we are holding things in short-term memory, we have to rehearse them otherwise they disappear, like a light going out. This requires cognitive effort, and the more things we are rehearsing the more effort. The waiter’s trick is thus to keep spinning the plates of the open orders whilst letting those which are completed fall. A similar effect also happens over a longer period as we worry about those things in which we have not achieve closure. Thus I might keep thinking about a problem at work over a whole weekend as it keeps coming back to haunt me.

Almost sixty years later Kenneth McGraw and colleagues carried out another test of the Zeigarnik effect (McGraw et al., 1982). In it participants had to do a really tricky puzzle; except they were interrupted before any of them could solve it and told the study was over. Despite this nearly 90% carried on working on the puzzle anyway. What these examples have in common is that when people manage to start something they’re more inclined to finish it. Procrastination bites worst when we’re faced with a large task that we’re trying to avoid starting. It might be because we don’t know how to start or even where to start. What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere…anywhere.

Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.
-Franz Kafka

So here are my rules for being super productive:

  1. Breathe. Slow Rhythmic and Even for 3 minutes, every day. Close your eyes and just let breathing change your physiology. Let eustress help.
  2. Read your BAED Motivational Card. Be Amazing Every Day [31 seconds].
  3. Use The Ze. Don’t start with the hardest bit, try something easy first. If you can just get under way with any part of a project, then the rest will tend to follow. Once you’ve made a start, however trivial, there’s something drawing you on to the end.
  4. What is Your Why? (The Hardest Question) Your purpose, your goals for inspiration to act (if you don’t have any, create some today!). Write a personal mission statement, and use it as a guide to set goals. Ask if each goal or activity moves you closer to achieving your mission. If it doesn’t, eliminate it. Periodically review and revise your mission statement.
  5. Wake up Earlier. Add a productive hour to your day by getting up an hour earlier — before everyone else starts imposing on your time.
  6. Most Important Tasks (priority 1-5). At the start of each day (or the night before) highlight the three or four most important things you have to do in the coming day. Label them from 1 -5 in terms of priority. 1’s get done. Do them first. If you get nothing else accomplished aside from your MITs, you’ve still had a pretty productive day.
  7. Backwards Planning. A planning strategy that works from the goal back to your next action. Start with the end goal in mind. What do you have to have in place to accomplish it? OK, now what do you have to have in place to accomplish what you have to have in place to accomplish your end goal? And what do you have to have in place to accomplish that? And so on, back to something you already have in place and/or can put in place immediately. That’s your next action.
  8. Eliminate distractions. Close email programs, switch, off email notifications. In fact, switch off the phone when you are trying to get important work done.
  9. Smash The Big Rocks. The big projects you’re working on at any given moment. Set aside time every day or week to move your big rocks forward.
  10. Zero Inbox Rule. Decide what to do with every email you get, the moment you read it. If there’s something you need to do, either do it or add it to your to do list and delete or file the email. If it’s something you need for reference, file it. Empty your email inbox every day.
  11. Write it Down / Ubiquitous Capture. Always carry something to take notes with — a pen and paper, a phone, tablets- whatever.. Capture every thought that comes into your mind, whether it’s an idea for a project you’d like to do, an appointment you need to make, something you need to pick up next time you’re at the store, whatever. Review it regularly and transfer everything to where it belongs: a to do list, a filing system, a journal, etc.
  12. 80/20 Rule/Pareto Principle. Generally speaking, the 80/20 Principle says that most of our results come from a small portion of our actual work, and conversely, that we spend most of our energy doing things that aren’t ultimately all that important. Figure out which part of your work has the greatest results and focus as much of your energy as you can on that part.
  13. Effective Batch Process. Do all your similar tasks together. For example, don’t deal with emails sporadically throughout the day; instead, set aside an hour to go through your email inbox and respond to emails. Do the same with voice mail, phone calls, responding to letters, filing, and so on — any routine, repetitive tasks.
  14. Handle Everything Once (Full Stop *). Don’t set things aside hoping you’ll have time to deal with them later. Ask yourself what do I need to do with this every time you pick up something from your email list, and either do it, schedule it for later, defer it to someone else, or file it. Make a black star every time you pick up a bit of paper.
  15. Be in the Flow. The flow state happens when you’re so absorbed in whatever you’re doing that you have no awareness of the passing of time and the work just happens automatically. It’s hard to trigger consciously, but you can create the conditions for it by allowing yourself a block of uninterrupted time, minimizing distractions, and calming yourself.
  16. Simplify. We like to think of ourselves as great multitaskers, but we are not. What we do when we multitask is devote tiny slices of time to several tasks in rapid succession. Since it takes more than a few minutes (research suggests as long as 20) to really get into a task, we end up working worse and more slowly than if we devoted longer blocks of time to each task, worked until it was done, and moved on to the next one.

From the moment you wake in the morning to the time you close your eyes at night, you spend the day fulfilling responsibilities, completing tasks and working towards goals both big and small.

It is time to stop learning and start doing. Ask yourself what one thing could you do this week to get you closer to your personal success. What one thing have you been procrastinating on that will have a major impact when complete?

It’s time to finally get things done.

The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity. -Tom Peters

Be Amazing Every Day.

Innovation: It’s a not a dog-eat-dog world

Innovation is not born from the dream. Innovation is born from the struggle.

Simon Sinek

Simon’s words are both profound and a little bleak. In the realm of business, people often say that it’s a cut-throat ordog-eat-dog world. The phrase survival of the fittest, which was not used (first) by Darwin but by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, is widely misunderstood. For most people the phrase survival of the fittest evokes a picture of nature red in tooth and claw, a brutal struggle, which the strongest individuals are destined to win. Survival of the fittest has been used (in society and business) to justify greed, selfish behaviours and everyone for themselves attitudes. The ‘fittest’ can actually mean be the most loving and selfless, not the most aggressive and violent In fact, in biological terms the fittest can mean the cleverest, the best camouflaged, the most attractive – or even the nicest. In any case, what happens in nature does not justify people behaving in the same way.

On August 3, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered a “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua in New York. However shortly after he began Douglass sounded a foretelling of the coming Civil War when he uttered the most quoted sentences of all of his public orations,

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Struggle can be defined in many ways and has several meaning:

  • to try hard to do, to achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems
  • to move with difficulty or with great effort
  • to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort

The struggle to survive is seen throughout evolution and natural selection. Natural selection is simply a description of what happens in the living world. It does not tell us how we should behave. The concept of struggle for existence is of competition or battle for resources needed to live.

Maybe at last, we are witnessing a shift in mentality and behaviour from the past approach of dog-eat-dog competition between businesses, business units, and employees to the future approach of collaboration across multi-functional teams, departments, organisations and business ecosystems: interconnectedness rather than separateness, collaboration rather than competition.

Traditionally start-up firms have faced a real struggle when challenging established businesses with a well-financed parent company. When James Dyson began work on his bag-less vacuum cleaner in 1978, the last thing on his mind was how Hoover would react to his muscling in on their market. Five years and 5,127 prototypes later, the Dyson G-Force Dual Cyclone arrived and revolutionised the vacuum cleaner market. Hoover, once the dominant US brand, had become complacent and failed to innovate. Dyson – now Sir James Dyson – could see a gap in the market for a top-of-the-range product that went about its job in a completely different and, arguably, more effective way. His gamble paid off handsomely.

He established his product in Japan, then in Europe and by 2007 Dyson was the market leader by revenue in the US – Hoover’s own backyard. But it was a gamble. Dyson seemingly blanked out the possibility that Hoover could use the financial muscle of its parent group, Whirlpool, to blow him out of the water. It wasn’t until 1999 that Hoover made its move. It tried to imitate a Dyson and Sir James went to court to protect his invention and he won decisively.

I am pleased that the shift from struggling companies which are seen as the breading place for innovation to one where we could have collaboration and synergy. It is a myth that nature has evolved over millions of years of combat and competitive struggle; more it is that evolution is down to networking and partnerships.

Of course there has been, and always will be competition in life, yet evolution benefits far more from collaboration than it does from competition. What we see in the wild is not every animal for itself. Cooperation is an incredibly successful survival strategy. Indeed it has been the basis of all the most dramatic steps in the history of life. Complex cells evolved from cooperating simple cells.

Multicellular organisms are made up of cooperating complex cells. Super-organisms such as bee or ant colonies consist of cooperating individuals. So does our business environment. Collaboration encourages the transcending of traditional boundaries used to separate teams, departments, business units and organisations; it interconnects artificial separations in business, encouraging sharing, creativity, empowerment and innovation. Innovation is something that is key to this world; it is what has allowed humanity to excel to limits far beyond anyone’s imagination. It is what makes the impossible, possible and it is what constantly gets us wanting to improve the world even more.

All companies are part of the greater economy, which includes your competitors, customers, suppliers and prospects. And many businesses look at the ecosystem as a zero-sum game where growth in their company will result in a decline in their competitors and vice versa. In reality that is rarely the case. Successful transformation requires courage, not fear; it is not for the faint-hearted. The more we understand and explore our own business environments and wider business ecosystems (as well as our own inner motives and values) the more we find pathways for success. The encouragement we need is for learning through doing, growth through experience, success through failure.

Innovation (even in it’s over used format) is not simply about building the future; innovation is about solving problems in the present. Looking around us in nature and human nature, we find enablers to assist us to survive and thrive. Innovation is not bred in places that are too comfortable or too easy. It is brought upon when someone taps into the brilliance of their own mind and thinks what currently exists sucks and wants to improve it — so they go out there and create it.

Being innovative is not a trait that everyone has, but the issue is many of the people who do have it decide not to do anything with it. Action is what sparks innovation, it’s not being afraid to use trial and error to figure it out because at some point you will fail, but eventually you will figure it out. Improving quality standards (Excellence, always) and customer awareness will improve all companies competing in that industry ecosystem. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats and this rings true in the world of business.

In nature, which has been dealing with dynamic change for some 4 billion years, we find it is the species that collaborate and interconnect more with their respective ecosystems that are more resilient to changes in their environment. The ecosystem they live in becomes more resilient the more interconnected the stakeholders are within that ecosystem.

The same is true for business.

Be Amazing Every Day

Why should I do business with you?

Why should I do business with you? Why is there something rather than nothing? We inhabit a universe with such things as spiral galaxies, the aurora borealis and Justin Bieber. Why? Good question. I love Simon Sinek’s beautifully explained ‘Starting with Why?’ In his book and brilliant Ted Talk, he uses examples such as Apple, Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers to dissect the power of knowing your business purpose. If you haven’t seen his Ted Talk on the Golden Circle, stop right now and watch it. Every business owner needs to understand this simple message:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.

I adore this simple paradigm about business success. With that in mind I was excited to sit down and watch the new series ‘Human Universe’, a televisual spectacular on the BBC, presented by the ever-lovely Professor Brian Cox. First broadcast on 21st Oct 2014 he tackles the question that unites the 7 billion people on Earth: Why are we here?

Prof Cox reveals how the wonderful complexity of nature and human life is simply the consequence of chance events constrained by the laws of physics that govern our universe. But this leads him to a deeper question – why does our universe seem to have been set up with just the right rules to create us? I am usually allergic to tales of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and the Ascent of Man, but I thought – and hoped – that we’d outgrown the idea of evolution as a linear narrative leading from primordial soup to astronauts. In a dizzying conclusion he unpacks this question, revealing the very latest understanding of how the universe came to be this way, and in doing so offers a radical new answer to why we are here.

But why is there something rather than nothing? This is one of the harder philosophical and empirical questions to answer. In fact there are two questions here. One question is, within some framework of physical laws that is flexible enough to allow for the possible existence of either ‘stuff’ or ‘no stuff’ (where ‘stuff’ might include space and time itself), why does the actual manifestation of reality seem to feature all this ‘stuff’? The other is, why do we have this particular framework of physical law, or even something called physical law at all?

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, the extraordinary Michael Palin is handed an envelope containing ‘the meaning of life’, which he opens and reads out to the audience:

‘Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.’

Questions about the meaning of life have been expressed in a broad variety of ways through history, including the following:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What’s it all about?
  • Who are we?
  • Why are we here?
  • What are we here for?
  • What is the origin of life?
  • What is the nature of life?
  • What is the nature of reality?
  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is the purpose of one’s life?
  • What is the significance of life
  • What is meaningful and valuable in life?
  • What are we living for?

If you were to change those questions to be ones asked about your business or company, would you be clearer about your business ‘Why’?

We are probably unique in the Universe, according to Professor Cox. It also appears that there is a set of fundamental physical constants that are such that had they been very slightly different, the universe would have been void of intelligent life. It’s as if we’re balancing on a knife’s edge. Through our understanding of the Big Bang theory (which was met with much skepticism when first introduced), current physics can describe the early universe from 10−43 seconds after that time (where zero time corresponds to infinite temperature); a theory of quantum gravity would be required to understand events before that time. And the ultimate fate of the universe, and implicitly humanity, is hypothesised as one in which biological life will eventually become unsustainable, such as through a Big Freeze, Big Rip, or Big Crunch. Or maybe, as Cipher said after eating a piece of simulated steak in The Matrix,‘Ignorance is bliss.’

Of course these why questions don’t exist in a vacuum; they only make sense within some explanatory context. If we ask ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ we understand that there are things called roads with certain properties, and things called chickens with various goals and motivations, and things that might be on the other side of the road, or other beneficial aspects of crossing it.

In Douglas Adams’ book, movie, television, and radio series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is given the numeric solution 42 after seven and a half million years of calculation by a giant supercomputer called Deep Thought. When this answer is met with confusion and anger from its constructors, Deep Thought explains that,

‘I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is’.

So the next time someone asks, ‘Why should I do business with you?’ perhaps you could say with confidence…

  • We exude passion in everything we do
  • We risk more than is required
  • We learn more than is normal
  • We speak our truth and live our values
  • We laugh, cry, innovate and simplify
  • We adore mastery and aim for genius
  • We try to stay humble
  • We are kinder than expected
  • We deliver more than is needed
  • We shatter limits and transcend fears
  • We inspire others
  • We started small and dream bigger
  • We will act now and are not stopping
  • We will change the world

That’s it.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Some Non-Obvious Advice on Authentic Leadership

Be an Amazing Leader Every Day.Leadership is behaviour, not position.

The perceived wisdom about Authentic Leadership is confused and dull; many so-called ‘consultants’ and ‘gurus’ have tried to tell us the ‘right’ answer. The current plethora of articles on ‘Thought Leadership‘ is astonishing. I have read, researched and evaluated (ingested, digested, absorbed, assimilated and egested) a huge collection of material on Leadership (from different cultures, writers and traditions) and tried to distill this knowledge into a small droplet of wisdom.

I have a lot of time for Rand Fishkin’s original blogs (co-founder of Moz andInbound.org) and his thoughts on ‘thought leaders’,

‘I don’t particularly like the phrase “thought leader” or “thought leadership” for two reasons: 1) just *thinking* about something doesn’t make you a leader, nor does being a leader enable you to simply think about things AND 2) the term has pretentious and sometimes negative associations. When I hear people describe me that way, I have a viscerally uncomfortable reaction. I kinda wish the terminology would go away.’

Apart from some poor use of English, I think he is spot on. Leadership is not a theoretical concept. Tom Peters is one of my main leadership influencers. His clear observation, that:

the best leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders

seems to be one of his finest assertions. It is also not something that is assumed by a position, salary or access to executive facilities.I embrace the idea that ‘Leadership is Behaviour, not Position’ (possibly coined by Tim Longhurst and even he is not sure where he sourced it) and it sums up the concept of leadership nicely.

Peter Drucker conjured up a thousand images on leadership with a very astute observation:Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. The role of Managerand leader are such completely different, although people often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are the facilitators of their team members’ success. Leaders are the ones who take responsibility for making decisions and bringing change. Leaders are the ones who empower people to discover and use their greatest potential. People are the ones to choose their leader.

If you do a standard Google search on the topic of Leadership, the termauthenticity jumps up and is everywhere. Value Leadership and thought leadership gets more attention when researchers want to explain the effectiveness of management. Isn’t authenticity a principle that anyone with clear conviction and focus intuitively operates from? The question arises whether authenticity in the context of leadership should be invisible. As a leader you should always behave in a manner that is consistent with your beliefs. Authentic Leadership does not come from your title or from the size of your bonus or salary. This form of leadership comes from your inner being and the person that you are. Consider the words of Gary Hamel and Polly LaBarre in the Harvard Business Review article:

‘…too many leadership experts still fail to distinguish between the practice of leadership and the exercise of bureaucratic power. In order to engage in a conversation about leadership, you have to assume you have no power — that you aren’t ‘in charge’ of anything and that you can’t sanction those who are unwilling to do your bidding. If, given this starting point, you can mobilise others and accomplish amazing things, then you’re a leader. If you can’t, well then, you’re a bureaucrat.’

The roots of Authentic Leadership come from ancient Greek philosophy that focuses on the development of core, or virtues.. Ancient Greek philosophers stressed authenticity as an important state through an emphasis on being in control of one’s own life and the ubiquitous admonition: know thyself. Authentic leadership as we know it today evolved from the history of these terms. Recently, authentic leadership has garnered more attention among scholars and practitioners because of publications from many Gurus and led by Harvard professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George. The past decade has seen a surge in publications about authentic leadership, producing new models, definitions, and theories.

The ancient Greek traditions have reminders for those seeking leadership excellence. They spoke of Leadership having 4 pillars:

  • Prudence (fair-mindedness, wisdom, seeing all possible courses of action),
  • Temperance (being emotionally balanced and in control),
  • Justice (being fair in dealings with others), and
  • Fortitude (courage to do the right thing).

In my opinion, the greatest leaders are those who lead primarily by their example. The most effective form of leadership is born out of the sincere desire and proven ability to make a positive contribution. Those who lead best are those for whom leadership itself is not the primary aim. Most leaders want to get the best out of their team. Instead of telling your team members what to do, show it to them by your own example.The greatest leaders are those who lead not only with their words and ideas. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. Instead, they lead by example.Lt. Col. Hal Moore is a great example of this. Famously depicted by Mel Gibson in the movie, We Were Soldiers, Lt. Moore told his troops, before leaving for Vietnam,

‘We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I’ll be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together, so help me God.’

For leaders to grow they have to know that their followers are following them each and every moment. Practice what you preach, and the results will astonish you. Be an amazing leader every day. When conditions are tough, when chances to give up are very big, you should be the one who faces obstacles with confidence and determination towards success. Be sure, that they will do the same and stand by your side. By showing personal values, moral behaviour and ethics a manager earns trustworthiness for effective interpersonal relationships. These are the foundation for working together within a company and for employees to reach common goals.

My distillation process for all this ancient and modern knowledge is well underway (having taken a lifetime so far); the result is a small drop of wisdom that contains some non-obvious advice about Authentic Leadership. It is my passion to try to live these mantras every day:

  • More Self-Awareness: The knowledge of self allows leaders to lead from their heart. This is a prerequisite for being an authentic leader; know your own strengths, limitations and values. Knowing what you stand for and what you value is critical. Self-awareness is needed in order to develop the other components of Authentic Leadership. Business is about people; leadership is about people. The best leaders wear their hearts on their sleeves and are not afraid to show their vulnerability. They genuinely care about other people and spend their days developing the people around them. Try to exude passion in all your do.
  • More Authenticity: You have to speak your own truth. This involves being honest and straightforward in dealing with others. An Authentic Leader does not play games or have a hidden agenda. You know where you stand with an authentic leader.In business today, we frequently ‘swallow our truth’. We say things to please others and to look good in front of the crowd or play out their own drama. Authentic Leaders are very different. They consistently talk their truth. They would never betray themselves by using words that are not aligned with who they are. Speaking truth is simply about being clear, being honest and being, yes, authentic.
  • More Dreamers: It starts with the courage to dream. Einstein said that, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ So true. When we dream we have to be open. An effective Authentic Leader solicits opposing viewpoints and considers all options before choosing a course of action. But it is from our imaginations that great things are born. Authentic Leaders dare to dream impossible dreams. They see what everyone else sees and then dream up new possibilities. They spend a lot of time with their eyes closed creating blueprints and fantasies that lead to better products, better services, better workplaces and deeper value.
  • More Doing the Right Thing: An Authentic Leader is courageous andhas an ethical core. She or he knows the right thing to do and is driven by a concern for ethics and fairness.It takes a lot of courage to go against the crowd. It takes a lot of courage to be a visionary. It takes a lot of inner strength to do what you think is right even though it may not be easy. We live in a world where so many people walk the path of least resistance. Authentic Leadership is all about taking the road less traveled and doing, not what is easy, but what is right. Try also the path of Mudita and celebrate success in others.


I believe that these patterns of behaviour are associated with the concept of great leadership. But it is not a secret that more talking and less action has nothing to do with effectiveness. What peoplesee and witness affects them significantly more than what they just hear. It is interesting to review other sources on Leadership; a previous post on Mudita (the concept of celebrating success in others) was taken from the values of Buddhism. These are also known as the 8 Paths to overcome suffering and they can apply equally, I believe, to Authentic Leadership:

  • Right, skilful view (right knowledge, understanding mainly your own intentions)
  • Right, skilful thought (free from ill will, cruelty and untruthfulness)
  • Right, skilful speech (no lying, no harsh or abusive language, no idle chatter, no gossip or threatening
  • Right behaviour, skilful actions (no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, and no drinking intoxicants, so self control, not obstructing the law)
  • Right, skilful livelihood (no selling of weapons, liquor, poison, slaves or livestock, no bribery or fraud; in general earning a living that doesn’t create suffering or harm to oneself, others and the environment)
  • Right, skilful efforts (avoiding and overcoming unwholesome states of mind while developing and maintaining wholesome states of mind; in general no greed, hatred and illusions, not wanting too much, no laziness)
  • Right, skilful mindfulness (the unbiased observation of all phenomena in order to perceive them without emotional or intellectual distortions; in general to understand how our mind works)
  • Right, skillful concentration (complete focus on a single object).

Lots of excellent content within this tradition and while the detail and judgemental elements are sometimes frustrating, there is merit in the execution of this form of Authentic Leadership. Becoming an Authentic Leader is not easy and no human being is ever perfect. No leader can ever be the perfect leader. Every single one of us is a work in progress. Authentic leaders commit themselves to Excellence(always) in everything that they do. They are constantly pushing the envelope and raising their standards. They do not seek perfection and have the wisdom to know the difference. It takes a great deal of self-reflection, getting to know oneself and the courage to do the right thing.

Behave consistently. Deeds, not words, best show your authenticity.

Be Amazing Every Day.

10 Rules for Better Office Politics

Nov 6 2014

Here is a new word for you or your office:Mudita.

‘D’ja ever clap when a waitress falls and drops a tray of glasses?’ and ‘Don’tcha feel all warm and cozy, watching people out in the rain?” That’s schadenfreude.

These lines are taken from Avenue Q, the musical based on Sesame Street; there is a brilliant song called (funnily enough)schadenfreudeMost people have heard of the term schadenfreude, where pleasure is derived from the misfortunes of others. Some say it is a global office sport. A New York Times article cited a number of scientific studies which it is defined as, ‘delighting in others’ misfortune’. Many such studies are based on social comparison theory; the idea that when people around us have bad luck, we look better to ourselves.

There is another way to find happiness – being able to be happy for someone else’s success. It has a name too:Mudita. Gaining pleasure in life illuminates our own feelings about success and happiness and also the possibilities of our own success and happiness. Some would call this altruistic (unselfish) joy. It is amazing and could revolutionise your office.

Have you ever felt upset for no reason at all when a friend achieves something you have always wanted? If someone else’s happiness or achievements bother you, even when it has nothing to do with you, you’re probably experiencing jealousy. In one way or another, virtually everybody dreams of standing out, being admired, acclaimed—even, well, applauded. To be viewed and to view ourselves, as merely average or adequate really doesn’t do very much for us, or rather, our ego. This may be all the more so because we live in a meritorious society that refuses to celebrate or lavish praise on individuals unless they’re judged exceptional.

This circumstance explains why we may experience a certain envy when we hear drums bang for someone else. Secretly, we long to hear a drum roll beating for us. Although we might be jealous of someone’s accomplishments, we may have a different yet very equal set of achievements. Similarly, we might find happiness and success in different roads that can never be compared, but are still equally as important. We can be jealous of somebody’s life and admire them at the same time. We can be happy for them without compromising our own happiness.

We can still reach higher and higher whilst helping others achieve their dreams too. Jealousy is inevitable but will blind you and force you to spend hours fantasising about circumstances that’ll never materialise. You’re still going to be the same person you are now even after whiling away hours or days in jealous thoughts and ideas. Understanding how to stop being jealous can help you control your own life and live better.

Which makes your own recognition all the more important. More often than not, people don’t—or won’t—acknowledge you for your contributions and accomplishments. Which may seem a little strange since almost all of us have hopes for such recognition—one reason, perhaps, that the expression fishing for compliments is so well-known. But though it might seem intuitive that people would be more than willing to give what they would greatly appreciate getting themselves, this typically isn’t the case. When complimented, we’re likely to glow internally. Praise from others whose authority we respect serves to verify our sense of inner worth. Such external approval is especially important for those still plagued by self-doubt. If someone does tale the time to be positive and compliments you, remember to say, ‘Thank you. I appreciate that.

10 Rules for Office Mudita

  1. Start by becoming aware. It is helpful to examine the consequences of jealousy and envy. Be honest with yourself when you notice your thoughts and feelings heading down a negative path. Usually jealousy comes from fear. What are you afraid of? Almost always, jealousy stems from a deep fear that you may never achieve the same thing. The more you are jealous, the more you are convincing yourself that you will be no good. Turn that jealousy into determination, without ever giving up and you will definitely stop being jealous all the time.
  2. Look for success in others. When you see another person’s win as a loss for you, you pave the way for discouragement and resentment to set in. Instead allow other people’s success to ignite hope for the success coming in your time of harvest.
  3. Stop comparing yourself. In this world where everyone’s lives are open for all to see through social networks, it’s easy to constantly compare yourself with your peers and competitors. In the office this canlead to believe that youa re not as good as someone else. This triggers theschadenfreude impulses.
  4. Your own achievements matter. Celebrate your own achievements, however small they may be. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t hate someone else because they’re famous or earning a lot more than you are. At some point, they were in the same place as you.
  5. Make more opportunities to be happy. Rejoicing with others creates an opportunity to multiply the good times you get to celebrate. By seizing every chance to sincerely congratulate other’s on their success, you are creating an atmosphere for others to be willing to celebrate your successes.
  6. Passion for life. Love yourself and respect your own life. If you’re not happy, choose a new career path that you love. When you respect yourself, you won’t get jealous anymore. You may be envious, but not jealous because you believe in your own capabilities.
  7. Start with the people you love. It might be difficult to get instantly excited about the lives of strangers. However, you can start by focusing on the people closest to you. For example, cheer with enthusiasm when your cousin wins an award, your friend gets a promotion, or a BNI colleague successfully closes a deal
  8. Stop wishing you were someone else. You are not. You will not become someone else with wishful thinking. Unless you consciously work towards achieving more, you’ll spend the rest of your life bitter and fragile because your happiness doesn’t come from your own success, but from watching someone else’s downfall.
  9. Shine a spotlight on someone else. Keep in touch with what is going on in the lives of the people around you. Others may be bashful about mentioning their own victories but still appreciate having their efforts recognised. Super power time.
  10. Be Amazing Every Day. Be confident and pursue your own dreams. Jealousy is a way of accepting failure. Why are you jealous? Don’t you think you are capable of achieving the same pleasures as the object of your jealousy some day? Jealousy is your mind’s subconscious way of giving up and whining about how unfair life is. Don’t succumb to it. Instead, go out there and prove that you are better. Be Amazing Every Day.

So what do you do when you see someone thriving with the opportunities, recognition, clients and wins that you want for your life or business? Mudita! You can learn to celebrate other people’s success. If you master generating genuine happiness for other people, not only will you find a cure for the envy, which can sabotage your success, but there are additional benefits as well. The words of the Buddha are powerful reminder of the power of Mudita,

Here, O, Monks, a disciple let’s his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of unselfish joy, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, everywhere and equally, he continues to pervade with a heart of unselfish joy, abundant, grown great, measureless, without hostility or ill-will.

Be Amazing Every Day