7 Ways to Master the Art of Showing Up

November 5, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“80 percent of success is showing up.” Woody Allen

The difference between people who want to do something and those who actually do, those who develop mastery and those who don’t, is the showing up.

But what makes it so hard to go from thinking to doing? You wanted to go to the gym today, but did you? Just showing up means you’re 80% of the way to a good workout. The trick is in cultivating the self-discipline to start and then to sustain the momentum. Here is a 7-step roadmap to get you there.

1.      Think big, start small…

It’s okay to have big goals and vision. But you have to accept that you will need to start small. If you want to buy a mansion in Manhattan, you may need to start with a condo in Kansas. If your goal is to run 10 miles a day, start by setting your running shoes and gear aside the night before. When people begin a project, they often default to the big prize and forget that life is like a game of football, you make progress in inches, not yards. If at every play, you expect a touchdown, you will soon be disappointed and give up.

2.      Whatever you do, do it daily…

Daily action builds habits. Small actions each day accumulate into “compounding interest” of continuous improvement. Bruce Lee famously said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Daily action yields greater benefits than waiting for inspiration to make your big splash.

3.      Eat a live frog first thing in the morning…

Mark Twain famously said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, meaning do your least desirable task first, you can go through the rest of your day knowing the worst is behind you. While it seems like common sense, many people indulge and reward themselves first by doing favored tasks and then dread and avoid the less desirable tasks the rest of the day. To break the cycle, always start with essential projects first, no matter what. You’ll thank yourself for your diligence come the afternoon.

4.      Create a false sense of urgency…

Some people work and thrive under pressure. They need that extra bit of adrenaline to get them past the finish line. You can recreate that sensation by blocking out less time than you actually think you need. Often, you’ll find your focus improves when you begin working and ultimately finish on time. If you need to hack and trick your brain into being productive, then so be it.

5.      Tame your unconscious mind…

If you listen to Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (The Psychology of Flow), the whole idea of mastery is nothing more than the self-expression of your ability to consciously dedicate your time towards something that in the long run gives you structure for the entropy of your mind. This means cultivating the daily discipline to tame the chaos of your unconscious mind, avoid distractions, and focus only on what is wildly important. Harness your focus, and you will harness your success.

6.      Be a diver, not a dabbler…

If you’ve ever watched waterfowl, you might have noticed that some ducks are divers while others are dabblers. The divers propel themselves underwater diving with intention and ferocity towards their target. The dabblers, in contrast feed in the shallows skimming food from the surface. For me this is analogous to being a jack of all trades and a master of none. The unavoidable truth is that without deep practice, there is no such thing as skill. There is obviously nothing wrong with having multiple skills or even having superficial knowledge in them. But in order to have any kind of mastery on any kind of subject, you need to be a diver.

7.      Get comfortable with failure…

The bright side of all this is that you can own your own success by taking responsibility for it. But that means you have to own the struggle and failure, integral parts of any goal worth pursuing, as well as, the success. If you aren’t comfortable with failure, it’s hard to be successful.

Final Word

The future belongs to those who master the art of showing up daily. There is a simple reason for that. It’s easier to make significant progress on a project if you simply show up to do it. If you want to be an author, show up to write your manuscript every day. If you want to be a pilot, go to your flying lessons, and if you want to be the CEO of the company one day, then show up being the CEO of your own station every day. Doesn’t it make sense that by showing up each day, you set yourself up to take advantage of opportunities?

So, if you want increase your chances of success by 80% – Show Up!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

The 6 Most Important Ingredients of the Recipe for Lasting Change

November 2, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

– John Dryden

Have you ever wondered why most change efforts, whether individual or organizational, don’t last? All of us want to create lasting change in our lives on some level. The question isn’t what, it is how. Is it really possible to overcome habitual behavior and identity traits that have cemented themselves over the course of your life? The answer is yes but it does take work and attention to the important ingredients that are part of the recipe of lasting change.

1.      The importance of focus…

First, there is the law of diminishing returns which says if you spread your efforts too thinly among many different goals and objectives, you end up doing nothing.

The key here is to really focus on one or two goals at a time and then to persist until achieved.

2.      The importance of commitment…

Don’t take on a goal just because it would be nice to have. Instead, make sure it has deep meaning for you and your life purpose. It is the deeper level of commitment to the goal – and not progress –  that helps you persevere in the face of adversity.

You will know that’s true if you’ve ever started a new diet or exercise regimen successfully (progress) only to sabotage yourself by eating a piece of cake as your reward for that success. You made progress but you lacked the deeper commitment to keep going.

3.      The importance of your tribe…

To make true lasting change, you need your tribe, your network, your group of supporters to fuel your motivation through their on-going encouragement and celebration of your successes.

No one is successful for long when they go it alone. Lasting change requires that we have mutual accountability partners, social support and a sense of belonging to something that is greater. We are the people we interact with.

4.      The importance of being uncomfortable…

To truly change, you need to be willing to experience discomfort and lean into it. Most change is uncomfortable, even scary. That’s why most people resist change.

But being conscious about why you are seeking the change, and the benefits it holds, helps us to accept whatever we are experiencing as it arises – whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

Bringing discomfort along for the ride, rather than trying to get rid of it, can be a very helpful skill, to allow us to get a longer-term reward.

5.      The importance of values…

Most people are not conscious of the fact that behind their desire to change are strong values. When we hold out in front of us what we most value, and identify why this behavior change matters to us, we are more willing to endure for long-term, sustainable change.

Take a moment and think about what behavior you want to change and ask yourself why?

  • How will changing this behavior align you with your values?
  • How will changing this behavior help you align with the parts of you that you most value about yourself?
  • How will it help you with the impact you want to have?

6.      The importance of mindset…

Success is not linear. If you have expectations that it is, or that all you do and think will have a clean cause and effect correlation, you will be disappointed and give up before what you want to change has had a chance to breathe.

We all experience setbacks, and the more we can build a growth mindset around the process of change, and approach our mistakes and failures as lessons to be learned from rather than opportunities to beat ourselves up, the more likely we will have the motivation needed to reach our goals.

Final Word

We all have a concert of voices in our heads. What we say to ourselves matters far more than we may realize, and often we don’t even pay attention to this harsh and self-critical voice.

To access real change, there are struggles and self-limiting beliefs that we have to battle before we can move forward.

Label and define that saboteur voice in your head that shows resistance at the thought of stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Take some time to get clear about where you are and where you want to be. Focus on changing how you think about the things you want to change, which affects the actions you take.

Above all, form new habits and stay accountable to them through strategic alliances with your tribe. Having support in your life can be the difference between success and failure.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

Why Your Values are the Secret Ingredient to the Life You Want to Live (and How to Discover Them)

May 8, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”

~ Elvis Presley 

Values are everything. They act like an internal compass. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea. When our values are met, we feel great. When they are missing, we feel lost.

Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. When you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. So why are values so important and how do you discover yours?

Values are in your DNA

Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive decisions

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values. Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. You don’t realize this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values trigger emotions

Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values determine performance

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Values are embedded deep within.

 

Values work from deep within

When you are not living by your values, it can feel like a beach ball being held under the water. There is a feeling of constant pressure pushing to the surface. Your values are buried deep in your unconscious mind and bringing them to the forefront of your consciousness is a simple but important exercise. The more tricky equation is living by your values once you’ve surfaced them.

So how do you discover your values and know which are core values?

You can “pick” values from a list but this often leads to people choosing “SHOULD Values” – that is to say, the ones they think they ‘should’ have.

Instead, start by asking yourself what you need for your personal or professional life and what is important to you. What can you compromise on and what is non-negotiable. Your mind will immediately lead to a value that is important, such as “Trust” or “Independence” for example.

Now, dig a little deeper and come up with another value that is greater than trust and keep on collecting words that you feel are important to you until you find your core value.

So how do you know which is your core value?

Your core value is the value that is greater than any other value. It is the center of the target – the one where you feel that there is nothing more important than this value. Find at least 5 of these and begin to live your life in congruence with them. Again, easier said than done. Courage is often needed to live by your values.

A final word

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know what success looks like for you? That’s why in a coaching context, we often start by discovering values.

We must also be aware that there are limiting beliefs that can hold us back from meeting our values. These are the road blocks that will prevent you from reaching your goals and can even block you from meeting your values. You need to be aware of these roadblocks as well as your values and work consciously to change limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs. This is how you bring limitless happiness into your life.

The alignment of empowering beliefs with core values and behaviors that match, is the secret sauce to a life fulfilled.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Values Eat Strategy for Lunch

December 6, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Let’s pick up where we last left off.

In my most recent article The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It), I advanced the not-so- radical notion that values matter – a lot. So why exactly do values matter? Let’s dig in.

Values drive culture…

Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive brand identity…

Brand values reflect the very essence of a brand. There is no better example of that than Apple. ‘Think Different’ is a value not a strategy. Being ‘iconoclastic’ is a value not a strategy. Innovation is a core value not a strategy. Of all the big companies, Apple is famously subpar on its philanthropy. That was also a value (or rather a lack of value) driven by Steve Jobs.

Values drive engagement…

When a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Values struggle to survive in a culture which is over-managed and under-led.People are motivated by meaning and purpose which is derived from values. Without this, they have nothing to cling to and their engagement goes down over time. Values help us lean our ladder against a building. Values are embedded in the vision that keeps us climbing to the top. Now imagine having nothing to lean your ladder against. That feeling is the same as working in an environment without values.

Values drive decisions…

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values.  Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. I pursued graduate school because I value education. You don’t even know this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values drive behavior…

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values drive success…

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know when what success looks like for you?  Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. And when you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea.

One Final Word…

Given the importance of values, I am always amazed that most people and organizations coast without any consideration of values. They just flap in the wind of endless strategy setting sessions. At best, they make the mistake of picking core values out of thin air and trying to fit them into their organization. As if values could be purchased off the shelf in a “one size fits all” fashion.

Here, I do suggest a radical change. Instead of describing or discovering your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social and ideal seeking behaviors. Providing you give people a mechanism to co-create the values, you’ll create an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allow positive feelings to emerge in turn. You’ll create unity. Cultural change will happen, and soon. There is no choice. At the heart of that cultural change will be a new-found leadership emerging from the ranks, and that leadership will use the springboard of rediscovering lost values to take them where they need to go.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful and/or if it helped you think a little more deeply about a topic, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Unleashing Mindset and Mechanism: Why You Need Both To Succeed

November 28, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

How We Work…

As human beings, we have two basic kinds of capabilities that must work together to advance our progress: knowing and doing or what I call mindset and mechanism.

Mindset includes learning, discipline, work ethic, transparency, commitment, being proactive, how we orientate towards growth and development, how we make decisions, and how we plan for the future. We plan and make decisions largely based on using past experience to judge the future. Mindset is about readiness. Readiness for opportunity, readiness for change.

Mindset is how you view the world.

Mechanism includes execution, action, methodology, tactics, deployment of resources, mastery of skills, goal setting and adjustment. That means establishing goals, following a plan, and then adjusting it according to both reality and perception. Mechanism is about competency and consistency. Competency to implement solutions consistently.

Mechanism is how you act in the world.

The unity of mindset and mechanism are the pillars that uphold everything else.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.

How Teams Work…

People, by nature, have the ability to know and do well. Success is about developing the right mindset and providing the right mechanisms. Then, stepping out of the way and trusting people to do their jobs.

From a team perspective, mindset comes in the form of motivation, buy-in, commitment, and synergy. Mechanism comes in the form of methods and tools the team can adopt and deploy to execute.

Everyone is involved in the planning, and everyone is involved in the execution.

After some time of working in this way, the team becomes proactive and synergized. The managers begin to let go of command and control.

In the old way, the leaders handled the knowing and followers the doing. When mindset and mechanism are separated, plans and decisions are made by a supervisor and tasks are done by lower level staff. Tasks are assigned without full involvement of the team. People don’t see the big picture, have less opportunity for personal development, and can’t feel achievement and growth. They aren’t engaged. They aren’t motivated.

Alternatively, the plan is made by team. Decisions are made by the team. The manager is only a facilitator. The team has the authority to decide how to carry out the project. The team feels empowered and they have buy-in to the process. They can see the big picture, they can volunteer for tasks that interest them (which helps their personal development), and they can feel a sense of achievement from their day-to-day decision making and implementation. They are given the tools to execute on their ambitions.

Old ways won’t open new doors. It is this unity of mindset and mechanism  that releases the team’s full potential and your own.

This is the key to transformation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

9 Life and Leadership Lessons From the Three Little Pigs

November 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” ~ Henry Ford

The story of “The Three Little Pigs” was one of my favorite childhood stories. The central idea behind this tale, that taking the time to perform a task the right way is prudent, and that shortcuts are a false economy, has been adopted by many work organizations since the book was initially published in 1849. Here are a few other lessons we can learn from this famed fable:

1.      Hard work pays off – The primary moral lesson learned from “The Three Little Pigs” is that hard work and dedication pay off. The first two pigs quickly built homes in order to have more free time to play. But the third pig labored in the construction of his house of bricks. Compared to the other two pigs, the third pig’s extra effort paid off in the end. He wasn’t eaten by the big bad wolf.

2.      Short cuts can cost you a lot – The first two pigs built houses of straw and sticks. While they were able to get the work done fast and had more time for leisure, their houses did not stand up to the huffs and puffs of the big bad wolf. They ended up losing their homes and in some versions, their very lives.

3.      Plan strategically – While it can be argued that all three pigs created a plan for the future – the first pigs made plans that were ultimately unsustainable. A straw house or even a stick house would not stand up against a hurricane.  Disaster preparedness was not part of their plan. The first two, could not delay the gratification of leisure time. The third little pig, on the other hand, did some future planning and decided to build a house that could withstand any future scenario, including a big bad wolf.

4.      Plan for the worst, hope for the best – The first two pigs never anticipated the big bad wolf. The third pig seemed to take all things into consideration in his choice of building materials. He was prepared when the unexpected happened. As the saying goes: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” By considering every possible scenario, you can build a stronger house.

5.      Know your limits– The big bad wolf thought he was invincible. His bravado and ego were boosted by his early successes. He easily blew down the house of straw, and the house of sticks, though a little harder to blow down, was still no match for his lungs. But when he came across the house of bricks, he fell short. He had failed to assess the situation properly, and therefore, used his resources up on trying to do the impossible.

6.      Know when to quit – Sometimes it’s worth pursuing a goal; sometimes you need to be willing to let it go. The wolf pursued the three pigs even though he wore himself out trying to blow down the house of bricks. He should have stopped while he was ahead and focused on easier prey. But greed got the better of him and he continued his pursuit which landed him in hot water, or hot oil, depending on which version you read.

7.      Work hard now, reap the rewards later – The first two pigs were more interested fun and vacations. Building safe, sturdy homes was not a priority. They paid a dear price for their inability to delay gratification. But the third pig knew that some extra effort and austerity in the present, would lead to greater prosperity in the future.

8.      Be philanthropic – The third pig spent the time and effort to build a house from bricks and mortar. While his brothers were enjoying a leisurely existence, he was busy working away building a strong house. In the end, both of the lazy brothers found refuge in the sturdy home of their more practical brother in the versions where the pigs manage to escape the wolf. Just because he was the smarter of the three, did not mean he would thumb his nose at them and leave them in the cold. The third pig was a role model for empathy and understanding.

9.      Be Patient – The third little pig is nothing if not patient, a somewhat unrecognized virtue in leadership. Building a career, company, relationship, or in the case of our protagonist, a house, takes time. In his wisdom, the third little pig was deliberate and patient and his reward for his patience was to get away with his life.

There are more than just construction lessons to be learned from the three little pigs. These little characters can teach a lot about life and survival and their personalities reflect their outlook on the world. These lessons are prudent and practical and can be found in many of the writings of the greatest business minds in history – yet everything you need to know, you were probably taught in preschool.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A

Top 10 Tips to Master Emotional Competency

October 27, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”~Winston Churchill

1.      Accurate Self-Assessment

It all starts with self knowledge. So, go here now and see what personality profile you fit best. I’ve done this test multitude of times over a number of years with coaching clients and I would say it’s 90% accurate. If you haven’t done one before, it will give you incredible actionable insight. If you have, then compare it with this one and look for commonalities. That’s probably as close to an objective assessment as you’ll get.

2.      Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is a key to leading a happier and more fulfilling life. The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself,” requires us to know how we feel in different situations. If you haven’t already, read Daniel Goldman’s bestselling book on Emotional Intelligence, do so. Increasing your awareness of your own feelings is the first step towards furthering the development of your Emotional Intelligence.

3.      Self-Confidence

There are some bedrock rules to self-confidence. Reframe negative thoughts. Learn to handle mistakes and failures in a more positive way. Don’t fall victim to the comparison trap. While you’re at it, don’t be a victim. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Take this self-esteem test to learn more about your own perception of self.

4. Resilience

Resilience is simply defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is a skill. Like a muscle, it will grow stronger the more you work it. This means developing and practicing strong coping skills, a healthy perspective, relentless optimism and good self care.  It also means managing stress and being proactive and anticipating challenges. Here is an excellent piece in ‘How to Build Resilience in Midlife.’

5.      Mindfulness

Yes I know: buzz word du jour – but that doesn’t negate its importance. This is the state of being actively open and attentive to the present moment. Instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future, be present in the here and now. What could be wrong with that? The difficulty is sustaining the practice. Meditate, do yoga or just be attentive to your breathing. Little practices each day will help enormously. The next time you are confronted by your snarky boss, go Zen. Instead of overreacting, bring your attention to your physical body. Scan your body from head to toe and consciously try to let any tension slip away.  After that, bring your attention to your breathing. Breath gently.  Now respond without ego and with compassion. See what happens. If it’s good enough for his Holiness, it’s good enough for you.

6. Empathy

I have a popular article on empathy which explores this theme in the context of leadership and you can read that here.  But in short, here is what you need to know. Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is not the same as sympathy. It is a key element of emotional intelligence because it is how we understand what others are experiencing and therefore allows us to act on their needs and concerns.  Researchers have identified three types of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy: Understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense.
  • Emotional empathy: The ability to relate to someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too.
  • Compassionate empathy: Understanding someone’s feelings, and taking appropriate action to help.

7.      Social Bonds

I am always amazed at how much time people spend in the gym to look good externally but how little time they spend comparatively on building social bonds. Ironically, social media has spurred an epidemic of social isolation with proven drastic mental health consequences. Further evidence from a decades-long study shows that loneliness has detrimental outcomes as powerful as smoking and alcoholism. So, the next time your friends or colleagues invite you out for coffee or a meal, take them up on it. That next line of code or whatever you are doing can wait. Human beings are social animals and a strong social support system is key to an emotionally healthy life.

8.      Collaboration and Cooperation

In my training exercises, I sometimes use the improv technique of Yes, And. Unless you are currently a monk in a cave, your work is not a one-person show. That means collaboration, engagement and cooperation with others. This exercise forces people to avoid rejecting other team members ideas and instead to build upon them. “Yes, And” is the opposite of “No, But,” which is what I hear most on the shop floor.

9.      Service orientation

The Dali Lama believes that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. The servant leader is a popular model for leadership.  One of the key differences between a more traditional model of leadership and servant leadership is that the latter is a bottom-up approach, whereas the former is more top-down. The servant leader is servant first invested in the growth and development of others. What is exciting about servant leadership is that by putting others first, we find deeper fulfillment in ourselves.

10.  Optimism

With growing evidence that optimists live longer, happier lives, I am not sure what anyone gets of out being pessimistic, except early onset of heart disease. If you are prone to negativity, find quick distractions you can use when you realize you’re stuck on the same negative thought. It is possible to develop an optimistic world view through practice. A grateful mindset is a good start. Think about the long arc of your life when considering your success and not just the setbacks you may feel at the moment. Minimize your exposure to negative people and negative influences. Hang out with optimistic people. You are, after all, the average of the five people closest to you.

Conclusion

What if you incorporated these items as daily habits? I have seen from my coaching clients how this has a profound effect on the quality of work and life. You will reap both immediate and long-term benefits and you will begin to feel more fulfilled. Instead of focusing on weaknesses, flaws, limitations and malfunctions, mobilize your resources  so that these qualities become part of your attitude and flow each and every day. What do you have to lose?

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

What Can Steve McQueen Teach Us About Passion?

October 14, 2017 •  3 minute read • by Saeed


“I scrounged around for the next couple of years, trying to get the scam on the human race and just where the hell I fitted in – I discovered there were no openings.” ~ Steven Terrence McQueen

Follow your passion.

That’s pretty much the mantra of every self-help guru you can shake a stick at. Let’s not stop there. Steve Jobs famously espoused the same formula for bliss. But is that really how it works?

Examining the life of an iconic actor may be instructive in understanding how passion, purpose, and vocation inter-relate.

Steven Terrence McQueen was born on March 24, 1930, in Beech Grove, Indiana.  One of the most popular film actors of the 1960s and ’70s, he was known for his rugged good looks and cool, tough guy persona. McQueen was also a walking paradox. The ‘King of Cool’ was painfully insecure and harbored antediluvian attitudes about women. He said: “I’ve spent too much of my life feeling insecure. I still have nightmares about being poor, of everything I own just vanishing away. Stardom means that can’t happen.”

In his youth, McQueen worked various odd jobs –  oil rigs, carnivals and even as a towel boy in a brothel. In 1947, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became a tank driver. In 1952, McQueen found himself studying acting with Stella Adler in New York and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1974, at the height of his fame, Steve McQueen was the highest-paid movie star in the world with a net work of $30 million. One would have thought McQueen had found his passion. But McQueen hated acting. Even though his popularity placed him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries, he was combative with directors and producers.

“I really don’t like to act. At the beginning, back in ’51, I had to force myself to stick with it. I was real uncomfortable, real uncomfortable.” “I’ll never be as good an actor as I want to be….but I’ll be good.”

Indeed, he was disparaging of his craft. He once said: “In my own mind, I’m not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing.”

McQueen only saw acting as a way to become financially secure. His childhood was hard and he grew up poor. As he remarked, “Stardom equals financial success and financial success equals security… I just want the brass ring and the pine trees and my kids and the green grass. I want to get rich and fat and watch my kids grow.”

For McQueen, acting was a job that allowed him to pursue his real passion: racing. As he said, “I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts.”

McQueen owned more than a hundred motorcycles and more than 50 classic cars. He was so knowledgeable about motorcycles that he wrote a series of reviews of various models in Popular Science in the mid-1960s. He was often credited with popularizing dirt biking and in 1978 he was rewarded for it by being inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. He tried to tanslate his passion to film when he starred in “Le Mans,” a 1971 film depicting a fictional 24 hours of the famous car race. Much to his disappointment, the film was a box office flop.

His need for speed also included airplanes. He got his pilot’s license and bought several classic old aircraft, including a 1945 Stearman, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub and a 1931 Pitcairn PA-8 biplane. Towards the end of his life, he lived in an airplane hanger with his third wife and his many acquired toys. His massive collection was sold at auction after his death for many times what he paid for them.

“Racing is life.” McQueen would say. “Anything before or after is just waiting.” That is the very definition of passion.

So for McQueen, even though he was incredibly successful at acting, it was not his passion. One could argue that it was his purpose, but not his passion.

Sadly, 1980 was the year McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, possibly due to contact with asbestos in ships during his time in the Marines and also in sound stage insulation and in the protective suits he wore while racing.   

One final note. McQueen had a reputation for being cheap, which he apparently picked up because of his strange behavior of making unusual demands in his contracts. He asked for cases of electric razors, blue jeans and sanitary items. Later, it was discovered what he was up to. McQueen never forgot the California Junior Boys Republic – a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian school and treatment center for troubled youngsters – where he spent part of his youth. McQueen was obtaining these items and then donating them to the school. He also visited the school to give talks to the boys, established a scholarship there in 1962 and left them money in his will. He was 50 years old when he died.

 

 

 

 

3 Reasons Why You Should Think (Really) BIG!

June 28, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”

Burnham (1907) quoted in: Charles Moore (1921) Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities. Volume 2. Chapter XXV “Closing in 1911-1912;” p. 147

BIG goals are scary to many of us. They cut right to the “A” in the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting scheme. But the reality is that in many cases we don’t know what we are actually capable of achieving until we try.

In his breakthrough book Built to Last, Jim Collins wants us to do just that.

He wants to know what mountain we are climbing, pushing us to articulate what he and Jerry Porras call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

The BHAG serves as a ‘North Star’ (or ‘Southern Cross’ if you’re down under) as you drive your business, your project or your life toward success. It provides a vector along which all other decisions will be tested, helping you make the critical “yes/no” decisions that drive progress.

One of the most historic BHAGs ever set was by JFK when he declared:

“…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Kennedy did this because he believed that, if America wanted to stay on the forefront of innovation, exploration of space was key. Kennedy realized that the nation needed this motivational, albeit seemingly impossible goal.

  • In the 1960s, Nike vowed to crush Adidas,
  • In the 1970s Honda set its’ sights on ‘destroying’ Yamaha,
  • In 1990, Wal-Mart declared it would become a $125 billion company by the year 2000,
  • Microsoft’s BHAG was to put a computer on every desk in every home,
  • Stanford set out to be the Harvard of the west,
  • Amazon set out to make available every book ever printed, in any language in less than 60 seconds, and
  • Starbucks set its sights on becoming the most recognized and respected consumer brand in the world.

1.    Big goals cause us to expand our vision and our imagination. In doing so, we have to confront the reality of the basic foundation we need to get us there. If that foundation is not strong enough, then we have to gain the skills, knowledge or resources we need to strengthen it so that it can hold the weight of the BHAG.

2.    Big goals cause us to focus. They make us realize that we must maximize our time and do our best every day to move inch by inch towards the BHAG. To dwell in failure or self-pity slows our movement. Distractions take us off course. Big goals help us realize there is little time to waste and much to achieve and they help us recognize the kind of talent and support we need around us to get there. Big goals help focus our attention.

3.    Big goals cause us to become execution machines. This may be the ‘biggest’ benefit of big goals. If we are serious, big goals cause us to change our self-defeating behaviors and habits. We become organized. We stop procrastinating. We start tracking tasks that help reach our goals and we start doing so with efficiency. We take responsibility for our mistakes. We become efficient learners by incorporating the lessons learned from errors into processes so that they are not repeated. We become steadfast in our mission to systematize our progress.

At this point, something magical and more significant starts to happen. It doesn’t even matter whether we achieve the big goal or not because we have achieved an arguably  greater victory. We have revolutionized ourselves. This is the ultimate ancillary benefit of setting big goals –  to become self aware, and to build and improve ourselves. Transformational change only happens through consistent and sustained effort. That, in turn, takes the power of habit and the discipline of focus.

I hope this helps you to get thinking about your own BHAG.

If you have one you’d care to share, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

3 Most Important Deposits For Your Career Bank Account

June 16, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“Learn from the past, live in the present, and create your future.”~  Joel Brown

We all know how a regular bank account works. We make deposits, save up money, and when we need that money later, we withdraw from it.

Your career bank account works the same way. You make certain investments in it and over time, you build up your career capital.

You can make career deposits or career withdrawals (toxic behaviors) and with each you either build or take away from your career capital.

Just like any investment, the building of your underlying value and fidelity as a professional helps you build career capital.

A recently conducted Accenture Survey found that more than 89 percent of professionals believe building their career capital is the key to success in the workplace.

Today’s worker has to dig deeper, much deeper to find his or her underlying value and to make daily deposits in his or her career bank account. Here are three of the most important investments you can make:

  1. Invest in your core competencies:

In a nutshell, competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors.

  • Knowledge is information developed or learned through experience, study or inquiry. Increase your knowledge relentlessly.
  • Skill is the result of repeatedly applying knowledge or ability. Continually improve them to perfection.
  • Ability is an innate potential to perform mental and physical actions or tasks. Use these to your optimum advantage to achieve your goals.
  • Behavior is the observable reaction of an individual to a certain situation. Always keep these positive.

You are hired for your competencies. This is the gateway to achieve higher levels of performance. Knowledge, skills, abilities and behavior are the key ingredients of your career capital investment portfolio. You can achieve mastery over the market like Warren Buffet by blending these and channeling them towards your career goals.

  1. Invest in your relationships:

Your network is one of the most important career assets you have. If investment in real estate is all about location, location, location, then investment in your career may well be about relationships, relationships, relationships. Nurture them and they will nurture you. The surest way to burn career capital is to burn bridges. As a rule, try never to burn any.

  1. Invest in your brand:

If you watch a Nike commercial, the last thing you’ll see is a reference to shoe laces and leather. Apple commercials never boast about their monitors or keyboards. Rather, what you see is an association: great athletes in the case of Nike and great thinkers in the case of Apple. To develop your personal brand, you must ask yourself what you wish for people to associate with you when they think of your name. A strong personal brand is reliant upon a strong narrative. As an exercise, sit down and write your own story (your past and your future) and then align everything you do with that story.

Summary

Employees and jobseekers know that to advance, they must invest in the appropriate education, training, and skills. Employers know that training provides a return on their investment in retention and job satisfaction. But that is not nearly enough. As you go through your journey, you’ll find that the foremost rule of the road is that career tracks are no longer linear. If there was ever a yellow brick road, it has been replaced by interconnected webs of opportunity, exposure and experience where a willingness to learn, to grow and to adapt to a brave and yet uncharted new world gain the greatest returns on investment. You’re not in Kansas anymore.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content and Photography by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant