How To Build Career Longevity

September 8, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


” Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but, because of lack of commitment.” ~ Vince Lambardi
Career longevity is no longer about staying in one job for years on end.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary workers have been with their current employer for a median of 4.6 years (that doesn’t include the 14 million Americans who are self-employed free agents).

A word of caution: that is not a free pass to job hop. Shifting gears too often or pulling a 180 to do something completely different than your expertise can sabotage your efforts at building career longevity. Job hopping frequently because you can’t get along with your coworkers or management or because you lack focus and don’t know what you want in your life can be a career killer. Change is not what does you in. It’s the frequency of the changes.

We are not talking about people with legitimate reasons to make change. The bad boss is the classic. Sometimes we’re stuck in a job that is not good for us or we need a career change. In these instances, change can be good.

That statistic simply represents a major generational shift where the trend has moved towards more change more often. In places like Silicon Valley, not only is it acceptable, it can even be a badge of honor.   For the millennial set, it’s simply the way things are.

But as a whole, building longevity is no longer about staying with one company and holding out for the gold watch.

Rather, it’s about staying fresh and building career equity.

You build equity (and therefore longevity) by developing a set of skills, contacts and relationships as well as behaviors that value self improvement and the kind of adaptability that will allow you to be seen as a change maker, not someone who wants to cling to the status quo.

So how long should you stay at your job? Well, it takes about two years to build career equity or a return on the individual’s investment of time, energy and skill that is meaningful to a firm and to the individual’s career.

If you just started a new job and you are worried about your staying power, or if you don’t know how to intentionally build career equity, get a coach. If the company does not provide one, hire one yourself or take the initiative to develop relationships with peers and “go-to” people for support. Avoid violating career threatening, yet unwritten rules. This is critical to making the new start a success and to building momentum.

Remember, the way we manage endings helps us take advantage of new beginnings and build career equity, and thereby, career longevity.

©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

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How To Nail Your Next Job Interview

August 9, 2017 •   4 minute read • by Saeed


“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” ~ Steve Martin

Over the span of my career, I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates and have been interviewed countless of times myself. I am always amazed at the poor performance on both sides of the table.

I assume you are reading this because you have an upcoming interview.

I also assume you know the basics:

  • Dress for the part;
  • Arrive a few minutes early;
  • Shake hands, don’t hug (really, I’ve had that happen);
  • Have an extra copy of your resume and cover letter on hand;
  • Don’t respond with canned answers;
  • Prepare examples;
  • Research the company and prepare three questions to ask;
  • Don’t go off on a rant about how technology is destroying us if you are applying for a job at a Apple or how wall street is fleecing us if you are applying for a job at Goldman Sachs and so on;
  • Send a hand-written thank you letter.

Lastly, I assume you know that an impression is formed within the first 60 seconds of meeting you. Actually, the research says 1/10 of a second but who’s counting.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on how to actually answer questions. One of the biggest turn-offs in interviews is when people ramble on. To avoid being a babbling brook, use the STAR technique. This is an especially useful technique for answering interview questions in which you must answer with an anecdote. There are four key steps: situation, task, action, and results. Here is how it works:

(S) Situation. Describe the situation in which the event took place.

(T) Task. Describe the task you were asked to complete. If there was a particular problem or issue you were trying to solve, describe that here.

(A) Action. Explain what action you took to complete the task or solve the problem.

(R) Results. Explain the result of your actions. For example, if your actions resulted in completing a task, resolving a conflict, improving your company’s sales record, etc., explain this. Try to focus on how your actions resulted in a success for the company

Now that you have your technique down, let me give you the big secret to job interviews: People want to hire people they can see themselves working with on a daily basis. In other words, it has to be a good fit regardless of your qualifications or experience. Otherwise, both sides will be stuck in a perennial state of unhappiness. So remember, if you don’t get the job maybe it’s because it wasn’t meant to be.

Good Luck.

©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

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15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

June 18, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Our emotions need to be as educated as our intellect.” ~ Unknown

Over the last couple of decades, numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, engagement, retention, and performance.

The higher up the ladder you are, the more people you impact. The person at the top sets the atmosphere that permeates throughout the organization. They set the emotional tone for the organizational culture. Here are 15 traits that every leader should demonstrate that are indispensible to setting an atmosphere throughout the organization that is conducive to productivity and morale. They are also key milestones on your journey to emotional intelligence mastery.

1.    Encourage open communication: When you get ideas and suggestions from colleagues or your team, acknowledge them. Ten words or less, such as, “I appreciate the heads up,” or, “Thank you, that update helped me,” does a lot to encourage further information, whereas a ringing silence or lack of response telegraphs apathy, which tends to shut people down.

2.    Err on the side of over communicating: When you decide to ignore input or recommendations, certainly ones you solicited, take a moment to explain. Absent that, people will read their own story into your silence, which may be: s/he doesn’t want my input, so I’m not going to provide it.

3.    Invest in relationships: Over time, go a level deeper of getting to know your people by investing in some one-on-one time with them, outside of the context of immediate tasks or projects.

4.    Let people get to know you: People want to know you. Don’t hesitate to share a story or to talk about yourself in a way that shows something about your character, as context and time permit.

5.    Understand personalities and motivations: It’s good to know your colleagues. How much do you really know? Make sure to ask questions about others — both work-related and on a human level. Show caring and concern about others when it’s heartfelt.

6.    Attention is the currency of all relationships: Listen hard. Watch distractions, like doing other things while people are talking to you.

7.    Know when to use kid gloves: Consider making extra effort to be gentle with people who are easily intimidated, or less prone to go “toe to toe.”

8.    Have an open door: Leaders who sit behind a closed door all day long become cut off from those they lead. Their teams can become antsy because they rarely see their leader and feel like they’re imposing on him/her when they need to talk. Decide to have an open door when it comes to hearing out your team. Give them permission to approach at any time.

9.    Smile more: Facial expressions say a lot. A scowling or stone-faced leader does not say: “I’m approachable! Come, let me know what you need and what’s happening.” Rather it tells those you lead to stay away and don’t bother me. Make the choice to smile more often than not. Let your team know they can approach you by welcoming them with a smile.

10.  Share your mistakes and vulnerabilities: One thing exceptional leaders know is that mistakes need to be recognized. And they’re willing to go first with their mistakes. Approachable leaders open up about the mistakes they have made. They also let their team know where the mistakes have led. By being open about past mistakes, you encourage others to share their trials with you. Doing so allows you to help guide them through the tough times.

11. Know your team members’ names: Some leaders have large staffs. In these environments, it can be hard to learn team members names. Yet the best, and most approachable, leaders know that knowing the names of their teams make them more personable. When you begin to make the effort to learn names, people will see your willingness to get to know them. This makes them see you as a more effective leader.

12. Share the glory: You will find there are leaders who hog all of the glory for a job well done. You will also find that these leaders are rarely the ones that have credibility with their teams. Rather, the leaders who share the glory are the ones who are seen as fair leaders and people rally around them. Don’t hog the praise for yourself. Pass it around to the ones who really helped your organization get to where it’s trying to go.

13. Tell more stories: Stories have a great power. They draw people in and they help people remember details. Stories can also help make you a more effective communicator. People are drawn to stories. Stories click with others. And stories create community when done right. Tell stories that encourage your team to be a community.

14. Practice positive thinking: There are positive people and then there are negative people. Generally, people are drawn to those with a positive worldview rather than those who hold a negative worldview. Having a negative outlook will make others see you in a negative light. Change your perspective and begin to think positively. Share this with others and they will see you as a more positive and effective leader.

15. Initiate chit-chat: Effective leaders are willing to sit down and chat with those they lead. Whether it’s at the lunch table or at the front door or at a community event. When leaders initiate conversations with others they are seen as approachable. They open the doors to conversations They make the first move so others can feel more comfortable.

As a leader, you must have a solid understanding of how your emotions and actions affect your team. Taking the time to work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills will pay off in dividends in the long run. In the meantime, if you practice the skills highlighted above, you will begin your journey towards emotional intelligence mastery.

Good luck.

©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

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12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Intrepreneur

May 26, 2017 •  7 minute read • by Saeed


“All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in caves, we were all self-employed… finding our food, feeding ourselves. That’s where human history began. As civilization came, we suppressed it. We became “labor” because they stamped us,“You are labor.” We forgot that we are entrepreneurs. “

– MUHAMMAD YUNUS

Our zeitgeist is obsessed with entrepreneurs. They represent the new American Dream. Their overnight success stories of fame and riches are alluring but the truth about success is very different. Most successful businesses are not run on the next disruptive technology that changes the world. They are run onrather on consistent service delivery to meet a customer’s specific need.  Having an entrepreneurial spirit is not restricted to spawning new enterprises. Not at all. There are many internal employees who exhibit the same drive, enthusiasm, creativity, and innovation but do so within an existing framework – they are intrepreneurs. The main difference is that the intrepreneur is already backed by capital – what the entrepreneur spends half their time chasing. Meanwhile, the intrepreneur is busy pushing the envelope, testing the limits of their own creativity, inspiring others, and creating incredible internal value. Here is how they do it.

1.      Intrepreneurs act like they own it.

They act like the CEO. Of their team, project, space or whatever else they’re handed. It’s a good question: What if owned it? How would you behave differently? What kind of time would you put in? What kind of discipline would you apply? How would you view your team, your project, your equipment? How would you approach them? What would be your objectives? Would they change from what they are now?

2.      Intrepreneurs are visionary.

They routinely visualize an unrealized future. They can see what others can’t. They skate to where the puck is going to be. They are big picture thinkers. They innovate fearlessly.  They are creative and bold. They think and dream big. They’re not afraid to try. They’re not afraid to fail. They have a let’s ‘test it and see what happens’ attitude. The are idea machines and they treat their work environments like laboratories to experiment with what works and what doesn’t and to better understand human nature.  As Wayne Gretzky once said: I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

3.      Intrepreneurs take responsibility for their own engagement.

Entrepreneurs do what they enjoy. Intrepreneurs need to enjoy what they do. Don’t like your job? Struggling? On a sheet of paper draw two columns. Label one ‘Things I Like About My Job’ and label the other one ‘Things I’d Like To Change About My Job.’ Now make the list. Stream of consciousness is best. Once you’re done, study it. Then, begin to capitalize on the things you like. Make efforts and do activities that grow that column. For the next column, identify those items you may have some control over and those you don’t. For those you don’t, forget about them. Exert no energy their way. For those you do, begin to put actions in place to change them and move them over to the ‘Things I Like’ column. That’s your engagement plan. You’re welcome.

4.      Intrepreneurs take responsibility for their own motivation.

Don’t blame others for your lack of it. Otherwise see #3.

5.      Intrepreneurs manage resourcefully.

This is not just about being frugal. It’s about doing more with less as a mindset. It’s about paying attention to the bottom line. look out for the owner, company or whatever so that not only can it survive, but so that it can thrive. Your efforts will be noticed and rewarded.

6.      Intrepreneurs Ideate AND execute.

Richard Branson says ideas are a dime a dozen. Steve Wozniack tells a story of Steve Jobs that while he was without doubt a visionary, he did not know how to execute. Not until he was fired and had to start up NEXT. When he came back to Apple, he’d learned how to execute. That difference meant the iPod, iPad and iPhone, some of the most iconic products we’ve seen produced by the technology sector.

7.      Intrepreneurs have command over the data.

Big data. Small data. Whatever kind of data. They got it. They know it. They have it down pat. They show up with facts, not opinions. That’s what a serial entrepreneur told me was his best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. This was something he realized after a meeting he had at the White House where everyone showed up with their opinions but because he had the facts, he won the day.

8.      Intrepreneurs practice the art of persuasion.

Cultivate the ability to influence others to change how they think. That starts with your own credibility and attributes. This is where you begin to demonstrate real leadership. I once read a definition of leadership that said it’s the ability to focus the attention of others. That’s the art of persuasion. This requires you knowing when to pull back and when to choose your battles. It requires a significant amount of emotional intelligence.   

9.      Intrepreneurs understand the art of negotiation.

Negotiation comes into play daily at all levels and in every position. It comes naturally to some but must be learned by most. Intrepreneurs understand how important it is to plan for  and prepare to negotiate with their colleagues to create a win-win outcome. They negotiate to win consent, cooperation and consensus. They negotiate up, they negotiate down and they negotiate laterally. To do so, they leverage effective communication skills, emotional regulation, active listening, and clarity of purpose. Most importantly, they are closers.

10.  Intrepreneurs develop risk tolerance.

Recent research does not support the long held conventional belief that risk tolerance is solely the domain of the entrepreneur.   To the contrary. While the intrepreneur does not necessarily have to tolerate the same types of risks as the entrepreneur, they are by no means risk averse. Entrepreneurs don’t seek out risk but rather learn to manage it. In fact, researchers found no differences in risk tolerance between people who continued to work for other companies and those who went on to become entrepreneurs. Those who take more risks simply become more comfortable with it over time.

11.  Intrepreneurs are effective promoters.

It has been said that perception is reality and how people perceive you or your projects at work is vital to overall success. In the age of the Internet and social media and unrelenting competition,

the ability to brand and promote has become essential. Despite how talented you may be, pushing to the side your personal branding efforts will ensure that your talents are not appropriately noticed. Show your passion. Share your talents. Use stories to tell who you are. Part of getting promoted at work is about learning how to promote yourself.

12.  Intrepreneurs understand their customer.

Here is where you must really think like an entrepreneur. Research shows that those who understand their customers (insert audience, constituents, stakeholders, clients etc.) are more successful overall. That’s common sense too. Identify your customer, analyze them and develop key insights that help drive your acquisition and retention strategy. Customer analytics allow for more effective customer engagement providing more actionable intel to meet the long-term needs of your customers. Understanding customer behavior has gotten easier than ever. Just because you’re at the back of the house, it does not mean you should not understand the front-end issues related to customers. The more you understand the end user issues, the more successful you are likely to be regardless of your position in the company.

Tremendous forces are radically reshaping the world of work as we know it. To keep up, we need to radically shift our point of view on what it takes to be successful at work. Disruptive innovations are creating new industries and business models and destroying old ones. Similarly, we need to destroy the old model of moving tasks from the inbox to the outbox. New technologies, data analytics and social networks are having a huge impact on how we communicate, collaborate and work. We need to leverage these. Many of the roles and job titles of tomorrow will be ones we’ve not even thought of yet but the steps laid out above will help you understand and respond effectively to these new changes while creating value each and every time.

Good luck.

©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

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

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

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

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How To Crush It In The First 90 Days!

April 26, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”Donald Rumsfeld

This is about your first 90 days. The most crucial period on your new job.

Your first 90 days on the job are the most crucial because what you do in the first 90 days can have a potential long term effect on your overall experience at the company.  That’s according to Harvard Business School professor Michael D. Watkins who in his 2013 book, The First 90 Days, outlined how these transition times are critical to ultimate success on the job.

If you’ve been on the job but you’re unhappy, think back to your first 90 days. If you are in your first 90 days, this is your chance to chart a course for one of success.

In brief, you have 90 days to prove that you were worth the trouble the hiring department went through to get you in your new seat. That’s true if it’s a new job and it’s also true if you’re promoted into a higher position at the same job. For this post, we are going to assume that the employer has done their bit in on-boarding you to make sure you have what you need to be successful. Now let’s get to work.

Time is not your friend

But focus and attention is. You need to hit the ground running and figure out what’s what quick. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses. What worked in your last job may not work in this one. You may need to acquire new skills, so acquire them. You may need to build new alliances, so build them. You may need to learn new content. So learn it. You need to know what you know and know what you don’t know. Most importantly, you need to be ready for the things you don’t know you don’t know.

What do you need to know?

In short, everything. But you need to prioritize and focus on what’s important. The tendency is to focus on the technical job skills and not enough on politics. It’s understandable to want to gain mastery over the core components of your new job. But it’s relationships and politics that often take us off track. To start, put together a learning plan. Figure out what’s a top priority and what can wait. Use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.  to figure out what’s important and what’s urgent. Do you know the biggest challenges your department or organization is facing? Why is your department or company facing these challenges? Do you know where the opportunities are? How can you find out? Do you know who the key players are; internally and externally?

eisenhower-box

How well do you need to know it?

Here is the thing: You fail because you fail to learn and  you learn by directing your attention towards what you want to learn. It’s not about intelligence. It’s about attention. Like sunlight going through a magnifying glass you have to focus your attention. On what? The essentials. What matters most. What keeps you moving forward or better yet what propels you.  If you put your attention on the wrong things, you’ll always be playing catch up. You’ll create head winds for yourself instead of putting the wind at your back. If you just engage in a flurry of activity and change for change’s sake, you’ll blunder and stymie your progress. If you must fail, then fail fast and fail forward. Learn quickly from your mistakes and press on. Your ideas got you hired. The quality of your execution keeps you hired.  

Momentum, Momentum, Momentum

They say in real estate it’s all about location. In the first 90 days, it’s all about momentum. Here is the wind analogy again: Your job is to get wind in your sails, not tears. Tears hold you back. Wind keeps you moving and even accelerates your journey. Wind =Wins. You need early wins to propel you. To get them, you need to adjust to the culture, adjust to your boss  and get in alignment with where the business is going. Don’t work against the grain. Don’t sail on sand. You need to root out misalignment (in yourself and in others) and address it. If you feel resistance (in yourself and in others), look for the release valve. Be a problem solver. Be a facilitator. Create value. Grease your own runway.

Get To Know the PPL

Unless you are a monk in a cave, work is about relationships. Know what motivates each member of your team. If you have A players, do everything to keep them and get them on your side. They’ll propel you the most. Take time to listen instead of showing off your knowledge and skills. Build credibility before visibility. Be positive.  Be collaborative. Be assertive. And if you’re in a position of power, recognize that direct authority is never enough and never sustainable. You have to build buy-in. You have to build coalitions. Don’t just focus “vertically” on managers above you—also create “horizontal” alliances. Remember, of all the people in the room, 50% will support you; 20% never will, and the other 30% are ‘swing voters.’ Where will you spend your time?

Why 90 days?

It’s a quarter, which is a recognized time frame in the business world. Companies often track how they’re doing based on how much progress they make each quarter. In presidential politics, the fixation with the first 100 days traces its history back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who passed 15 major pieces of legislation during the era of the Great Depression. Presidents have been trying to manage that impossible standard and the expectations surrounding it ever since.

The First 90 Days Are Your Architectural Blueprint

Your first 90 days are when opinions and impressions are formed about you. If you’re late every morning, you’ll be labeled accordingly; if you make mistakes you may be thought of as careless going forward. Reputations, once built, can be tough to break. Be on your best game so you can create the best impressions early and build off of them for the rest of your time. Be mindful that you don’t over-promise and under-deliver.

Harsh Beginning May Mean a Harsh Ending

And if you do all this and still have a harsh startup, don’t just ignore the writing that may be on the wall. You should absolutely try to right the wrongs, give the benefit of doubt, and try to make it work. But also know and be ready for how long that should take and when you should take action if you don’t see improvement in your experience. Statistics tell the story: 20 percent of employee turnover happens in the first 90 days of employment.  That means that one of every five people who start a new job today are likely to have left that job within just three months. And that, may be a good thing.

Invest in your first 90 days. It will pay you back in dividends.

Good luck.

The Wisdom of the Little Tramp

April 10, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Charlie Chaplin


In a career spanning more than 75 years, Charlie Chaplin is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of all time. Beyond acting, Chaplin was a humanist who believed ardently in the power of laughter and tears as an antidote to hatred and terror.

The iconic actor of the silent film era was also a deeply reflective man. Few people know just how insightful and intelligent he really was was. Even though he passed away almost 50 years ago, he continues to inspire. His movies were great but one of his greatest works is a poem he penned which offers his unique perceptive of life and self-love.

Charlie Chaplin – as I began to love myself

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!

Charlie Chaplin

5 Ways To Reboot Your Motivation

December 19, 2014 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

– Bruce Lee –

Your manager’s job is not to motivate you. If anything, your manager’s job is to maintain the motivation you started with.

Remember? You, like everyone else who starts a new job, came on board with excitement and enthusiasm. You grinned from ear to ear when you met your new colleagues. You liked the view outside of your window. You liked your new desk. Your cubicle. You liked it all.

But along the way, your managers slowly sucked the motivation out of you. Dysfunctional systems, lack of clarity, kooky policies, late nights, wacky performance reviews and, well you know the rest. That’s why people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.

Even if your manager’s job was to motivate you, they wouldn’t know how. To be fair, some do. But most don’t. If they did, a recent Gallup Poll would not have found that worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work! Listen carefully. These extrinsic factors can be demotivating, but research shows that even if managed brilliantly, fixing these factors won’t motivate you to work harder or smarter.

Most managers are still stuck on the carrot-and-stick approach of the industrial age. The secret to high performance isn’t reward and punishment. Far from it. True motivation is intrinsic. It is the drive to do something because it is meaningful and fulfilling. Most managers think you are motivated by money. But you and I know that you are not. Countless surveys on employee motivation have shown that money is much farther down the list for you.

In his book, Drive, former Al Gore speech writer Daniel Pink says true motivation boils down to three elements: Autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us, and purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves.

Motivation that is sustained is based on meaningful work, challenge, learning, growth, increasing responsibility and feeling good about what you do. You may or may not be able to attain this on your current job. You may have to find another one or even switch careers. You may have to stop doing meaningless work and finally go after that thing that has always stirred your passion. You may have to start mainlining frappuccinos.

But in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to reboot your motivation where you are now. At least, you owe it to yourself to try.

1. Take responsibility for your own motivation

What if you were in control of your own outcomes and learning objectives at work? Talk to your manager. They may have assigned you a goal but they probably did not assign how you are supposed to reach that goal. Trust in your abilities. If you lack skills, learn new ones by taking a class. Talk to your colleagues and ask for help. There is no shame in that. Learn to take initiative and be proactive on a daily basis. Become more self-directed. Take responsibility for your own growth.

2. Get inspired

Inspiration is one of the best motivators around and your best source for inspiration is your own sense of creativity. Do you like photography? Take a class. Do you like to write? Start a blog. Do you like art? Go to a museum. Are you inspired by ideas? Listen to a TED talk. Think back to your childhood. What did you love to do? When did you feel so lost in an activity that you lost track of time? Do more of that. Join a community of people who are doing more of that. Meetup is a great source for this. Reach in – reach out. Don’t be afraid. It’s medicine for your soul.

3. Find your purpose

It may be stating the obvious, but your purpose is entirely unique to you. To find your purpose, you need perspective. You have to see the dance floor from the balcony view. Ask yourself: what am I really good at doing? What do I love to do? How would either of those things add value to the world? What would I be happy to do even if I wasn’t paid for doing it? If you are not sure yet, volunteer your skills at a non-profit or a community group. Giving to others selflessly, will help you feel fulfilled and purposeful. The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others (hint: that includes your teammates and your boss). Finally, try this: imagine yourself on your deathbed looking back at your life. What kind of life would you have had to lead in order to feel it was a life filled with purpose? Write the answer down. This is your manifesto from now on.

4. Write stuff down

Your deepest thoughts in a leather bound journal is great. But even for mundane daily things, write stuff down. When you make your own schedule and write your own to-do list, you will recognize what needs to be done and the best way to do it. You’ll become more efficient, focused and more effective at your daily life. You’ll feel more empowered and in control. You’ll get more stuff done. You’ll feel better and more motivated. Writing is also cathartic. We move so quickly from day to day that we barely have time to process what happened to us on Monday before it’s Friday again. Journaling, even for a few minutes a day, will help you understand your own feelings and motivations. Then, you can strengthen the things that motivate you and abandon those that don’t. Try it, it works.

5. Get a coach (or at least a cheerleader)

This may be one of the more expensive ways to motivate yourself, but the investment is worthwhile. We can all use a thought partner in the journey of life. That person is not always our relationship partner. A professional coach will work with you in a structured framework with the aim of achieving tangible results. Professional coaches know about motivation. If you struggle with communication, they can help you be more assertive. If you struggle with stress, they can help you combat it. If you struggle with your boss, they can help you find ways to manage up. They can help you face your fear of success or your fear of failure.

I know a lot of this is easier said than done. But give it time, be patient. Results won’t come overnight but they will come. Work towards creating new habits and abandoning old ones that no longer serve you. Monitor your thoughts to keep them positive. If you hear negative thoughts, stop them. If you are unable to achieve your goals, it may only be because they are too big not because you are incapable. So break them down and create mini goals. Take smaller bites off the apple and take responsibility for your own success. Ultimately, you may even shape the organization you are in and have a positive impact and legacy. You may even begin to like your job again.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Gift of Failure

December 17, 2014 • 10 minute read • by Saeed


“The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”

– William James –

He did not speak a word until he was 4 years old. When he did speak, he muttered incomprehensibly to himself causing his parents great alarm. He was visual. He tended to think in pictures rather than words. He had great difficulty memorizing words, texts and names. Compounding his poor performance in school, he routinely showed his disdain for authority. He was eventually expelled and told he would never amount to much. He flunked his college entrance exam. When he did finally get in, he skipped classes that didn’t interest him and he antagonized his teachers. By today’s standards, he would have been said to have had observable learning disabilities. He would have been labeled dyslexic, autistic or suffering from a personality disorder. Socially, he was inept. He was awkward, aloof, self-isolating and emotionally detached. His hair was long and unkempt and his clothes were old and drabby. He didn’t like public speaking or socializing. He was a philanderer, who had multiple affairs and a child out of wedlock.

By all measures, he would have been considered a failure before it was discovered he was a genius and before he radically changed our understanding of the universe. His name was Albert Einstein. And he is but one example out of many social outcasts and underperformers, who were considered failures but ended up achieving greatness.

In our modern culture, we stigmatize and try to avoid failure (and people we consider to be failures) at all costs. We worship at the altar of success. New York Times columnist David Brooks sees the American fixation on productivity and professional success as an epidemic that is contributing to our cultural demise. This is more or less the same sentiment expressed in the quote above by William James– one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced – more than a century ago.

So what is the opportunity cost for our societal obsession and hunger for success and what is the price we pay for our fear of failure?

Failure builds strength

While Wikipedia and Webster would like you to believe differently, success and failure are not polar opposites. “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor,” said Truman Capote. You often need to endure heart wrenching failure before you achieve success. Entrepreneurs have always understood this. Risk and failure are inherent to the process of innovation and success. The learning organization is not only the one that learns from its successes, but the one that is most willing to speak openly about its failures. But organizational egos get in the way. I noticed this first hand in my own work in philanthropy. Funders go out of their way to demonstrate that a project they have invested in is working. They never produce reports that demonstrate why a project failed – and they never admit their own role in the failure. Instead, they abandon grantees and move on to new projects rather than address the challenges within the existing ones. Of course, we should not throw additional resources at a losing proposition. But without a post mortem of our failures, we bury our heads in the proverbial sand and limit our chances for learning and innovation. We lose the opportunity to strengthen our knowledge base.

Failure builds knowledge

We fear failure. We fear jeopardizing our jobs and our careers if something fails on our watch. The reality is that in organizational life, failure, if managed well, can be enormously beneficial. Companies need to learn how to manage failure and mine the wisdom contained within it. Of course, blindly stumbling from one failure to another is fool-hearted. But a culture of continuous innovation requires organizational leaders to build psychologically safe environments so that the lessons of failure can be reaped without shame or blame. Leaders should provide the organizational structures that allow people to fail and to capitalize on the lessons learned and opportunities gained for improvement. Leaders need to create organizational environments where thoughtful experimentation, or what Duke University professor of management Sim Sitkin calls intelligent failures, are considered the norm and are used to advance knowledge and develop organizational resilience.

Failure builds resilience

“Through failure we learn how to cope,” says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. Experimentation is the true mother of innovation (and success). It also naturally spawns failure. But today’s parents go to great lengths to remove failure from the equation in a misguided effort to sanitize childhood. In our education system, we give primacy to testing over learning. As Elkind puts it, “Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they’re geared to academic achievement.” What we learn in childhood about failure is the lesson of shame and blame. Even without meaning to, we carry the guilt, shame, disappointment, and pain we associate with failure from our childhood into our adulthood and into our professional lives. This hyper-vigilance and over-protectiveness in childhood has the net effect of making us more fragile and less resilient in adulthood. It means that we never develop the fortitude and strength of character to bounce back from difficult experiences – to get up after a fall and go at it again. We never learn, for example, to master stress effectively. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that resilient people choose the way they think. Resilience is born out of repeated experience, that may in many instances, be perceived as negative. Resilient organizations need resilient people.

Failure builds experience

It never ceases to amaze me how closed minded some people can be. I recently spoke to an entrepreneur who was trying to get back into the workforce after she had been away for nearly 5 years. She had rolled her sleeves up to her elbows and had dug knee deep in her own startup venture. Like many first time entrepreneurs, she had experienced initial success but had ultimately been crushed by the competition. Trying to get back into the workforce, she described to me her experience of reluctant hiring managers who were denying her re-entry as if she had neglected to get her hand stamped when she had walked out of that club. Personally, I would favor hiring an entrepreneur who had risked but failed than a “lifer” who has never stepped outside of their comfort zone. Her experience, fortitude and persistence would be a major asset to any organization. Indeed, many venture capitalists won’t invest in a new enterprise if the founder has never undergone failure. Such experience not only builds character but it also feeds our emotional intelligence.

Failure builds intuition

A 2004 Nobel Prize winning discovery of how we recognize the smell of an orange suggests that intuition is a form of highly developed pattern recognition. In other words, it is an algorithm used by the nervous system to extract information and experience from the vast database of the mind. That database requires data entry. If you have never faced a negative outcome you have a critical gap in the body of experience that intuition is based on. Unfortunately, the demand for creating an organizational culture that can effectively capitalize on failure is in short supply in most companies. Fear, embarrassment, intolerance, lack of commitment to learning and a culture where experimentation and learning from failure is not supported, exacerbates the problem. Organizational hierarchies stifle the conversation about failure and with it, our potential for flexing our intuitive muscles. The main alternative to the intuition-based approach is rational thinking. Yet, we have all faced business situations where the rational decision making process becomes impractical. Throughout my own personal and professional life, intuition has been an invaluable tool when decision making and rapid response have been required. Howard Raiffa, professor of managerial economics and a pioneer in the field of decision analysis says that formal techniques and procedures used in today’s business environment actually inhibit our intuitive capacity from operating effectively. To use only logic and quantitative analysis in business, is to deny our own emotional intelligence – one of the most important traits of leadership.

Rather than surfacing the lessons that come from our failures, we drive our potential for innovation underground. It cannot be disputed that within our personal and professional failures is a gold mine of wisdom waiting to be tapped. But to access that wisdom, we have to work towards a collective consciousness that is free of blame and free of the stigma associated with failure. We must also learn to fail with intelligence and know when to declare defeat. Obviously, not all failures are useful, and even some that we could learn from we should avoid. We must recognize that the failures that harm us the most are only the ones we repeat. We must be-friend failure and stop fetishizing success. We must fail often but we must fail forward in order to build resilience in the face of failure. As one of my favorite Japanese proverbs says: we must fall seven times but stand up eight.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

On The Right Track: 5 Strategies To Build Your Career Capital

December 14, 2014 • 9 minute read • by Saeed


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

– Warren Buffett –

You are not in Kansas anymore. The idea that you can show up to work on time every day, do your job and get ahead is a relic of a bygone era. In the past, employers focused significantly on professional development to support employees advancement. Those days are gone – or at least fleeting fast. Much to our collective chagrin, the Darwinian principle is alive and well in today’s hyper-competitive workplace culture.

Earlier this month, when I wrote about The One Trait You Must Demonstrate In Any Job Interview one of the concepts that intrigued a number of readers was the notion of career capital. Jobseekers know that to advance, they must invest in the appropriate education, training, and skills. But they also know that that is not nearly enough. Today’s worker has to dig deeper, much deeper to find his or her underlying value and make daily deposits in his or her career bank account.

Most would agree that Warren Buffett is one of the greatest investors of all time. It is also widely known that he largely credits Benjamin Graham, a scholar and financial analyst who is widely recognized as the father of value investing, for his success. One of the key principles that Graham advanced was the notion of buying stocks based on the underlying value and fidelity of a business enterprise. If we apply this bedrock investment principle to career advancement, our task becomes one where the building of our own underlying value and fidelity as a professional becomes paramount and one of strategic consideration.

As with any business enterprise, a series of strategies must be adopted and applied with focus and discipline to achieve our desired outcomes. We must pilot our work life using an instrument panel similar to the one we might use for our investments. We must be willing to risk, to learn, to grow and to adapt ourselves and we must be willing to monitor and improve our own performance in accordance with a set of underlying principles in order to advance accordingly.

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. The following strategies draw upon the results of this survey and other workplace research that supports the notion that career advancement is a matter of intentional and systematic planning and execution.

1. Build your Efficiency in Completing Tasks

Get organized, get focused, get disciplined and lose distractions. The key here is structure. Use agendas to drive meeting outcomes. Use “To Do” lists and planners to manage your time effectively. Use the countless (free) available apps out there to help you organize your life. Learn to use them and get ahead of the pack.

2. Build Mastery and Competency

Competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors. You are hired for your competencies so use and enhance them to achieve higher levels of performance. Knowledge is information developed or learned through experience, study or inquiry. So learn, learn, learn. Skill is the result of repeatedly applying knowledge or ability. So practice, practice, practice. Ability is an innate potential to perform mental and physical actions or tasks. Highlight these whenever possible. Behavior is the observable reaction of an individual to a certain situation. Ensure that yours is always positive. Mastery is the ability to blend skills and knowledge in a specific area of practice. Cultivate it.

3. Build Your Networking Skills

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 is all about relationships, relationships, relationships. Nurture them and they will nurture you. The surest way to burn career capital is to burn bridges. Having said that, some bridges lead to nowhere and they should be burned. Just know which ones to burn, when, where, how and why.

4. Build Longevity in Your Career

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary workers have been with their current employer for a median of 4.6 years. That doesn’t include the 14 million Americans who are self-employed free agents. Building longevity is no longer about staying with one company and holding out for the gold watch. Rather, it’s about staying fresh and building career equity: developing a set of skills, contacts and relationships as well as behaviors that value self improvement and the kind of adaptability that will allow you to be seen as a change maker, not someone who wants to cling to the status quo.

5. Build Your Personal 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.

As you travel the highways and byways on the new map of your work life, 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.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The One Trait You Must Demonstrate In Any Job Interview

December 12, 2014 • 12 minute read • by Saeed


“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

– William Shakespeare –

Blink, and you might miss her. At 5-foot-11 and 130 pounds, Wilma Rudolph was a sight to behold. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world” and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics.

You might think that she was born with innate athleticism. You would be wrong. Perhaps even more incredible than her achievement as an athlete is her resilience as a human being.

Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely weighing only 4 1/2 pounds and the bulk of her childhood was spent in bed. She suffered from double pneumonia, scarlet fever and later she contracted polio. After losing the use of her left leg, she was fitted with metal leg braces. She was only six years of age. As number 20th out of 22 children (yes you read that correctly), her family was poor and could not afford good medical care. The doctors had predicted that she would not walk again. But Wilma was determined to lead a “normal” life. Despite whooping cough, measles and chicken pox, she was out of her leg braces by age nine. Three years later, her mother came home to find her playing basketball by herself bare-footed. Later, she was encouraged by a track coach who recognized her talent on the court. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is clear that Wilma Rudolph faced great adversity, both internal and external. Despite that adversity, she became a great athlete and an inspiration to many. But perhaps even more impressive than her physical accomplishments, is her sheer will, determination, and resiliency. It is her mental fitness, more than her physical feats, and her dogged belief in her Self that ultimately drove her success.

From my coaching experience, I find that many people who fail to achieve their objectives, do not fail because of a lack of knowledge, skill or ability. These, after all, can always be acquired. With thoughtful planning and execution any objective is achievable. However, some, even when they have the ability to achieve an objective, still fall short of meeting their goals. Some, even when they know they can do the job, still fail to impress at the interview.

Why?

Research shows that, on average, interviewers reach final decisions about applicants in only four minutes after meeting them. According to Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, the decisions may occur even faster – instantaneously or in under two seconds. What he calls ‘thin-slicing’ has serious implications for job interview applicants. It means decisions are being made before the actual exchange of content.

That may seem unfair. Everyone, after all, deserves the same treatment and the same attention to factors such as experience, credentials and skills. And as with any job interview, a series of questions will be asked to assess the type of candidate you are. In truth, however, interviewers are less concerned with your technical abilities and more concerned with your personality type. They want to know if they can work with you. Hence the rise of personality testing in job interviews.

But beyond your personality type, the impression you leave behind of your Self has far more to do with your job interview success.

Agency and esteem are central to the construction of a concept of Self. A study of more than 500 students, academics and workers, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that those who appeared more confident achieved a higher social status than their peers. The conclusions drawn from this study have significant implications for professionals. The key to career success, in other words, is confidence, not talent. Despite your credentials, experience and expertise, a lack of self-belief will reduce your chances of success. Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you think that you can or you think you can’t – you’re right’.

Self belief is that powerful. To succeed, you must first cultivate the mental posture and mindset for success.

In her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck argues that individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Those that believe their success is based on innate ability are said to have a “fixed” mindset. Others, who believe their success is based on hard work and continuous learning, are said to have a “growth” mindset. The distinction is crucial and can mean the difference between a life unfulfilled and one, like Wilma Rudolph, of extraordinary achievement.

That is because individuals with a “growth” mindset have higher intrinsic motivation to achieve. They are more likely to set higher goals and to persevere despite setbacks. Their underlying belief system tells them that if they really want to achieve something, they will find a way to make it happen. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset give up more readily when faced with problems. They are uncertain and doubtful about their ability and they more quickly lose interest and motivation.

Unfortunately, many people wait for their self belief to increase before they take action. That, however, is not how it works. You can’t sit around waiting for a sense of self belief to kick in when all your stars are aligned. You have to start developing your own self belief. The world will largely accept you at your own estimation. It is yourself that you have to convince of your self-worth, before you can convince anyone else. But once you are absolutely sure that you have what it takes to master any situation, you will act in such a way that your beliefs will become your reality. Mastery is made up of intention, concentration, and attention. To develop it, you must be willing to take risks and to face the inevitable rejections that come with putting yourself out there. You must practice, fail, learn and repeat until you succeed.

And if the interview doesn’t go your way, remember the words of Wilma Rudolph:“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.