The BS Culture and Me

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I’m thankful for my friends who’ve had the courage to call me on my BS. The was done out of love and a keen sense on their part that something wasn’t right. In the last 10 years I’ve been recovering from the habit. I’m sure my time in corporate America, insecurities and a fear of being the “real” me contributed to all the posing. I see it for what it is now. I hate it!

Two strong conclusions leap out. One, we live in a BS culture. Two, if we don’t do a gut check everyday (yes, everyday), we’ll become that BS culture.

Some people who know me on the surface, might be surprised by the above. They know my acting, not who I really am. Fortunately, BS rears its head less and less these days, so don’t worry, I’m the boy you see now.

So what’s so urgent about the problem? Time, and time is running out for all of us. Some of the most outwardly successful people personify the problem. They act as if tomorrow is an eternity away. Most would never dare call them on it either, let alone walk the other way. A sick form of enablement. Often we close our eyes and pretend to only hear and see certain things. Most are willing to look the other way if it means getting what they came for. In America, that usually means a title, an investment account or who they know. It’s a cold reality we live in.

I only woke up, and learned (still learning) how to live differently, when I lost all my stage props and the interest of the culture. Imagine going to an audition and thinking you had one more good line for the director. Only to find, God was the only in attendance. With me, He only wanted to talk about where the real Eric was. I used to walk out, but then my life unravelled to a point where I had nowhere else I could go.

It was the best place for me, I could breathe.

Dehumanizing the Employee

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In my last post, I rang the bell about the gap between human development and the advancements of technology. The disharmony is evident to many. Within the large and mid-market organizations, there is another disturbing trend afoot. We are witnessing the dehumanization of the employee.

Dehumanizing the employee occurs as many employers are looking to advance efficiency and innovation. It’s a false belief that those twins can move human development the way technology does with automation or research.

One area worth looking at is the process many organizations use to hire talent. Keep in mind that the talent is made up of flesh and blood. I realize this can also be a source of real frustration for those in talent recruitment. Technology has convinced many senior leaders that vast problems are solved in the hands of inventive software.

The idea of using screening software has a place. However, it’s proven, the folly of hiring based on keywords. The old saying, “we hired your resume, but what we got was you” is on mark here. More critical thinking in this spot is what we need. Seems like that would remedy the incongruent state of the talent recruitment processes.

So the dehumanizing continues. What do we do now that the horses are out of the gate?

  • Put on your big boy pants or big girl skirt, and be a leader with integrity and vigor
  • Change the culture. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you do the first bullet it will increase the odds in your favor
  • Stop listening to the marketing
  • Trust only those who’ve been hurt deeply. They will be honest and real
  • Close it down, quit, move on, if that’s what it takes. Better to live to fight another, than die while still breathing

The Problem with Technology

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There are so many cool things about technology. To be living in this time you might feel lucky. If you’re someone like me, who lives with a chronic disease, your literal life may be impacted by the advancements technology brings. I am thankful.

However, there is a problem with technology.

As the advancement has moved at warped speed, so has the decline in the state of human beings. The state of:

  • integrity
  • wellbeing
  • economics
  • status quo
  • culture

The above 5 are just my mine. Would you add something to the list? Do you agree? Do you see the trend? Do you see the danger?

I met with a development officer from a local university a few weeks ago. The research group she helps is doing some really intriguing things in the world of diabetes care, more specifically finding a cure. Their work runs the gamut, from islet cell therapy to using 3d printing as a tool to further expand breakthroughs.

By the time she had completed her story, my head was spinning. It gave me hope and it made me pause.

What good is the work if beneficiaries are determined to kill themselves despite the prospects of a better day?

I told the development officer that some of the dollars raised should be used to fund solving the problem of poor choices. Its the 800 pound gorilla. Would solving that problem fix everything? I’m not smart enough to say, but it’s clear much of what plagues us inside our head would be improved dramatically.

This irony didn’t begin yesterday.

What I Learned From a Navy Seal

A friend sent this speech my way a few weeks ago. It was a timely message. The speaker is a Navy Seal (an admiral if memory is correct) by the name of William McRaven. His experiences inspired, and challenged the way I look at everyday life as well. I wrote this post a few years ago about the Seals. It made so much sense back then. Admiral McRaven”s experiences are meant for all of us.

Here’s what I learned from this Navy Seal:

Our culture is upside down. We live in a land that pushes out messages designed (on purpose or not) to convince us to seek pleasure and comfort. The truth is we all are Seals. Uniquely.

We don’t know our limits. Limits hurt, but they help. They allow us to operate in places yet seen. With disruption all around, being able to see what is yet seen is vital

We live as voyeurs. Admiral McRaven is special, even though he makes it clear that he is not, in our heads. It’s as if we feel we can watch the Navy Seal and live vicariously through him. Epic living is not a spectator sport.

Safety, security and stability are not our friends. Once again, our culture says I’m crazy. The sad irony is when we pursue those three fakes, we insure our loss of the real version of them. This deception is very subtle, so be on guard.

You will be laughed at, you will lose the hangers-on. Our perspective in America on failure is warped. So many are living to not lose. Nobody wishes for failure. However, when it occurs it’s a clarity and wisdom-giver. Success won’t help you here.

Remember, your life is relative to mine, as mine is to Admiral McRaven. The key is finding your limits and honestly pursuing them.

 

Old Leaders, Old Ideas

Decided to take a look back and found this post from June of 2005. Ever experienced old leaders and their old ideas? Maybe you’ve approached your life this way. It’s a dangerous place, either way.

 

Isn’t it tragic how old leaders bring old ideas?  Here are some reasons for this dysfunction:

  •     Old leaders look through the lens of the past.  A place that “once was”
  •     Old leaders believe (foolishly) that what worked in the past will work again
  •     Old leaders grow old gradually…over time, and die before they are buried
  •     Old leaders are insecure and need an organization that will grow old with them
  •     Old leaders think change applies to others

I was at a holiday get-together this past weekend.  One individual gave me some interesting insights.  She worked for a company where many of the key leaders had moved onto another competitor.  This was the result of a management shake-up some years ago.  These leaders were now trying to implement a structure like the one they had some ten years ago.  She hauntingly noted; “it didn’t work at our place ten years ago, and it won’t work at their new place.”

One of the common mistakes of management is the dysfunction of justifying the old by glorying in the “moments in the sun.”  They experienced the success, and believed that is was a one-way ticket to everlasting success.  Again, old leaders with old ideas.

What Millennials Want

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Gave a talk yesterday to a group of mostly millennials. One thing was clear in our interactive experience, what millennials want is:

  • Clarity
  • Balance
  • Epic

I’m sure there’s more to add to my list, but those 3 leaped out to me. I’ve read the data around what millennials want, versus what their parents wanted. It’s rare to see it upfront and close.

On the clarity front, it looks like many are overwhelmed by the pace and choices that make up existence. With so much screaming for attention, it’s not surprising. Keeping in mind that much of what screams is a complete waste of time. We know this in our gut, all the while the tracer bullets continue to fly.

You have to learn the art of saying no.

Balance goes hand in hand with clarity. With many employers demanding more and more, millennials (all of us) are fighting to not lose their lives, as they build a career. There’s a question mark hanging out there. Many are wondering can a career, as defined by the employer, live at peace with a great life.

Choosing a great life is the only way to find balance.

My talk yesterday was about leading an epic life. Some are disturbed by this because they want it and they know in their core it is the way we were meant to be, yet they find mediocrity all around. America has descended into a swamp filled with it. Others want it and are willing to do the work of finding an epic life. I know you see the difference. The choice between the two has always been in hand.

Your epic life was deposited into you in the beginning.

 

The Who of You

The above TED Talk got me thinking about many things. David Brooks stirred my soul and provided confirmation of the state of things. The state of who, or what, should be master.

It really is about the who of you.

I stand on the battleground of souls and lives. This was evident to me over 10 years ago, as it is now. As noble as that may echo, it really doesn’t matter, outside of the context of what you want life to be. Many are living under the sun and hope that will produce happiness and contentment. It doesn’t. All of the striving, all of the ignoring, all of the convincing self-talk will never provide lasting results. If it did, we’d have satisfaction. Ever notice how America continues to scream out that you need more education, more career mobility, more recognition, more money?

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The wizard had a great gig, until Toto got in the way. He had us convinced that we could fool the audience with tricks from a traveling carnival. He told us the curtain was an absolute necessity to keep the audience from discovering what was real. “They will never understand,” he whispered to us in the deep of night. We believed him.

Now, here’s the irony, in my modern culture (an eroding one), most are still trying to conjure a spell or trick. We panically negotiate with the audience. We tell them what they thought was true, was just their imagination. We hope for the miracle of distraction. Maybe they won’t figure out who we really are.

As we face the truth, the deceptive self-talk kicks in:

  • “It could be worse, some people don’t have a job.”
  • “You tried before, and it didn’t work.”
  • “They won’t look at someone, who’s done that.”
  • “You need to make sure, you’ve got x number of followers and likes.”
  • “No one would think less of you, if you gave up.”

Ten years ago I had an audience that said, “OK, Eric, show us another trick.”

Find the who of you while there’s time.

 

The Core

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Photo courtesy of Nicholas_T

 

In the exercise world, your core is one of the most important areas of the body to strengthen. If your core is strong, much of the rest of your physical wellbeing will follow. As I was reminded of from a coaching client last week, the muscle you build doesn’t just remain that way. It takes continued work to grow. He happens to be going thru rehab on his knee. The physical therapist he uses advised him that during his time of post-surgery recovery, sitting on the couch, he lost muscle. Wow! It was only 30 days or so. By the way, this guy is in great shape. 

How does this apply to the core in your life?

As I’ve advised in writing, and in the flesh, your life’s core is even more vital than what I described above. Your life’s core is made up of some things you’re familiar with. It includes your mind, your spirit, your emotions, your physical, etc. They are your sustainers (as I like to call them) and they are the measure of who you Really are. Sorry, if you were thinking being the CEO of the next WhatsApp would be the difference maker. Kinda ironic in an age where many aspire and pursue that. The truth is found in something(s) not seen.

What happened to our core strength?

Outward signs of success are sweetly seductive. They whisper, they sigh, they touch, and above all they promise. All this to lure you into a net very difficult to escape. My friends, most don’t escape. It’s too risky to escape. To be left with a life like:

  • Outward and inward struggles to regain a life left in the wardrobe
  • Failing, again and again
  • Loneliness
  • Awakening to see real worth
  • Finding out who really is for you
  • Seeing people through the lens of love
  • Life over the sun

Isn’t it interesting how those first few bullets, daunting as they are, lead to what we’ve dreamed of? My experience shows you can’t have the last 4, without the first 3. That’s the difference.

I won’t give you some list of all the things necessary to strengthen your life’s core. You need to figure that out for yourself. You can seek counsel from me or someone else, but you’re the one calling the shots That’s the only way it will be authentic. I can give you one secret, though:

Start paying attention and do what you know you need to do.

Legacy: Your Life, Your Work, Your Story

Gave a talk this week around the urgency of wellbeing and how legacy is impacted by our choices. Came away inspired to share this updated post from 2007, Legacy: Your Life, Your Work, Your Story.

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There probably is no greater consequence to consider than what type of legacy we leave behind.  The finality of our legacy can make you pause and contemplate the things you’ve said and done.  There’s something in us that makes us realize that we are leaving a mark on this great planet-good or bad.  And it is true that we all (rich and poor, young and old, learned and ignorant) have a legacy to account for.  It’s ironic that many don’t even give it a second thought.  Consider the words of Vaclav Havel:

“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”

If all there is to your work life is this quarter’s numbers or the year-end bonus, then legacy probably means little to you.  If there is no cause or great battle to fight, then you probably think all this talk about legacy is “soft.”  Because to think of legacy is to have vision, and we know vision is about seeing the unseen.  But what’s really powerful is the fact that it is seen…it’s unfolding everyday before your very eyes.  It’s a truth that everyone is shaping their legacy one day at a time.

Corporate slave traders need people who are willing, if not ignorantly, to exchange their freedom for the immediate issue at hand. See Wall Street to learn more. They need you to be fixated on concerns that can be solved in meetings and handled by committees.  They want your mind on the work…for as long as they can use you.  They want you intoxicated by that corner office and all that it means, even if it means nothing at all.  If you’re not thinking about legacy, then you are just a means to an end.  Even if you’re covered in the finest of the fine.

Here are some things to consider when making the turn to legacy:

  • Don’t expect the crowd to applaud. Rarely does this happen, and the truth is you don’t need it.  You need to make your story the best it can be, not the most popular.
  • Living a life of legacy requires you to think about eternity.  Take a look at the opening scene below from the movie Gladiator:

  • If you value freedom, remember your story is the most important one.
  • Search for someone (spouse, brother, sister, mentor, priest, colleague) who wants this life for you and let them spur you on.
  • Read Success Built To Last and be inspired by others who share your desire.

What Big Data is Missing

What big data is missing is behavior change. Yep, good old fashioned behavior change.

I’m struck by the amount of data that companies like Google and SAP kind churn out. Even our friends at Facebook do a good job at this, though I question if it’s worth $19 billion. All of these entities, and more, are producing and analyzing data that can lead to disruptive innovation. A good thing all in all. Our world is changing rapidly because of this.

So why are we such a mess, when we have all of the data for just about anything under the sun?

Let me give you an example of what I mean. There’s tons of data confirming the dangers of distracted driving. Has there been a shift away from this type of behavior? According to the CDC, we have a problem. Do you find it ironic that we enough data to make an educated decision to not text (as one example) while driving, yet continue to do it? How about the amount of sleep we get, and don’t get. Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a sleep disorder specialist, at Winthrop University Sleep Disorders Center in New York City, suggests that Americans suffer from “sleep machismo.” Wall Street’s calling and we have to answer, be damn our mind and bodies.

So what do you do with this?

  • Make a decision and then manage it. John Maxwell is famous for advocating. A heart attack crystalized his understanding here
  • Be humble. Don’t think bad stuff only happens to the other guy or gal. It can and will happen to you. Arrogance is such an ugly thing
  • Have a healthy suspicion of data, research, etc. Do your homework and be fearless
  • Understand what’s important to you. My wife is second in my life, so if big data says communicating my feelings will strengthen our relationship, I’m going to do it
  • Life over the sun is where you need to be. People living there rarely take things for granted and are in the moment

I hope we don’t come to a crossroads where history stands laughing because we were not able to connect the dots between understanding and action. In some ways it appears we’ve already started down that road.