Why Fear Blocks You

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The Age of Fear

In many ways we live in an age where fear is the driving motivator for so many. It’s crippling, it’s debilitating, and I can fill in the blank with many other descriptors. I really believe that fear is the force that blocks us from coming to what is truly our destiny.

I met with the client yesterday whom I described the idea of why fear blocks.

Imagine if you’re brought to a place where there are five doors. And each of those five doors has your name written on it maybe even your destiny. The only thing is each of the five doors have a wild animal in the very front of it this wild animal appears to be there to protect that door and keep you away from it. In this case, the animal represents your fear. It is a block. However, the wild animal continues to rage and it seems like as every second goes by the raging becomes louder and louder. You then begin to take in all that surrounds you and you begin the self conversation that so many of us have. The conversation of; “can I trust that this is real. What if I make this decision to go forward and this animal tears me apart. I don’t think I want to do this.”

In each of these situations you’re confronted with a crossroads. Many people at this point move themselves to the other side and go on about their life. They go on with the drone economy. And the drone economy is truly a place where people just put their heads down. The name of the game is to do something over and over until the game is over. See the idea of retirement here. There will be two types of responses. You either go through and fight through that wild beast your fear, or you’ll turn around and travel the road that leads to regret. The reality is those five doors, and those wild animals, represent the essence of living. Mark Twain was right when he wrote; “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.”

Destiny and Fear

Often times we are sold the idea that destiny can be grasped and kept in a neat little box. The reality is far from that. Destiny can be found, but it can’t be captured for our personal drives. Thankfully, it pulls and directs. In the end, this is something that every person will face.

In my own life right now I am facing the door that has a wild animal, and maybe the wildest animal I’ve ever encountered. I have decided that I’m going to go ahead and move forward and fight my fear. Fortunately for me, I’ve had the other five doors before. I understand the dynamic. The interesting thing is every fear is different. Every theory requires a different set of perseverance. So there’s no easy answer and there is no silver bullet. There is only the answer of going forward and moving to what you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to be doing.

5 Reasons to Stop and Look Around

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I’ve  spent a lot of time communicating the importance of stopping and looking around. The path to finding the moments, and moments are gifts, if we stop and look around.

How many gifts do you think you’re given every day?

The truth is, we miss many of the gifts because we’re overlooking them to get to the next thing. It’s a mad world when our sole focus is on the next promotion, the next love affair the next great feat that’ll make us loved. I know the power of mindfulness intimately, the power of stopping and being in a moment, goes beyond worn-out marketing slogans and worn-out company initiatives to solve problems that can’t be solved corporately. What I’m speaking to is remembering that we only have a certain amount of time in a lifetime. It’s up to us as to what we embrace and what we ignore.

Before I go into writing about the five reasons to stop and look around, I want to remind you that there’s repetition in the way I approach the subject the way I do. I believe we’re in a war for our gifts because it’s almost as if we have forces that seek to destroy what moments we have. The fight is vitally important and what comes within it.

Let’s look at the five reasons to stop and look around:

  • Slow down and breathe. Great things occur when we slow down and find our breath meter. Taking time to do this will give room for reflection. The maddening rush of the world around us the continually messages us to grab more, take more and conquer more. Slowing down is a key, instead.
  • Determine what’s really most important to you. I stress really because many of us are professional in lying to ourselves. We’re connecting back to slowing down here. The idea that we’ve got to establish what is most important and be courageous to commit. Are you willing to be allegiant to what’s most important, in a way that my actions can be measured?
  • Get some people around you that can keep you accountable. These people don’t buy your self-BS. They are not willing to just take your word for it. These folks deal in the real, with love.
  • Stop the maddening pursuit of retirement income, work/career and whatever else that preoccupies. I’m not indicting the aforementioned, just the maddening pursuit. The truth is, at least in America, it’s delusional now. We’ve given working/ career and retirement way too much of our attention. For example, how do you know what 65 is gonna look like? Many have lost what they love because they killed themselves pursuing wind.
  • Get over yourself. That’s right, stop making you  the center of the universe. You do realize that the focus on getting you balanced is so there can be light behind you. A brilliant light is the aim. A wise mentor told me not too long ago, “Eric, you have to give yourself away, like Jesus did.” By the way, you’ll get more in return by doing it. It’s counterintuitive (the reason many refuse) and it’s beautiful.

Positioning to stop and look around is key to finding true meaning. Why not let yourself be found?

A New Approach to HIIT

In the last month I suffered an injury to my left Achilles and it’s compromised my ability to run and do some other types of exercise I normally do. A few years ago I started doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) and it has made a measurable difference in my exercise habits. Much of the inspiration has come from the work of Dr. Doug McGuff. I found him by way of Peak Fitness. He was the catalyst for taking a new approach to HIIT.

I had tried Dr. Mcguff’s process with weights before, but I never tried it with full commitment. Funny how an injury can get your attention. Dr. McGuff calls his approach with weights, Super Slow. You can click here to review the transcript of an interview with Dr. McGuff where he discusses in detail his methodology and the science behind it. I just started this program about two weeks ago and I’m noticing that many of the indications he gives in his interview are true.

Dr. McGuff’s  approach is that you’re going to do high intensity interval training not more than two times per week, at 15 minutes a session. When I first read about this it made me scratch my head.  However, I’ve never had more of an intense workout than using this type of HIIT. Dr. McGuff has also written a book on the subject, titled Body by Science. As noted above, I’m early on, but at this point it’s kind of undeniable to me. Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Body is another source to look at on the subject. Dr. McGuff consulted on the content with Tim as well.

I will keep you updated on my progress and certainly I hope to it some point recover from this Achilles issue. I do want to continue my running at some level. This current frame has taught me that variety is best in exercise because things change, as they always do. HIIT is a great process to meet the changes head on.

The 5 Levels of Arrogance

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This post is about arrogance. Arrogance can be very ugly, but it also can be attractive. I see it as a shape shifter in many ways.

In looking at the 5 Levels of Arrogance (professional, personal, etc.), one thing is clear:

Arrogance is rooted in deep insecurities.

My views are experiential. Your experiences may differ and could come from angle more vast. Regardless, arrogance is a killer. Anyone living in America would have to agree that arrogance is doing just that.

Here’s my experience with the 5 Levels of Arrogance:

  • Childhood-In the earliest level of arrogance, it literally is a childlike thing. A boy or girl is full of energy and opinions. In many ways it’s a calling out to the world. It’s a demand, a protest, a fight to get what is wanted. There is no other way. I guess that’s why we need parents to cool us down, help us realize that regardless of how we feel, the world does not set a course based on our whims.
  • Adolescence-I consider this the age of overreach. The time where things are coming to together mentally, such that you feel no one can tell you anything. You haven’t experienced much, but you’ve read about it or seen it on the screen. You have little patience and admitting your lack of understanding is out of the question. I found this to be a time of proving and openness to what would lie ahead. Funny, how dangerous this time was. The cement begins to be applied.
  • Youth-I define this period as the time you move into adulthood. There can be no doubt that adulthood is where arrogance settles in. The dye is not cast at this point, but roots are certainly formed. Adulthood reveals much about a person. The audience has seen you long enough to form an opinion, create opposition or applaud loudly for what you accomplish. In my case, I had something to prove (perfect son who could do anything). For others, it could be a defining defeat back in adolescence or a bad relationship with a parent in childhood. As I mentioned before, insecurities drive arrogance. Youth is the stage for bringing that out.
  • Mid-Life-This is the level where I was saved/had my uprooting. One of the most defining times, and one of the most painful. As it should be. I got humbled by circumstances and my relationships. Some were expected, some were not. Mid-life is full of crossroads. The crossroads found here range all areas of life. The decision to let the dye cast (I am who I am), willingness to change, choices for the time remaining, all confront in mid-life. No surprise to you, that the term mid-life crisis originates here. I believe this stage is where arrogance becomes fully displayed and rooted.
  • Legacy-Coming to an end always stirs something in us. Whether it’s saying goodbye (even though that happens throughout life) or wrestling with regret, typically there is pause for everyone. At the legacy stage, if arrogance has never been dealt with, regret and ugliness will reign. I’m not a person who believes that it’s impossible to change, I am a realist who knows danger. If arrogance is allowed to remain unaltered, it will be very difficult to turn around.

I was 40 when God uprooted my arrogance. It was one of the best things to ever happen to me. My hope for you is that you find the exit ramp-by force or thoughtful decision.

 

Untangling the Identity

Considering my post from yesterday, I thought it appropriate to put this one out again.

 

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Identity is one of the best barometers of who a person really is. It defines us even if we deny or look the other way. When the world in which we live starts defining us, the tangles begin.

Key in my story is the untangling of my identity.

Much of the tangles in my identity came from performance and a craving for affirmation. I’ll spare you and this page of all of what and where it came from. I want to use this time to talk about untangling identity and its next door neighbor, the real you/me.

In many ways we, grow tangles. They’re very much like weeds. The seed germinates, the stalk appears and the leaves sprout. Instead of wrapping around a big tree, it goes to our heart. It seduces and flatters. Before you know it you have a problem.

What if the world you run in celebrates the tangles?

It’s such a subtle play. The most dangerous situations are often this way. The decisions seem right, no one questions (or you stay away from anyone who would question) and you find yourself a co-conspirator in your own demise. You’re successful by some measures. You don’t disrupt much of anything. You are a model for many.

I began getting untangled when I was crushed underneath many of my decisions from years ago. Decisions I made with no one holding a gun to my head. Just me and my stuff. When the untangling began, I felt horrible and ashamed. However, over time I could see glimpses of what an untangled life could be. In many ways, something needed to be pruned in and out of me. It was a process of throwing stuff into the fire, engaging in serious self-discipline, recognizing the difference between what I can control versus what I can’t, and allowing God to have full access to my heart. Thankfully, I never lost my soul in the process.

The following ideas are key:

  • I have to be me in all areas of life, not versions of myself in different arenas
  • Don’t be so hard on myself
  • Recognize that it’s not ok for me to get my breakthroughs, and watch others struggle. Offer help
  • Think about legacy every day
  • Stay away from anyone or anything that desires to own me

Today my identity is pretty clean. Many years have gone into the process. Certainly, there will always be a need to be on guard and always recognize, and do something about, my areas of weakness. It is an ongoing battleIt’s a little difficult sometimes for me to see how beauty can come out of my past tangles. Fortunately, I don’t need to see in full right now. Think of the Polaroid snapshot here, it develops over time.

5 Questions with Lois Kelly and Carmen Medina, Authors of Rebels at Work

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I’ve been looking forward to this interview for some time. Lois and Carmen are two thought leaders I admire and respect a great deal. Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within is a great read, and their insights here are powerful. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to take on the challenge of helping rebels in the workplace?

Lois: A giant light bulb popped for me when I was at an innovation conference and heard Carmen talking about being a heretic within the CIA, and how hard it was to create change inside the “belly of the beast.” I realized that day that I had throughout my career I had either been helping clients create change inside their big organizations or had been shaking things up in my own organizations. I also realized that I had been winging it my entire career, and felt kind of sad about that.. What else might I have been able to do if someone had coached me on what it takes to move new ideas through the politics of any organization? Could I have enjoyed work more? Could I have been kinder and more empathetic? This melancholy motivated me to help others.

Carmen: Well, as Lois said when I retired from the CIA the first significant public speech I gave was about being a heretic at the CIA. I not only connected with Lois, but also with many other people trying to make innovation occur inside big organizations. We too often talk about entrepreneurs and startups, but as hard as that is, I think making change inside existing organizations is harder. Like living in your house while you’re doing a big remodel. When I was at CIA, I was always reflecting on what I was doing. A lot of those reflections evolved into better practices for Rebels at Work.

What keeps you up at night regarding this mission? Are there any storm clouds we should be looking out for?

Lois: how do we reach BOTH the rebels and the executives to whom rebels report? We can teach, mentor and inspire rebels. But for organizations to adapt and grow executives have to create an environment where new ideas are welcomed and they have to know how to coach their rebels. Maybe even more fundamentally, they have to want rebels on their teams, not just tolerate them. The storm cloud I see is that as changing market contexts upend business as usual, most people get scared. And when they get scared they double down and try to make what’s worked before keep on working, shunning the people with the new ideas. Related is that people stop raising new ideas because they know business is not good and they are afraid of losing their jobs.

Carmen: What keeps me up a lot is the worldwide conspiracy for the preservation of mediocrity. For the most part, it’s not an explicit conspiracy, although people who believe things like “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” are suggesting that we should just settle. All of us, at one time or another, are unwitting members of this conspiracy. I also worry a lot about how hard it is to get people to accept diversity of thinking. This is something I had to deal with during my career. And sometimes I worry it isn’t really improving.

In Chapter 8, you write about the importance of Rebel Self-Care. From a wellbeing perspective, can you expand on that?

Lois: We rebels tend to be passionate and that passion can morph into obsession. Obsession can eat you alive, causing all kinds of bad behavior and blinding us from being able to rationally see what’s what. Taking care of ourselves is the only way to not fall into an obsessive dark hole. It’s the only way to keep a positive perspective and sense of humor. When we lose those, we’re losing our ability to be effective. Maybe we’re just plain losing ourselves. The more committed we are about excelling at our work, the more we need to look after our mental, spiritual and physical well-being. That’s our fuel and our safety net. It’s also what gives meaning to our life and work. (And meaning is a much more satisfying outcome than money or status.)

Carmen: I flunked Rebel Self-Care in my career, so I’m excited that we discuss this in the book and that so many people respond so positively to the message. I lost some of my best friends at the Agency during my time there because I didn’t pay attention to my emotions, that I was approaching a breaking point. All rebels need to avoid that breaking point. When we become cynical and negative, it takes a lot of effort to recover. And sometimes we never do.

Can the strategies found in the book apply to multiple areas of a rebel’s life?

Lois: Ha! Anyone who has teenagers knows what it’s like to be the “boss” of rebels. You love their fresh thinking, their creativity, their intolerance for school and societal rules that just don’t make sense. And yet they make you crazy when they break the rules, do stupid things without understanding the bigger context, and let their emotions run wild. When we coach our teenagers and help them learn how to navigate, they develop capacities for being effective, meaningful citizens of the world. If we simply insist they follow the rules, they just get angrier and more frustrated. Same with rebels and their bosses. As for rebels, the strategies in the book apply to many areas of our lives where we’re trying to get groups of people or organizations to consider new and better approaches than what exists. Parent-Teacher Organizations, church councils, school committees, condo associations, boards of non-profits. It’s about people influencing people.

Carmen: I use my “lizard brain” mantra to control my emotions ALL THE TIME. It really works. One recommendation we make is for rebels to not dominate conversations. In everything we do, we need to listen more.

When you think back on your career, can you recall a manager who once looked negatively at rebels, and then changed their mind? What brought the change on?

Lois: As a lifelong rebel, I pissed off more than a couple of my bosses and most of them came around because of two reasons, and sometimes a third. They realized how much I cared for the organization and wanted all of us to succeed. Second, they often couldn’t believe how many risks I took to make new ideas work. I didn’t just have skin in the game, I had a whole body commitment. From my observations, no manager needs to give rebels the “you have to be accountable” talk. Because I spent my career working for ad agencies and consulting firms, the third thing that turned my bosses into believers was revenue. When my ideas produced new revenue, there was only happiness and support.

Carmen: It’s always surprised me how well I get along with gruff, no-nonsense people. I think I had a couple of managers in my career who first thought I was nuts and then came to believe in what I was doing. This is going to sound arrogant, perhaps, but I think what changed their mind was that they began to appreciate that I had been right all along. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been wrong many, many times. But in the late 1990s, I appreciated what the internet was going to do to “knowledge work” sooner than many people in my organization. I had so many arguments with people about applications such as Wikipedia and Social Media. Years later, some of them now ask me how I saw it coming. Well, I can’t explain that at all. Really, I don’t understand why they didn’t see it.

 

Carmen

 

 

 

 

 

Carmen Medina 

Carmen spent 32 years as a heretic at the Central Intelligence Agency. Despite this, she held several senior positions at the Agency, including serving on the executive team that led the CIA’s analytic directorate. She thinks most organizations don’t have a good way of determining when it’s time to transform and/or “sell” their current business model. Heretics, mavericks, and rebels at work can provide organizations with the important early warning system they so desperately need.

Since retiring from CIA in 2010, Carmen has continued to write and speak about Rebels at Work, analysis and strategic warning, the emergence of new global norms in the 21st century, the future culture of work, and cognitive diversity. She is Puerto Rican by birth and Texan by nationality.  She tweets under @milouness and @RebelsatWork

 

 Lois

Lois Kelly

Lois Kelly has been a creative rebel throughout her career, helping some of the most respected companies in the world create new ways to launch products, communicate complicated issues, influence public opinion, deal with crises, go public, adopt innovative business practices, and occasionally try to move mountains.

During this journey, Lois has become a student of change, learning what it takes to get people to embrace new ideas. Her obsession is creating clarity from complexity. Her most meaningful work is leading workshops where people create the future they want for their organizations and companies.

Lois lives in Rhode Island, the smallest and most creative state in the United States, and tweets under @LoisKelly and @RebelsatWork.

 

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

Some Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts running through my mind this morning.

  • The clock is ticking for you and I, just like it is for the cancer patient. Make the most of your opportunities.
  • Words we think are as powerful as the words we speak.
  • I think it’s important to consider the trade-offs every decision will bring.
  • Who says the fairy tales/epic tales aren’t true? Where’s the proof? The population must believe they are. Look at some of the highest grossing films of all time.
  • Elitism is dying, but won’t go down without a fight. Are you in the fight.
  • God gives gifts, so we can give them away to others.
  • The leadership vacuum is being filled with arrogance, lies, greed and fear. Maybe it’s not too late to turn around.
  • Be careful of the dogmas you embrace. They will go right to your soul.

Making Relationships Last

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In the personal and business realm, we all seek to make our relationships last. It makes perfect sense. The good relationships we protect, the bad relationships we seek to discard. Reality is found in how challenging it is to manage the in-between.

This past week I was referred to an individual who I hadn’t seen or talked to in over ten years. When I was given his name I didn’t fully remember him. When we finally spoke on the phone it came rushing back. The first and only meeting was brief, and hadn’t shown anything that appeared to be lasting. Fast forward to now, he went out of his way to help me on a number of fronts. He really helped me.

So what’s the point?

Some relationships, like marriage or a client, can be in your daily/weekly. Other relationships come and go. The key to remember is you and I have been given a powerful cement. This cement is given to build and solidify our relationships. Sadly, many don’t realize they have it and many don’t see it as important. The cost of ignorance and stupidity is high. The cement requires action on our part to be effective. It is an on purpose pattern.

I don’t if the gentleman I mentioned above did what he did because I applied the right amount of cement to our brief time together so long ago. One thing is certain, I made the attempt. My gut tells me it made a difference.

The moral of the story is never take any relationship for granted.

Don’t Trust The Beast

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A re-post from 2010.

You coexist with your business.  It should not be your friend.  It is a beast and not meant to be trusted.  It demands much, but as it is with a circus lion, a chair and whip are in order.  To think of that animal in any other light only invites ruin.

Sadly, many entrepreneurs, corporate slaves and others have wrapped their identities around the beast.  It is a sad love affair.  Just like the lover who swears this is the last one of many, a broken heart sits in waiting.  By the way, you can know how tightly you’re wrapped by how much you think about the beast.  The more you think, the tighter the wrap.

This post is not meant to talk you out of your business pursuits.  As a matter of fact, it can be a fantastic tool for growth.  The issue is one of ownership, not should I or shouldn’t I pursue a business idea/career.

Here are some solutions to the problem(s):

  1. Buy yourself a chair and whip.  It might be in the form of cutting back on your hours or developing a fitness/exercise program.  If you’re wondering what those two have to do with managing your business, look at the statistics around those who work long hours and don’t pay attention to their health.
  2. Look failure in the face and don’t back down.
  3. Start working smarter and stop trying to do everything.  Rugged individualism may sound great in a speech, but it’s highly overrated.
  4. Re-evaluate your needs.  In America two-thirds of the economy is based on consumption.  Nothing wrong with consumption, but do you really need…
  5. Prepare for battle.  The beast will not like you taking back control.  This one is important.  If you’re not careful you might give up, but don’t.