The Measuring Stick

So, what’s your measuring stick for people? Do they need to be a certain color? Do they need to drive a certain vehicle? Do they need to have a certain type of degree?

I suppose human bias is a fact of being human. It’s in us and there’s no way around it. But like emotions it’s not good or bad, just what we do with it. I’m biased toward positive people and I also know that it’s not always possible to be around them 100% of the time. The discipline I need is life management. Life management teaches me the art of dealing with each situation as it comes my way.

If the people you meet, or have known for some time, have to meet a vague mental checklist, you’re in trouble. Bigotry, arrogance and stunted mental growth are formed out of this approach. Insecurity is the culprit for those using a measuring stick that excludes certain types of people. When we deal with our insecurities, we begin to see people from a different set of lenses.

The best measuring stick is the unconditional one. Unconditional allows you to embrace real diversity and not lose your own identity in the process.

The choice is yours.

How To Embrace the 90/10 Rule

So many principles, so little time.  Today, I want to tackle the 90/10 principle (10% is the unexpected good or bad, 90% is what you choose) in relation to our life and career.

For many years I was told by mentors and colleagues that the 90/10 rule was important.  In the early years, I didn’t want to have the responsibility for 90% of my life.  It seemed so permanent to face the consequences of my choices.  And I certainly didn’t like the idea of the 10%.  Who wants to be at the mercy of the unexpected?

It was about 10 years ago that I really became conscious of the principle.  So much so that it now is a part of my culture.  I use the term conscious because unconscious living leads to incongruent values (I say exercise is important, but I never do it) or plain old hypocrisy.  No judgment here, but you need to be awake.

Here’s how to embrace the 90/10 rule:

  • You must embrace because the 90/10 rule embraces you.  Like it or not.
  • When you embrace, your emotional intelligence goes way up.  All of sudden you think before you act.
  • You must tame the beast inside.  Call it misplaced ambition, preoccupation with the opinions of others or greed.  When you realize that 90% of life is what you choose, you’ll think twice about walking all over people.
  • You’ll begin to think about your foundation.  Is it sand or stone?  When the unexpected comes what will keep you anchored?
  • Embracing the rule will simplify things.  It won’t make life easy, but it will make you decide what’s most important in career and life.
  • You’ll make the breakthrough to realizing that no one/organization can make you happy.  Happiness is a choice (there’s that 90% again) and only you can make this one.
  • You’ll stop being afraid of your destiny and get on with the mission.
  • The Oscar for best motion picture should be your life.

Reach out to me if you need help or more direction.

What Temptation Looks Like

All of us have, and will, come face to face with temptation. If all of your cylinders are firing, you’re facing temptation daily. My post is not a sermon on good and evil, though the two have a part to play. I really want the focus to be on what temptation looks like and how it plays out to our harm.

The idea of temptation is found in moving in a direction that will ultimately cause harm-great or small. Temptation is also subtle and unique in the beginning. Which is why so many fail the test come exam time.

The following are some areas that temptation shows up in:

  • Career
  • Physical Health
  • Marriage
  • Emotions
  • Learning

Think for a moment. Do any of the areas connect for you? Are you in the midst of giving in now?

I’m not going to give a topic-by-topic breakdown, just a general process to understand and resist what may be tempting you.

Subtlety and Innocence

Every temptation begins with subtlety and seeming innocence. The subtlety usually appears in a quiet and calm persona. It could be a person or situation. In my case, there was a time where I encountered both. I was rising at a heady (at least it felt that way) clip in my career. On one occasion I had a conversation over lunch with someone I admired and trusted. He told me I was a part of the group of young executives that would be asked to take the helm at the next level, when the current leadership retired. I remember stopping (in my head) and reviewing his opinion. It sounded great and he was in a position to know, so why not take what he said as fact? At the same moment the reason side of me kicked in. Questions like; “do I even want to be the next thing” and “are you giving in to flattery?” ran through my mind. In the end, I allowed my reason to win the day and deflected the conversation into the wind.

Giving In

I’ve also had situations where I gave into temptation. This is a tough one to write. I had been given advice over the years to listen to my wife. Not as an obedience thing, but as a good source of wisdom and intuition. I remember vividly a time where my wife warned me about a venture I was pursuing. The venture seemed sound, and ripe for success. She didn’t feel good about it and wanted me to pass on the opportunity. I faced a crossroads. Would I listen to her sound advice or push forward with my plans (one thing you should be aware of is the power ego plays in these scenarios)? In this case, I gave into the temptation my ego laid out. It cost me dearly.

Notice the subtlety and innocence in my two situations? I look back and can understand the subtlety of my thoughts and the innocence of seemingly good things/opportunities.

The end goal of temptation is to lull you and give you a false sense of reality. Voices like the following come next:

  • “Try it once and see”
  • “Everyone tells you how talented you are”
  • “You may never get this chance again”
  • “You can’t say no, they need you”
  • “I should be as successful as he/she is”

Again, maybe you’re in the midst of deciding whether you will pay heed to temptation or resist. I wrote this post for you and for me because there’s so much evidence of how better life is when you don’t give in.

If you would like more help with this topic, reach out to me directly.

The Trade

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As I progress through life, I am more aware of the trade-offs each day brings. When I look at my calendar, when I reflect on my thoughts or when I consider a business opportunity. Regardless of the situation, a trade is made in everything. Like you, I want to be pleased by what I trade. I apply this to today and tomorrow.

In my younger days I thought I was made of steel. I still feel really strong. I now pause and consider my choices more carefully. My margin for error has changed. I’ve found an interesting correlation between feeling like a man of steel and ignoring life’s trade offs; comfort.

Comfort is worshipped in many parts of the world. America is a leader in this type of worship. I’m not against comfort, I just see it as something to be careful with. Change never comes through comfort, no matter how much we delude ourselves.I even introduce discomfort for the purpose of keeping myself on a healthy razor’s edge. For example, I practice muscle confusion in my exercise plans. This is not revolutionary, but it helps my mind stay focused on growth and not on what feels “familiar.”

It’s a daily battle and it doesn’t happen naturally.

I highly recommend you give careful consideration to the trade-offs in the following areas of life:

  • Relationships-Is what you’re pursuing more important than your relationships?
  • Business and Career-Is the move into something bigger, more important than the space you operate in now?
  • Physical and Mental Wellbeing-Is trading the quality of your physical and mental wellbeing worth compromising, in the end?
  • Spirituality-Is your spirituality only a passing thought?
  • Learning-Is what you’re doing supported by something that will last, like learning?

Each of the above will require something from you, make sure you can live with the transaction.

Courage

Courage is following Your path, even though the odds favor failure. It is unwavering, even when a decision seems to make no sense.

Careful consideration is needed when living in an age of surrender and compromise.

Work and Employee Happiness

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Most organizations, these days, are speaking the language of happiness. For some entities it’s just talk, for others a striving everyday.

Employee happiness and engagement are connected. Maybe it’s obvious for you. I come from a view that says your company is not responsible for your happiness. Only you can own that. Whether it’s changing roles, transferring geographically or firing your boss with your feet, it still comes back to you.

Why are so many employees unhappy?

My answers:

Employees make choices that lead to unhappiness. On the whole, we live unbalanced and incongruent lives. The unbalance is found in our willingness to pour mind, body and soul into one area of life, while ignoring another. See the work versus family civil war, many are fighting right now. As someone who used to value my work over my family, it is a civil war. The incongruent part is the BS we tell the world. For example, “family is number one for me.” Nobody is perfect, but if you know you haven’t lived this out in over two years, you’re living incongruently. These are the recipes for unhappiness.

Employers foster unhappiness by the conditions their employees work under. Here’s the deal, if you are a CEO and you expect an employee to get excited about the stock price or last quarter’s earnings, you need a straight-jacket. Happiness and engagement happen when there is a great mission to achieve, something beautiful to create or a dangerous problem to solve. Without those, most will leave, or worse, die and stay.

Employees have defined happiness incorrectly. For me, happiness is fluid. It’s not a genie to be captured in a bottle. If you would have looked at my life yesterday, I would have been 90% happy and 10% unhappy. Those numbers don’t make me special, I just chose to be happy 90% of the day. I chose to be unhappy too. I think many are too fixated on happiness. Like life, happiness is not an arrival point. If we look at happiness as fluid, we’ll be better able to handle the stuff of life. Maybe we’ll find that moments of unhappiness are not the end of the world.

Employers are living in the past. Organizing your company like the industrial revolution happened last year is a disaster. Most employees live life in and around the 21st century. It frustrates the hell out of them when they’re treated like an assembly line worker or treated as if they’re a 4th grader.

In the end, every employer has an agenda. It may be a fit for you, or not. Either way happiness is your animal to wrestle with.

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.

Why Women Lead Well

From quite a few years ago.

Some of my best leaders have been women.  Many of them gave me something essential to growth-affirmation.  Is this a motherly instinct?  I can’t say for sure, but it has made a difference in my career path.

The Juggle has a great post (Is it Better When the Boss is a Mom) on the potential benefits of a woman leading the charge.  I think a woman being the leader of a group or organization can be an advantage, but whatever the reason I am a better leader because of the influence of these ladies in my life.

Here are some reasons (in addition to affirmation) why women can be wonderful leaders at work and home:

  1. They seem to understand that life is wide as it is long.
  2. They have instinct that, as a man, I only wish I had.
  3. Many women are comfortable in their own skin.
  4. They often understand the importance of legacy (maybe the motherly thing).
  5. They know how to walk away.

 

Here’s to the women who lead and the difference they make.

 

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.

 

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.