Inspired gratefulness. Where does it come from?

Roughly thirty-five years ago today, I experienced a day that in most instances might be one of the happiest days of a person’s life. However, within twelve hours, what perceivably to others looked like a delightful situation turned out to be the most nightmarish year of my life. Yes, I’m going to leave you wondering what happened. Spoiler alert, there is a much better ending than anyone would have thought there would be.

My point is that today is a day for me to be reflective.  Instead of dwelling on a particular day and year of my life, and that I would have at times rather erased from my memory, I can now look back on it with perspective that time has granted me. In fact, I can tell you that as I think about that day, I can now be inspired from the experience. I’m also confident that some of you reading this article might have had a similar feeling about one of your experiences. I hope you do.

When I hear the words inspired and gratefulness, I think of them as being great word partners. The word inspired can be interpreted quite differently by individuals, and so can being grateful. Both are often influenced by circumstances, some of which are in your control. While perhaps others might not be.

Gaining perspective based on the influences of other people, time, places or your attitude can all contribute to whether you feel inspired each day. Being grateful can also be impacted by your perspective, mood or potentially circumstances you may not realize you have more control over than you give yourself credit.

An example of what I am referring to is based on a true-life story of a 7-year old boy and his Mom who are both homeless and living in southern California. Their circumstances were documented by a west coast reporter. As I read through the story, there were so many instances for the Mom to re-write the narrative of how she and her son’s life were playing out that year. However, the challenge was that she was not willing to accept advice or help that could have changed their short and long term circumstances.

Although the Mom and her son were homeless, it didn’t mean that they were not grateful. They were grateful for people attempting to help them, but the Mom was not inspired to be able to move beyond her circumstances to improve her and her son’s life at that time.

Do I think the Mom could have been inspired or have found inspiration to change her circumstances? Potentially, but since untreated mental illness was identified as part of the reason the Mom could not, or chose not to change her situation, they both suffered from her lack of her ability from her circumstances to make good decisions.

Circling back to the earlier part of my story, I have learned over the years to find inspiration from places I never imagined. My personal history of the anniversary of today’s date is one of those places. Having deep perspective on my experience, and the year following that day, I know I wouldn’t have achieved all of the milestones in my life had I not endured, and come out the other side of where I was thirty-five years ago. For level setting, my situation did not personally involve a mental health challenge, chemical or physical abuse challenge. That’s all I’ll share with you.

However, from my experience, I am able to provide you with some inspirational suggestions based on a particular year in my life, as well as the cumulative years following it. I hope that some of them will inspire you.

  • We know time does not stand still, so always use the benefit of looking towards the future to envision how your circumstances can and will be different if you allow them to be.
  • Ever since I was young, I have had at least one domestic animal. Sometimes it was simply a small frog I captured outside and placed into a shoebox for thirty minutes to observe and admire it. Pets can provide unlimited inspiration, as well as motivation for you on a daily basis.
  • Depending on where you live, you will have different access to being out in nature. However, even if you live in a city, most of them have at least one park you can enjoy. The point is to get outside every day for a minimum of 5-20 minutes to experience the numerous benefits of being in fresh air.
  • When you are outside, take time to notice and admire the amazing beauty of nature. It will also serve to remind you of how your inside surroundings are typically far less interesting than what you can observe when you are outside.
  • Seek out people who make you smile, laugh or remind you not to take yourself too seriously. These people and their gift to help you do this, are like medicine for your soul.
  • Everyone knows we need to take good and sometimes better care of ourselves. When we ignore the signs of us not doing this, the effects can be negative and cumulative. However, it is possible to reverse most of the things we might be doing which don’t contribute to increasing our personal health (e.g., diet, exercise, sleep).
  • Helping someone else serves multiple purposes to inspire and motivate us. One of the things it does is to take our mind off of ourselves. When we help someone else, it also makes us feel better. When we care for others, this generally contributes to doing so. 

My list of suggestions could go on and on, but the intent of providing you with some ideas is to kick start your mind to thinking about other things you can do to help you to be more inspired and grateful on a regular basis. Enjoy the daily journey of making this happen for yourself, and indirectly others.

Tags: #Advice #Inspiration #Motivation #Business #Grateful #Howtobegrateful #Howtogaininspiration #Beinggrateful

Uncertainty and decision making


Let’s face it. Most people when asked if they like uncertainty will tell you they don’t. If asked to choose between the two, they will more often favor decision making. However, both of these topics can make people uncomfortable, yet they don’t have to. So, who are the people comfortable with both, and were they always this way? Can you be one of them?

Learning how to embrace uncertainty versus fearing or dreading it isn’t something which comes naturally. When we think of the concept of uncertainty, we often wish that we could definitively know what the outcome will be. When we can anticipate or predict the way anything will turn out, it also gives us a sense of comfort, or perceivably more control. Although some people don’t mind being surprised by an outcome. Especially outcomes that have a higher potential to be a positive one.

Although I am not an actuary, a significant percentage of outcomes mathematically will have roughly a fifty percent chance of a favorable outcome. So, why do we as humans tend to ere on focusing on the potential for a negative outcome? One of the reasons we do this is to protect ourselves from disappointment. If we expect the outcome not to be in our favor and it is, then we are happier about the results. Another reason we think negatively, is that we are not confident enough in our abilities, planning or circumstances to warrant the outcome we would prefer.

What if you could alter the way you think and embrace uncertainty? Part of being able to do this will involve re-training the way you think. This isn’t easy to do. Yet it can be incredibly gratifying to achieve being able to do this, even occasionally. To begin down the path of embracing uncertainty, one of the factors I noted above was to become more confident in your thinking this is something you can do. Let’s start there. Can you do this? Yes, this is a rhetorical question, as I know you can.

As you already know, our subconscious mind has a great deal of power. When we tap into it, and we suggest to ourselves that the outcome of any scenario will be favorable, we begin laying down the path for this to happen. Have you ever tried doing this? I’m sure you have, but potentially not all of the time. Consider a time you didn’t do this, and how much energy you put into thinking the outcome of your situation wasn’t going to be in your favor. Yet, it was. What if instead you could have channeled that wasted negative energy into something else? For one thing, you would have been less anxious, more fun to be around, and likely have had more energy to appreciate the positive outcome.

Let’s switch gears and focus on decision making as something you enjoy doing, and do well. For those reading this who feel they have mastered the art of decision making, consider how you could or would teach others how to do this. If you are in the category of needing to learn how to make better decisions, I have some suggestions on how you can go about doing this.

  • I recently met a woman who uses a method of visually thinking through her decisions. What she does is to draw a square box. In that box is the topic related to her decision. Around the box she places other boxes that have words or phrases that either support or don’t support her topic. This is similar to a pro and con list, but it is using a different visual representation to help you think through your situation.
  • Now would be a good time to consider putting together either an informal or formal board of advisors. It doesn’t have to be a big group, and it should be people who you know, and can rely upon to give you input from an objective position. Not necessarily what you want to hear, but a more neutral or alternative way of thinking about the outcome of your decision.
  • Depending on the type of decision you are making, is it possible to do research, or more research on helping you to determine an outcome? Perhaps a positive one?
  • Part of becoming a decision maker and mastering this concept, means you will become more comfortable with relying upon your gut instinct. Start slowly if you are uncomfortable with doing this, but think about what your first thought was. Then think about whether it is based on fear, or has merit for being a good decision.
  • When you vacillate on your decisions, you typically do this due to lack of confidence in your ability to decide. You will know you have mastered the art of decision making, when you stop vacillating on your decisions.

Yes, life is full of uncertainty, and we would be hard pressed to live a day without having to make any decisions. So, given the reality of this, the best course of action for ourselves is to embrace uncertainty and decision making, and to become pros at both of them. Let’s get you started today!

Tags: #Business #DecisionMaking #Uncertainty #EmbracingChange #Marketing #Sales #Leadership #MakingDecisions

Why I don’t waste time criticizing people.

People who are constantly criticizing others are typically insecure and because of this, they focus their attention on other people instead of being reflective about themselves. When you come across someone like this in the office, steer the other way, as they probably have already taken on the reputation of being a negative person, and who wants to be around “Debbie Downers”? No one, and it is not advisable to be around them, as others could also perceive you are this way too. However, what if you have tendencies of being overly critical of others and do not realize this?

Let’s take a virtual walk around your office and come up with some scenarios of interactions you might be having with others. The first scenario takes place in the morning shortly after you have arrived at work. You exchange your pleasantries with others, or so you think, as you may not have realized you provided negative commentary on an interaction you just had with one of your other colleagues about what they told you they did over the weekend. Did you need to be judgmental about what they did and share your opinion with others? Let’s say…, you did not.

The next scenario involves talking with one of your colleagues post a meeting you were both in. Instead of providing constructive feedback or potentially something positive about the meeting and the person who was running it, you criticized the person for how they delivered the information, and about how you did not like the meeting format.

Another interaction which is ripe for negative people to spread their criticism is during the afternoon walk around the building. These walks are generally short walks, and can be highly refreshing and opportunities to have upbeat conversations. However, if you are an overly critical person, you tend to leverage this interaction to share your negative commentary on whomever you have recently interacted with. Does this sound like you, or someone you work with?

If you are “the” person who is highly critical of others and do not realize this, there are ways to determine you are behaving this way, and to course correct on this type of behavior.  Here are ways to first recognize you are behaving this way:

  1. After interacting with someone, think about the conversation you had with them. Did the conversation involve passing judgement on another person in a negative format?
  2. Consider the interactions you have had the last few days. After the interactions did you feel better, neutral or worse after you spoke to your colleagues? If you felt better or neutral, was there a positive outcome from the conversations you had, or did you simply feel relieved about sharing your opinion on someone?
  3. If you had to rate your conversations with others like you were rating a restaurant on Yelp, what rating would you give yourself and why?
  4. Are there situations or people who “trigger” your overly critical nature? Begin to recognize whether these are routinely happening, or only periodically.

and here are some tips on how to stop being overly critical of others:

  • Write down positive things you can share and say about others you work with, then sprinkle these positive expressions into your conversations with others. Did you notice if the person you were sharing this information with reacted differently?
  • Create a list of the typical things you converse with others about. Categorize these topics and take a look at what percentage of them are critical versus being constructive or positive. Do this exercise for one week to work towards changing the conversational type of exchange you have been having.
  • Ask someone you are friends with outside of your office if they think you have tendencies to be overly critical of others. If they are a true friend, they will be honest with you and tell you that you are. Do not be mad at them for being honest with you, and instead thank them for their candidness.
  • Challenge yourself to work towards being a less critical person, and check your progress from week to week to see if you recognize you are decreasing your negative commentary about others or situations.

No one sets out to be overly critical of others, and sometimes behaving this way is also a result of picking up this bad behavior from observing others who might be doing the same thing. The trick to becoming less critical and ultimately more fun to be around, is to acknowledge you might be this way, and then to work towards overcoming this bad habit. Once you become less critical of others, you will become a much happier person when you are conveying complimentary comments about others versus the negative verbal exchanges you are accustomed to expressing.

How are your people management skills?

Thinking back to the first time I was responsible for managing someone, I remember feeling a tremendous sense of being the best boss possible boss I could be. This of course was despite my limited experience in this area. However, when I factored in thinking about the myriad of opportunities to practice managing someone, while being the boss, it became less of an intimidating situation. Perhaps for both of us.

Fast forward in time close to thirty years since having first managed the person I was referring to. The fact I recently heard from this person after three decades was an incredible moment, and not one I expected to occur. What was even more surprising was the fact this person sent me a thank you note for being their boss! It goes to show you there is no time limit on thanking someone, and this is a topic I have previously written about.

In the note from the person I first managed, they shared with me that I was a highly supportive and nurturing boss, and that they were surprised I took a chance on hiring them. They also commented on how hiring them changed their life, and influenced the career direction they ended up pursuing. I never knew any of these facts until recently. My point is that even when I was a freshly minted boss, it was possible to have a positive impact on managing someone and their career.

Until I received the email via a LinkedIn message from this person, I had not considered how early in my career my people management skills would continue to be an asset to both me, and the people I have had the responsibility and honor of managing. Being completely honest, there were times when I recall managing this person that I was unsure of whether I was able to properly guide them. However, each time I felt that way, I had a conversation with myself to remind me that managing someone is actually a two-way process. This made me feel much better when I acknowledged that I was only half of the equation and the outcome results.

When I stopped to consider where I sourced my own people management skills from, I would have to say some of them were modeled by my parents. For the first five to six years of my career, I also learned through observing my bosses how to manage others. Of course, some of my bosses were far better at people management skills than others. Understanding both optimal and sub optimal ways of applying or learning these skills will serve you equally well.

Below are some of my acquired and own methods for how to improve your people management skills.

  • This can apply to both work and life situations, and is a foundational piece of advice to launch from. I know you have heard this before, but it’s not always practiced as well as it should be. Without exception, always treat the person you are managing the way you would want to be treated.
  • People are constantly surprising us with what they do and say. Sometimes this is a positive experience, but if it’s not, consider asking the person “Why did they do or say what they did?” When you ask someone to provide insight to better understand their behavior, it generally offers a teachable moment for you to help them see how they could have handled the situation differently.
  • How often do you praise someone? Often times managers neglect considering how a simple thank you, or positive acknowledgment of a small accomplishment can make someone’s day.
  • Have you considered what adjectives people would use to describe your human engagement skills? Sometimes our perceptions are quite different than the reality of how we are appearing to interact with others. Chances are if this is the case, you may not be aware that this is an area for course correction. If this is a problem area for you, it could also be why you have not, or might not advance into upper management roles.
  • Consider what you have done either in the past, or recently to improve your people management skills. Have you proactively worked on being self-aware of the importance of doing this?
  • Think about people who you would classify as having naturally gifted abilities in managing other people well. Is it possible for you to be mentored by them? Remember the importance of having a mentor, and this applies to all stages of your career. 
  • There are tremendous benefits granted to those who master being highly skilled people managers. They are often fast tracked in their careers, are more satisfied professionally with their roles, have a larger professional network to tap into when they need to do so, and are considered for roles over other people who might be more qualified technically, but are lacking in their human management skills.

This is a rich and ever evolving topic. It is also a subject that you will always benefit from any investment you make in yourself to improve how you interact with others, either personally or professionally.

Tags: #Success #Mentorship #PeopleManagementSkills #Business #Howtodevelopyourpeoplemanagementskills #Business #Sales #Management #Leadership #HumanResources #HumanCapital #Tipsonhowtoimprovepeoplemanagementskills #Strategy

Who do you surround yourself with?

When we are young, we don’t always think about every one of our moves in terms of how it might be shaping our personal brand. However, as we become more aware of our surroundings and who we are, we begin to evolve. During this time, we may or may not consider how the people we interact with will, or we allow to shape and influence our lives. Or, perhaps not.

For those of you who would classify yourself as an inclusive person, and who embrace having lots of different people in your lives, I get you, and I’ve always have been this way too. Part of why I enjoy having such a diverse group of people in my life, is my fascination with each of them in terms of what makes them unique. A perfect example of this is one of my friends who I have referenced before. Her name is Ellen O’Brien.

Ellen is a renowned jazz and blues singer in New York City, and who hails from Boston. Although the two of us have a number of things in common, we probably have more things not in common if you were to compare our lists. In fact, it is the list of our opposite characteristics and interests that has bonded us over the years. Do you have an “Ellen” in your life?

Sometimes the people who are in our lives are there due to our life circumstances or the timing of where we are (e.g., school, neighborhood, work). However, I would be remiss if didn’t suggest to you that you should never use any of these as an excuse for not being able to broaden who you involve in your life. The important thing is to be aware of this, and to do something about it. Especially if the people in your life are what might in fact be our doppelgangers.  In other words, being the same as everyone else may not work in your favor.

Another expression I am partial to is that “variety is the spice of life”. Naturally this concept can be applied to the type of people we surround ourselves with. Now, let’s pause for a moment and consider the people we have in our professional and personal lives. Did we choose to have them in our lives, or are they in it due to our current life circumstances?

Circling back to the question of “Who do you surround yourself with?”, have you ever given this some thought, or at least recently? If you haven’t, below are some suggestions I have for considering why you might want to do this. My suggestions also tie into a conversation I was having with one of my friends this morning. We were discussing how some people are in your life are there for a reason, season or a lifetime. If you are curious, he is in the last category.

  • Think of yourself as a gardener. One of the main things they need to do to help their gardens grow, is to prune out items which are preventing growth. From time to time, we need to do the same thing with our personal or professional network.
  • Do you have a criterion for evaluating why or how you let someone into your life?
  • Are there people in your life who you would classify as toxic? If so, give serious thought to how you can reduce or eliminate the amount of time you interact with them.
  • Consider who is in your current circle of influencers. Are they each contributing to advancing or holding you back? Also consider whether their influence has been impactful, and whether the impact has been positive.
  • Look around you, whether physically or mentally. Are you in a place you want to be for the rest of your life? If not, do you have a plan in mind for how you can leverage the help from your network to help you get to where you want to be?
  • Have you thought about whether you have settled on who you interact with out of ease of doing so because it is convenient to do so?
  • Are you motivated to seek out meeting new people to include in your life?
  • What methods do you typically apply to meet and develop your network and circle of influencers? During the Pandemic, we have had to resort to more on-line methods, but they can still be impactful if you are willing to give them a try (e.g., meeting someone for coffee over Zoom).
  • Make a list of the positive and negative outcomes from the people you surround yourself with. Is your list balanced? Or, is one side longer than the other?  If one is longer than the other, and it’s not the favorable side, it’s the perfect time for you to re-evaluate who you surround yourself with.
  • Having outstanding people in our lives can be enriching in numerous ways, including being better for our health, and both physical and mental well-being.

Although as we get older some people are more reluctant to open up their circle of those who they include into the various layers of their relationship types, my feeling is that we should always embrace an opportunity to meet new people and integrate exceptional ones into our lives. I hope the people you currently or in the near future are exactly the type of people you would design and architect to be in your life. If not, perhaps you need to consider having a new blueprint drawn up.

Tags: #Business #Success #ProfessionalNetwork #PersonalNetwork #Influencers #happy #trendingnow #innovation #management #personaldevelopment