Stomp the ANTs!

Hello my friend,

Today I want to make the case against “black and white” thinking, a narrow way of seeing the world in terms of extremes. Another way to describe this is “Always Never Thinking“.

As a coach, I listen to my clients speak all the time and I listen carefully to what they say, how they say it so that I can ask helpful, sometimes provocative questions. We listen for Always Never Thinking, so-called ANTs, because ANTs are revealing of an underlying mindset that does not serve the client’s ability to achieve great results.  Here are a few examples:

  • My ideas are never chosen.
  • He always belittles me.
  • Things never work out for me.
  • I always run into traffic.

When you look at “Always Never Thinking “statements, they are rarely accurate. They may accurately reflect the level of frustration on the part of the client, but they are factually incorrect.  They are actually emotional reactions and responses to things that happen occasionally, or even frequently.

The problem that I have with them is that these statements also characterize the speaker as a victim or as a passive participant in the event described. This, my friends, is disempowering. It gives away the clients power to own their responsibility for their emotions, their results and even their lives.

When people use “always” or “never”, they are often characterizing themselves as victims of other people or circumstances.  And again, they are incorrect! I mean… who runs into traffic every time?  Really? Exaggerate much?

Instead of the passive, “I’m a victim!” statement that “I always run into traffic.”, give these a try:

  • “I often run into traffic jams at this time of day so I take alternative routes.”
  • “It is virtually impossible to avoid traffic on my commute home … so I have material to read, listen to or even phone calls to make so that I remain productive during drive-time.”

These statements are very different because the speaker is in control of her emotion, her mental state and her attitude! She owns these things, despite the existence of things that are beyond her control.

Stomp AntI challenge you, dear reader, to be on the lookout for ANTs in your own speech and thought patterns.  Listen carefully for them and avoid portraying yourself as a victim to anyone else or most importantly, to yourself!  Check the accuracy of that “always” statement or “never” statement that you catch yourself making. If it is not true, rephrase it in a way that is accurate and empowering for you.

Lose the victim mindset and recapture your power over the things you can control.

Stomp those ANTs!

All the best,

Ed

By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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Finish strong!

Hello my friends,

Welcome to December! This is a special time of year, no doubt, full of celebration, relaxation and reflection. 2012, however, is not over yet! There is still work to be done in many people will make it a great year by finishing strong. In fact, the most successful people I know put as much effort into December as they do in other months. That doesn’t mean they only work hard this month. Rather, they’ll “play hard” as well, spending lots of quality time with family and friends.

This is the time of year for reflecting on lessons learned in making commitments for superior performance in the coming year.so, do you have a plan in place to make 2013 your best year ever? If you’re like most people, the answer is “no” or some halfhearted explanation of what you intend to do next year. By the way, that “halfhearted explanation” might as well be “no, I don’t have a plan.”

Winners finish strong. Just like a football player that holds up four fingers at the beginningFour fingers of the fourth quarter to signify that he is ready to perform at a high level until the final whistle, I suggest that you consider three components to finishing your year this way.

  1. Continue working diligently right up to the point where you “turn out the lights” for the year. Make your last week of work into your best week at work. Follow-up with clients, prospects and employees. Don’t leave opportunities on the table because “the holidays are so busy”. It is a busy time of year, but don’t use that as an excuse for poor results.
  2. Make a very specific plan for 2013. Far deeper than superficial “New Year’s resolutions”, this plan includes your intentions for how you will perform next year in all areas of your life. It also lists the results you plan to achieve. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: failing to plan is planning to fail!
  3. Enjoy the time that you take away from business. Take an active, not passive, role, in your family’s activities.  Vegetating is not the same as relaxing. Do some fun things with your family and friends.  Call  or visit some elderly family members.  Volunteer some time for a charitable organization.  Do something you don’t often do, like playing chess, going bowling or ice-skating.  You get the point.  Spending endless hours in front of the television is not “rest and relaxation.”

Finish StrongGoing hard through the finish line in these ways can make the difference between a good year and a great year, and it will set you up for a fantastic 2013.  Don’t stop yet, even if you’re tired. Finish strong!

All the best,

Ed

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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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On Becoming An Optimist

Hello my friends,

As you probably know by now, the great Zig Ziglar passed away earlier this week.  He was one of the legends of the personal development industry and had a tremendously positive influence on millions of people, including yours truly. My condolences to the Ziglar family. My blog post today will be about optimism, something I learned quite a bit about listening to and reading the works of Zig Ziglar. Zig Ziglar

Here are my three steps to becoming more optimistic, or even a true-blue optimist!

  1. Visualize success! We’ve talked about it before, but it is vital for you to see positive outcomes before you experience those positive outcomes. Again, this is counterintuitive to many people but is nevertheless true. You must set a positive intention by seeing yourself achieving the results, the outcomes and goals that you have set.
  2. Act on that intention! Thinking about it is not enough, it’s just the beginning. You’ve heard of the term “force of habit”. Well it’s true that habits do form us. but who creates our habits? We do! Create your habits, then your habits create you. Use daily affirmations to remind your conscious mind of how you will conduct yourself during that day and how you expect the world to respond to your actions.
  3. If you have just begun your journey to optimism, it is important that you analyze your old habits of self sabotage. When you encounter temporary Trapsetbacks were discouraging events, what negative thoughts typically enter your mind? What “stinking thinking” is part of your mindset? Now, prepare a trap for those thoughts, a positive phrase to counter the negativity. Arm yourself for that moment when you would typically become discouraged and give up.here’s another strategy that works well; when facing a difficulty, ask yourself “How would Zig Ziglar respond to the situation?” “What would he think or feel?”  And most importantly, “What would Zig do in the circumstances?”

The Optimist Creed

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

RIP Zig.

All the best,

Ed

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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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Dreamers and Doers

Hello my friends,

Today I’d like to talk about Dreamers and Doers. I’m a fan of both dreaming and doing. I am not, however, fond of the poor outcomes that result from excessive focus on one or the other of these vital practices.  Dreamers spend much of their time thinking about how their life could be improved, fantasizing about better things to come or musing about how happy they will be if and when their circumstances change.

Once again, I love dreaming just not those who “live in the future“. There are two telling signs that someone is a Dreamer, as opposed to someone who is merely dreaming. First of all, the pure Dreamer often describes the imagined scenario, or desired future state, in terms that reveal that he does not believe the dream is possible, or at least within his control to reach. Instead, it is often described as if it will take some major good fortune or stroke of luck in order for the dream to be realized. Secondly, Dreamers frequently trade in old dreams for new ones, often in a casual way. When asked about the “old dream”, the Dreamer will describe it in dismissive, even belittling terms. The shiny “new dream” gets all the attention!

Doers are on the other end of the continuum. To them, it’s about being busy. No time to dream, no time to plan… there’s too much to do!  Doers are big fans of checklists and often take great pride in the quantity of work they have achieved. Unfortunately, this “productivity” is shortsighted for Doers because productivity is about quality.  When asked about the relationship between their highest priorities and the items on their to do list, Doers regularly struggle to make the connection.

As I’m sure you could see a mile away, my aversion to these extremes suggests that a compromise is in order. The most effective people are both Dreamers and Doers!

  1. They possess a burning desire to reach their goals.
  2. They possess a clear vision of their dream state.
  3. Finally, they have a strong appetite for the work that must be done in order for the dream to be made a reality.In “the Art of war” by Sun Tzu, the general makes it clear case for strategy and tactics for armies.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, while tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Dreaming and doing go together like strategy and tactics (peanut butter and jelly too).  There are many so-called “Keys to Success”, but my favorite is the marriage between dreaming big and doing better.Dream it. Do it. Repeat. ( this was inspired by my shampoo bottle’s directions to: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)

All the best,

Ed

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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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Classroom of Silence

Hello my friends,

No rant this week. 🙂  If you prefer rants, I suggest that you read last week’s post again.

I will be going on my annual retreat this weekend.  Although I will be surrounded by many people, this is a weekend marked by solitude, by reflection, by renewal.  My intention (today) is simply to encourage you to schedule time away from the world, away from the phone, the television and yes, the internet.  Turn it all off.

“Wait a minute Ed!  If I turn off all of that stuff, how will I keep up with what’s going on in the world?  What will I do?  Won’t it be boring?”

The short answer to these questions is is that you won’t keep up and the world won’t notice, that you will have time to think, to really think about who you are, where you are in life and what you are grateful for.  Even better, you will have time to reflect on who you want to be, what you want to achieve and how you will conduct yourself going forward.

I’ve been making this annual retreat for a long time now – it has become one of my most cherished traditions.  It is not the food, the accommodations or the entertainment – far from it.  I love this weekend because of the “inside work” that it enables me to do.  I read quite a bit, write many notes and commitments, but mostly I spend time in the “classroom of silence”.    Although I have made completely silent retreats (48 hours without saying a word – really!), most of the retreats are predominantly silent.  I have found that the quiet helps me to hear those inner voices that I often drown out, to focus attention on those gnawing intentions that never see the light of day in a typical week.

This is not a business planning weekend – it is personal.  Very personal.  As I get in the car on Sunday to return home, I will have renewed senses of gratitude and purpose.  It is a wonderful feeling, very exciting.  My batteries will be fully charged and my direction will be aligned with where I’m supposed to go.

Think about it.  There are many retreat centers all over the world.  Although it would be more challenging, you can even create your own retreat without leaving home – easier said than done.  Frankly, it is called a retreat because you need to get away from it all.

So, don’t try to reach me after Friday at 2:00pm.  See you on the other side.

All the best,

Ed

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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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I’m an Expert… Says Me!

Hello my friends,

As you probably know, some of my blog posts discuss issues that I believe are relevant to executive coaching, often subjects that I have recently spoken with one or more clients about. Sometimes, however, I feel compelled to respond to something that I have heard or seen. This is one of the posts that can be accurately described as a rant.

I recently attended a conference where the main speaker made a rather startling statement: he told an audience of professional service providers that their customers cared more about the message then the messenger. Unfortunately, he didn’t stop there. He then went on to state very clearly that your ability to deliver a compelling message was more important than your ability to deliver the goods. I’m paraphrasing, but this was the point:

Your background? Unimportant. Training, education and credentials? Unnecessary! Knowledge and experience? Nice to have, but don’t let your lack of relevant knowledge stop you from calling yourself an expert.

I realize that it may seem ludicrous that anyone would say such a thing, but it was said as a sort of corollary to the Field of Dreams “build it and they will come” message. Put another way, it was “tell people you’re an expert so that you gain customers and thereby become an expert.” As my mother used to say, this is bass ackwards!

I understand the importance of style and delivery, of connecting with your audience, communicating to promote their engagement with you and with your message. I have no problem with this, so long as the substance of the product or service is in line with the promises of the message!

The direction being given though, was way beyond “stage presence”. It was about creating the impression that you are an expert in something, simply by stating over and over that you are an expert. It also helps, it was suggested, when you recruit others who will back up your bogus claims by repeating them. This “strategy” has many names; the most polite one is fraud!

Style over Substance

I reject this “style over substance” strategy entirely, and I hope you do too. And here’s an alternative approach I’d like to suggest; integrity, authenticity, and truth. I know, I know… that’s so old-fashioned! Well, it worked back then and it works now. Define your expertise in the marketplace at the actual boundary of your expertise. 1. Don’t tell people you can do something that you can’t. 2. Don’t imply that you can do things that you can’t. 3. Don’t suggest that you can do things that you can’t.

Know what you know, and limit your claims to that which you know. You may get fewer customers in the short run than those who make false claims of expertise. But, you will be way better off in the long run. Your reputation will be much better, your conscience will be clear, and your customers will be much more satisfied with you, your services and your business.

When your value is greater than your price, both you and your customers win.

If on the other hand, you rely solely on your charm, charisma, communication skills, manipulation or trickery to get people to become customers, I don’t even view you as having a business. You’re leading a cult! Not a religion, per se, but a cult of personality. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The customers or followers are treated like sheep, totally disrespected, yet they remain loyal to the dishonest guru or expert. It’s a shame.

When you or a loved one is sick, do you want actors or trained medical personnel to treat you? The soap opera doctors and nurses may be eye candy, but you would obviously choose the real professionals, right? I’ll take substance over style, steak over sizzle, skill over hype every day of the week!

Whew! I feel better. Thank you.

All the best,

Ed

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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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Why Worry? I Know How This Movie Ends!

Hello my friends,

Don’t worry, be happy … Bobby McFerrin made this line famous, and possibly irritating to some folks.  Annoying or not, I am going to agree with the sentiment and hopefully deliver some ways to reduce or eliminate the worry in your life.

Do you like horror movies?  Whether you do or not, you know that there are scenes in them that are intended to surprise us, shock us, fill us with anticipatory fear and yes, to terrorize us.  That’s what they do.

Imagine, however, if you watched the same scary movie again and again, say 100 times.  I am not suggested that you actually do this, of course, just that you imagine doing it.  How would you respond to the “scary parts” after that many viewings?  Probably not so scary anymore, right?  Definitely not suspenseful or surprising anymore!  This is because you know precisely how the movie ends.  No need to worry!  I’ve seen this all before…  get it?  got it?  good!

 

I’d like to apply this same phenomenon to how we prepare for otherwise worrisome elements in our real lives – meetings, strained relationships, conversations that will be challenging, big exams, the list is endless …   Some people are able to prepare for and go through such experiences without excess stress and worry.  Others … not so much.  They get petrified or paralyzed with fear, apprehension, doubt and worry.

So how do people do it?  In part, they use the power of their subconscious minds, which accounts for only 90% of brain activity!! Did you know that our subconscious minds are unable to differentiate between reality and that which is vividly imagined?   The best athletes in the world know this, which is why they vividly imagine (visualize!) themselves performing at their best, over and over again.You can do this too!  See yourself performing at your “event” successfully.  Do it.  See it clearly.  What are you wearing?  How do you sound?  How does the other person(s) respond to you?  How does it feel when you succeed?  Powerful visualization is a terrific tool, commonly used by people in all walks of life.  Try it … I’ll bet you like it.

All the best,

Ed

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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you. :-)

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