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December 2009


  • We are not known by the quantum of things we agonize over, but by the quality of things we confront, face, impact, transform and move on from. What are the 3-4 most critical things that you can opt to face as 2010 kicks off, that if done decisively, audaciously and imaginatively, would launch the New Year powerfully? Identify them…and come strong out of the gate in advancing them as the New Year dawns.
  • Beware people who think they are doing you a favor by asking you to bend your professional norms in order to placate them, or to donate free time to them, or to stoically endure their vacillations or more. Always move the goal-posts. Gently but firmly confront disempowering behavior. But always speak to the better angels in people’s nature. Always address the person you want to help them become, not the person their current behavior may be temporarily painting them as. Help call forth their potential and you’ll be someone everyone seeks as an ally, a friend and more.
  • Never apologize for refusing to do stupid things. People ask you to attend a useless meeting, or listen to them tap dancing around something already committed to, or request yet another analysis detailing something everyone already knows, or want your presence at a pointless social event that you would find depleting rather than vitalizing, and much more. Life is essentially energy and focus, and you can’t afford to squander either. Equally though, don’t be rude, just firm. And if you choose to be gracious, then do it for core relationships at key moments, when what people are seeking is more than meets the eye. They may actually want your support rather than your input, for you to catalyze them into action rather than just empathize with them, to help hone the agreement rather than let them keep circling the point, or be there as a gesture of comradeship at an occasion that is meaningful to them. Fine. But know what you’re doing, and why.
  • Create spaces in your time, diary, week and life. A few things that you can focus on, savor and truly engage (or if need be, grapple) with, beats ridiculously congested itineraries where you run from pillar to post, frantically putting out fires, stressing yourself, providing flaccid attention to detail and doing an injustice to all the key touchpoints and perception points in your personal and professional life (which is all ONE life ultimately). Zen masters tell us we need to learn to breathe properly. Leadership masters learn they need breathing room, before breathing properly can even be considered.
  • “Feared things first” we teach in our sessions. Take the most critical thing that you most dread doing, and get it done FAST, at the first available opportunity. Psychologically it’s a release of energy and the rest of the day, you’ll glide down the ramp of effectiveness, rather than dreading your steep climb up and over procrastinator’s hill. Other than those things that you should move past, fast, to liberate energy and passion and creativity for the rest of your day, do other things that are less daunting in chosen “spasms”. Things that don’t require devotional focus, can be done as the muse strikes you, albeit in a chosen band of time. You’ll be amazed how fast you’ll move when you’ve designated a period to write a note, make a call, take a walk, read that book, clear some bills, pick those dates…and this is so when that designation comes from surfing your own energy waves as they ebb and flow relative to different facets and faculties of your life.
  • Become a student of things that recur. Many things are predictable. Traffic patterns will yield insights. The professional norms of various vendors or partners can be adapted to and at times proactively responded to. If you only ever manage to work out in the gym if it’s first thing, beware of “talking yourself into” doing it later. If someone is always late, ask them to call and confirm they’re en route before you leave, or leave after waiting a certain period to help them “retrain” themselves. If impossible, then do some work and be ready with it, and when they apologize, you can say with a smile, “I get quite a bit done waiting for you actually.” Study buying patterns and thereby avoid feast and famine periods from your customers, and more. What patterns can you excel at spotting — including holiday patterns (last minute shopping, gorging, nitpicking the faults of loved ones) and replacing with healthier and better responses?
  • Try the suggestion of a recent book relative to liberating energy. Take 21 days. And each day volunteer an act of generosity that requires a conscious decision. Do it with an open heart, expecting nothing in return. Do a brief journal entry about what you did, how it made you feel and anything you’ve learned. Try it for 21 days and watch how your energy begins to shift from self-absorption to service. Many people report many areas of their lives which are “stuck” getting truly “unstuck”. That will happen as a byproduct. But this is a wonderful season to see how many people you can bless with even small acts of “conscious” though possibly still “random” kindness. Don’t plot a Napoleonic campaign to change someone’s life — intervene judiciously where it will matter. Call the person you’ve been out of touch with, walk someone hobbling to a cab, buy dinner for a homeless person, help out an ailing friend, volunteer for an hour or a day, be on the look-out to help, notice someone and spend some time validating them. Little things mean such a lot. And we belittle ourselves by not doing them.
  • Some things aren’t fun. Holiday traffic, flight cancellations, stockpiled expectations of family bliss that evaporate as everyone demands center-stage, pending issues at work that keep diverting your attention, and more. Choose grace. Choose a sense of humor. Choose to inject joy wherever you can. If something really gets to you, yell it out, cry it out, but GET it out! And then move on to the experiences you wish to have instead and take a stand for them. Make your own fun over this period and beyond. Adapting Gandhi’s observation, “Be the fun you wish to experience.”
  • Finish the year with a look back with gratitude for all that you’ve achieved, with humility for all the lessons hard won and learned with difficulty, and decide who to thank, and what key “bold courageous steps” you will take to leverage your learnings in 2010. Share these thoughts and feelings with close colleagues and partners, with your spouse and family. Have some extraordinary conversations. Start counting your blessings, though few of us can count that high. And then commit to magnifying these blessing by appreciating it all and wasting none of it. Make this year a crucible and a catapult. A crucible for wisdom and compassion and a catapult for capability and passionate commitment.
  • Finally let’s seek to become more than the sum of our predictable responses. As has been noted, “between stimulus and response, there is a space, and that space is called freedom.” Let’s expand that space, let’s use it, let’s be eccentric enough to be the originals we were born to be. Adam Kahane has pointed out that we need to balance power (the ability to get the things done we wish to) and love (the desire to be united to others and connected with them). M. Scott Peck and I once opined that we have to seek the “nobler alternative”. As Dean Inge said, “Faith is the choice of the nobler alternative.” We need to make such faith rational, in us and through us. Let’s live the nobler alternative when we come to a decision, a dilemma or a cross-road. And let’s empower our love, and let love make our power humane.