Tag Archives | Bill Zipp

The #1 Obstacle to Becoming a Good Listener

Recently, the biggest blunder in the 90-year history of the Oscars took place when the wrong envelope for Best Picture was given to presenter Warren Beatty, resulting in an unforgettably embarrassing moment for the entire Academy of Motion Pictures dubbed “Envelopegate.”

How could such a simple task result in such a monumental oversight? After all, this wasn’t the county fair beauty pageant; it was the Academy Awards!

According to reports, Brian Cullinan of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm responsible for administering the winning Oscar entries, was posting on Twitter throughout the show while simultaneously supervising the distribution of envelopes, tweeting repeatedly just moments before he mistakenly handed Beatty the back up Best Actress envelope instead of the Best Picture envelope.

But as author and leadership consultant Bill Zipp notes, “Let’s not be so quick to judge this distracted accountant. We multitask many times a day and commit similar errors repeatedly. Just not in front of 37 million viewers.”

I’ve been sharing in recent posts about the critical role that listening plays in presenting the best version of ourselves. Now, perhaps more than any other time in history, the obstacles that stand in our way to fully engaging with each other are mounting, thanks to the growing number of distractions.

For me, the problem isn’t so much the distractions themselves but our tendency to respond to them by embracing what psychologists call “the myth of multitasking.”

According to neurological research, our brain cannot complete multiple tasks simultaneously; instead, it switches back and forth from each task, costing valuable time, productivity, and energy in the process. As mindfulness expert Nancy Napier puts it, “Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text to talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.”

In other words, stop deluding yourself into believing you can reply to that email while listening to your mom on the phone, study your Bible while watching Sports Center, or glance at that text while you’re driving home from work. You can’t do it–at least not mindfully, and it only robs you of your time, productivity, and often much more. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, distracted driving was identified as a factor in at least 10 percent of all fatalities and 18 percent of all crashes overall.

If you still think you’re one of those outliers who can multitask, Nancy suggests a simple test:

Draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper.
Now, time yourself as you carry out the two tasks that follow:
On the first line, write: “I am a great multitasker.”
On the second line, write out the numbers 1-20 sequentially, like those below:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
How much time did it take to do the two tasks? Usually it’s about 20 seconds.

Now, let’s multitask.
Draw two more horizontal lines.
This time, again while timing yourself, write a letter on one line, and then a number on the line below, then the next letter in the sentence on the upper line, and then the next number in the sequence on the lower line, following the sequences while changing from line to line. In other words, you write the letter “I” and then the number “1” and then the letter “a” and then the number “2” and so on, until you complete both lines.

Chances are it took you at least twice as long to complete round #2 vs. the first round because you had to pause and think before getting the right letter and number sequence. This is exactly what happens when you try to multitask: Your brain actually has to take the time to switch between tasks while we mistakenly think we’re giving equal attention to both simultaneously.

If you want to truly develop yourself as a genuine, empathic listener with the discipline and humility to give others the gift of your undivided attention and presence, make the decision today that you won’t fall for the myth of multitasking. Not only will it help you become the best version of you, it could save your life!

How did you on the multitasking test? What does it reveal about your ability to focus on more than one thing at a time? Finally, how would you assess yourself in your ability to deal with distractions? Are you getting better, staying the same, or getting worse?

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5 Ways Reading Will Make You A Better Version of Yourself

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid reader. It started with magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated as a teenager, then evolved to include biographies, self-help, the Bible, business books and, occasionally, novels. As a self-described content addict–I even listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn–consistent reading has been an integral part of who I am. And among the many benefits, reading has helped me build my personal brand.

There are few life skills as important to personal development as reading. As author and business consultant Bill Zipp puts it…

Reading forces us to think. Really think. It compels us to consider different—sometimes radically different—perspectives. And reading provides us an inexhaustible resource of ideas and insight, wit and wisdom.

by Josh Felise | unsplash.com

If you’re looking to build your own personal brand, I believe that developing the habit of reading is indispensable. Here are 5 ways reading will propel you on your journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself:

1) Reading is linked to lifetime success.
According to a recent article in the Traverse City Record Eagle by the Education Trust-Midwest, the development of reading skills in elementary school children is vital to their development. “(It is) a predictor of everything from high school graduation and college success to long-term employment.” In other words, if you want your kids to succeed in life, helping them become avid readers is perhaps the single best thing you can instill in them.

2) Reading improves your Emotional Intelligence.
Defined as the ability to identify, understand, and harness your emotions to improve relationships, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is responsible for 58% of your success, according to research from TalentSmart. Biographies and novels help provide insights on human nature that, according to many CEO’s, has made them more empathetic and relational—two critical attributes of EQ. I can attest to that; in fact, in an earlier post, I shared how an article on Peyton Manning inspired me to start writing personal thank you notes to my employees, a leadership habit I’ve maintained for years.

3) Reading keeps your brain young and healthy.
Reading produces the same positive benefits to your brain that working out delivers to your body. According to a detailed study reported in Prevention, adults who engaged in reading and other creative or intellectual activities showed a 32 percent slower rate of cognitive decline later in life than those who did not. Another recent study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess or puzzles are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

4) Reading increases your influence.
Ask any effective leader and chances are they will share how reading has leveraged virtually every other skill. I have found that my consistent reading habit has helped me develop my writing, speaking and facilitation skills, all of which are important tools of leadership.

5) Reading improves your vocabulary.
Researchers estimate that 5–15% of all the words we learn we learn from reading. If you want to positively influence others, using the right language to cast vision, set direction, and simplify complex issues is critical.

“That sounds great… but I just don’t have the time to read.”

This is the most common excuse whenever the issue of reading comes up. My response, as I share in one of my presentations, is:

Imagine if, on New Years’ Day, I handed you a stack of 16 books with a challenge to read all of them by the end of the year. Chances are, you would either laugh at me or tell me to get serious. But what if, on January 1st, you committed to reading just 15 pages a day, which, depending on the content, might take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Allowing for two weeks off, by year end, you would have read 5,250 pages. And since the average book on Amazon.com is approximately 325 pages, you would have complete all 16 books and even started on a 17th book.

That’s the power of the Slight Edge–an excellent book on habits by Jeff Olson.

It also illustrates a parallel principle: the power of consistency. That is, consistent actions repeated daily. Before I learned this important insight, most of my reading happened on a plane, where I would cram in as much content as I could until the next time I traveled (which wasn’t very often). When I finally started to think in terms of small, incremental actions repeated consistently instead of occasional big moves toward my goals, my reading exploded. Today, I complete between 15 and 25 books a year–in the midst of a pretty busy schedule.

Consistency is one of the most overlooked forces not only in developing a reading habit, but in living the life you really want.

If you want to become the best version of yourself in 2017, reading is one of the surest paths to get there. It will help you develop important qualities that will have a disproportionate impact on every other area of your life.

Question: How many books did you read last year? What would it take for you to double your reading in 2017?

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Creating a Productive Morning Routine in Five Steps

Creating a productive morning routine is critical to harnessing your first waking hour, living healthier and getting more done!

Up until I turned 40, I considered myself a night owl and figured I would be for life. As a young manager in my father’s dealership, I remember sitting at my kitchen table late at night writing radio ads and planning sales meetings, feeling focused and energized late into the evening. And since I needed to be at work early, I became a caffeine addict, downing multiple cups of high octane coffee during my morning commute to fight off the inevitable brain fog.

But as I grew older, I gradually changed into a morning person.

Although the transition wasn’t entirely intentional, over time, I began to realize that my health, productivity, and personal effectiveness rested partly on embracing the morning.

by David Marcu | stocksnap.io

There’s plenty of research to support my morning migration: Early risers not only live longer than night owls, they earn more money, are more productive, and enjoy greater health and happiness.

If you’re interested and intentional about joining the growing ranks of morning people, here are five habits that helped me make the move:

  • Drink a large glass (20 oz+) of water soon after waking up. Twenty years ago, after listening to a Tony Robbins audio series entitled “Living Health” that extolled the benefits of drinking pure water and eating water-rich foods (fruits and most vegetables), this single habit change has had perhaps the most dramatic impact on my energy and focus. The science is simple: After laying in bed for 6 – 8 hours, your body is dehydrated, which is why drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks only makes it worse. In addition to hydration, drinking water upon waking up fires up your metabolism, helps your body flush out toxins, and helps curb your appetite. Try it!
  • Stay away from your TV, computer, and smartphone. As my mentor and fellow blogger Bill Zipp puts it, “Crisis kills creativity and short-term urgencies undermine long-term priorities.” Tuning into headline news, reading emails and checking texts as soon as you wake up puts you into a reactive, task-driven mode that stifles creativity and escalates into what Stephen Covey called “urgency addiction.” Avoiding the urge to plunge into emails and social networking sites first thing in the morning will pay huge dividends in your personal effectiveness down the road.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes in prayer, reflection, contemplative reading or meditation. One of the most common qualities of great leaders throughout history is depth of character, cultivated through deliberate care and feeding of the soul. My personal “quiet time” includes Bible reading, prayer, and journaling. Whatever your spiritual tradition, think of this time as an investment in your inner world that will return more than you could ever expect.
  • Review your personal mission statement, goals, and current priorities. If you don’t currently have a personal mission statement, I urge you to take the time to make this critical investment in your future. Like a pilot deploying his plane’s flaps on takeoff, a mission statement serves to elevate your perspective from runway level to 30,000 feet, where clarity and wisdom supercede crisis and urgency in guiding your decisions.
  • Stand, move, and stretch your body. Although many people have difficulty exercising in the morning, committing to a few simple body movements and stretches can have huge benefits, such as improving posture and stimulating blood flow to muscles, joints, and the brain. Best of all, it takes only a few minutes to get a good, healthy morning stretch.

I know there are many who see the benefits of a morning orientation but can’t see how they could ever change their own habits. The truth is, it’s not easy, but it’s not like becoming an NFL lineman if you weigh 150 lbs. You can do it, but not without changing your story; that is, without considering the very real possibility that being a morning person is not a function of genetic hardwiring but instead of personal preference reinforced by habit. By changing your story, you start telling yourself, “From now on, I love rising early–this is life-changing.” Over time, many people simply adjust their lifestyles to fit their new story. It’s not easy–it takes time. But, believe me, it’s worth it.

If you’re a morning person, what additional advice can you offer those who want to make the change? If you’re not, what would it mean to your life to embrace the morning?

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Do Your Wear Busyness as a Badge of Honor?

My wife, Debbie, and I attend our share of social gatherings. Lately, I’ve begun to notice that when we encounter people we haven’t seen in while and the obligatory ice-breaking question, “How are you doing?” gets asked, the most common, nearly reflexive response from people is, “I’m crazy busy.”

As author and leadership expert Michael Hyatt points out, in a culture that increasingly values preoccupation and overcommitment, “crazy busy” has almost become a statement of validation, reinforcing that I am significant and that what I am doing is important.

But this addiction to personal drivenness comes at a steep cost.

By José Martín | unsplash.com

For some, it can lead to health problems, divorce, substance abuse, or emotional breakdown. For others, it can slowly steal their peace and lead to a “dumbed down” lifestyle where meaning is suppressed and the heart is rarely engaged.

The antidote, according to David Allen, author of the blockbusting productivity book, Getting Things Done, is gaining a sense of control and perspective over your life.

If you find yourself mired in the “crazy busy” trap, here are three restorative habits that will help bring balance and purpose to your work and life.

  1. Schedule thinking time. Years ago, we lived in a subdivision that was located near our local airport. I can recall as I sat in the window seat flying home from a business trip what a completely different perspective I had looking down on my neighborhood from three thousand feet verses ground level. Similarly, scheduling time alone to think and process your life delivers the same sense of perspective that you rarely experience at “runway level.” Try setting aside a few hours every month to simply think. It will seem weird at first, but as Harvey Firestone said, “If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.”  Those ideas simply won’t come when you’re addicted to urgency.
  2. Keep a journal. Three years ago a mentor challenged me to keep a journal. Which, after my initial resistance, has turned out to be a game changer in keeping me from succumbing to what leadership blogger Bill Zipp calls, “the rising tide of demands, details, and deadlines.” I typically journal three to four times per week. The discipline of recording my thoughts helps me gain greater focus, unravel thorny problems, process negative emotions, and maintain a balanced perspective on my work and life. To learn more, check out Michael Hyatt’s post, The 7 Benefits Of Keeping A Daily Journal.
  3. Create a life plan. As author Daniel Harkavy, says in his outstanding book, Becoming a Coaching Leader, “Most people spend more time planning their vacation than they do planning their lives.” As as result, they drift along, ending up at destinations they never would have chosen: a failed marriage, a health crisis, or an aimless career path. Creating a written life plan is a powerful process that puts you in control of setting clear priorities for every area of your life. Having created my own life plan five years ago (I update it twice a year), it has become one of the most useful tools for me in living a more intentional and productive life. For more inspiration, read Michael Hyatt’s 7 Reasons Why You Need A Life Plan.

Sure, there will be seasons in our lives when we run at full throttle — but they should be the exception, not the rule. Resisting the temptation to wear busyness as a badge of honor and pursue an intentional lifestyle driven by clear priorities can be one of the biggest difference makers in your life!

My challenge to you: Pick one of the three initiatives listed above and try it for 30 days. If you truly commit yourself, I guarantee you will feel differently about your personal effectiveness.

What do you think? What would it mean to your life to gain greater control and perspective? Leave me a comment.

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