Tag Archives | success

Go For It! A Powerful Strategy to Win at Work and Life

Ever since I started running more than 25 years ago, I’ve been a dedicated fitness enthusiast—a choice that has added energy, health, and adventure to my life. Along with running, I have enjoyed biking (both mountain and road), cross-country skiing, triathalons, and more recently, Crossfit.

And although I’ve enjoyed some more than others, there is one step—one “best practice”—that, in every pursuit, propelled my success, personal growth, and enjoyment.

I signed up for competitions.

As a runner, I entered 5K’s, 10K’s and half marathons. When I turned 30, I completed the New York City Marathon, which was the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. When I discovered mountain biking, I did the Ice Man, one of the most physically demanding endurance events I ever completed. Similarly, when I took up  freestyle skiing in my early 40’s, I entered the North American Vasa. And three years ago, when a frustrating battle with achilles tendonitis sidelined me from running, I jumped into Crossfit, a high intensity combination of Olympic Weightlifting, gymnastics, and boot camp-style training. Each of those years (including this year),  I signed up to compete in the Crossfit Open, an international competition with more than 350,000 athletes.

Regardless of how I finished, I’ve never regretted these experiences. Here are 3 reasons why stepping into the competitive arena, regardless of your skill level, always makes you better.

1) Competition will bring out the best in you.
No matter how committed they are, people give less than their absolute best effort when no one is keeping score. It’s human nature. Signing up for a competition, even if you’re competing against no one but yourself, creates a level of emotional engagement that drives you to bring your absolute best. For example, you can run recreationally by yourself or with a group of friends, but when you line up with hundreds of others at the start of a 5K or 10K race, there’s a “game on” switch activated in your mind, propelling you to push harder and finish stronger. It creates a new, higher standard for yourself.

2) Athletic competition spills over into every area of your life.
As a partner in a company with hundreds of employees, I have witnessed the  mindset similarity between athletic or artistic pursuits that require continued practice, perseverance, mental toughness, etc. and success in the workplace. Many of our top performing salespeople, for example, played competitive sports in high school and/or college. Although the dynamics of training for a half marathon and leading a project team at work may seem completely different, the lessons learned in one spill over into the other. For example, research from Cornell University found that students who played sports developed stronger leadership skills, worked better in teams, and demonstrated more confidence than those who didn’t.

3) Signing up for a competition pushes you out of your comfort zone… a great place to be.
Ask any high performer and they will tell you their greatest growth came when they had to overcome something–fear, adversity, naysayers, etc. Author and success expert Brian Tracy writes, “You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Indeed, the happiest, most successful people I know tend to live at the edge of their comfort zones. Signing up for a competition, especially for the first time, signifies a bold step from the relative comfort of the sidelines to the bright lights of the playing field, where exposure and risk of failure can create tension and even anxiety. My advice: Lean into this discomfort! Though it will be simultaneously stressful and invigorating, you will unearth a level of competitiveness and self-discovery that you rarely tap into, bringing deeper satisfaction and fulfillment in your life.

Last spring, my wife, Debbie was invited to train for a half marathon—something she had never considered. Although she exercises regularly (she owns a Peloton bike), running has never been her passion. Inspired by encouraging friends and the prospect of raising funds for African water wells, she jumped in with both feet, training all summer long  at distances of up to 12 miles per session. On race day, facing blustery winds and unexpectedly hilly terrain, she finished strong, completing the 13.2 mile race among the best in her age group. “Since I never thought of myself as a runner, I never would have considered a half marathon,” she said. “Signing up for the race definitely pushed my comfort zone, but the experience was exhilarating and I’m planning to continue running.”

If you’ve been indecisive about signing up for that 5K or 10K run, mountain bike race, YMCA basketball tourney or tough mudder, I want to encourage you to put your fears aside and go for it! Remember, life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

Are there any competitive experiences that have positively impacted your life in recent years? What would it mean to you, and to the quality of your life, to enter the competitive arena? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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Learn To Be Lucky

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This time of year, luck is often top of mind — have you ever wondered why some people seem to live charmed lives, full of lucky breaks, while others fall victim to one misfortune after another?

In his landmark book, The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Herefordshire in England, answers this question, coming to the promising conclusion that luck — good or bad — is purely a state of mind.

Wiseman exhaustively researched the beliefs, habits, and experiences of more than 400 people over several years. His findings: Luck is not the result of random chance, nor are people born lucky or unlucky. Instead, luckiness can be predicted by examining people’s patterns of thinking and behavior. In other words, luck can actually be learned. Here are four core principles underlying lives of good fortune.

1) Lucky people create chance events. They are adept at noticing and finding ways to act upon chance opportunities. They tend to be relaxed and open, often discovering possibilities well beyond what they were looking for. Unlucky people, by contrast, are more tense and myopic and avoid taking risks, preferring to stay in their comfort zones.
2) Lucky people produce success by relying on their intuition. They tend to go with their gut instincts while unlucky people tend to rely more on logic.
3) Lucky people expect good things to happen. They create self-fulfilling prophecies through positive expectations, knowing what they want and reinforcing it through positive, affirming self-talk. (They tell themselves how lucky they are.) By contrast, unlucky people tend to dwell on what they don’t want… which often turns out to be exactly what they get.
4) Lucky people display a high level of resilience that transforms bad luck into good luck. Wiseman’s lucky subjects were extremely persistent, while their unlucky counterparts gave up at the first signs of struggle.

One of the most striking contrasts from Wiseman’s research was the difference in how his lucky subjects re-framed unfortunate experiences compared to unlucky folks. Wiseman explains:

“I decided to present lucky and unlucky people with some unlucky scenarios and see how they reacted. I asked lucky and unlucky people to imagine that, while waiting in line in a bank, an armed robber enters, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Would this event be lucky or unlucky? Unlucky people tended to say that this would be enormously unlucky and it would be just their bad luck to be in the bank during the robbery. In contrast, lucky people viewed the scenario as being far luckier, and often spontaneously commented on how the situation could have been far worse. ‘It’s lucky because you could have been shot in the head — also, you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.”

As Wiseman’s research reveals, the differences between lucky and unlucky people have nothing to do with blind chance. Perhaps most encouraging, luckiness can be learned, a claim the author backs up by creating a “luck school” in which he coaches previously unlucky people to adopt measurable, luck-building behaviors. The results, according to Wiseman’s research, are dramatic. “Eighty percent of the ‘luck school’ students are now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps best of all, luckier.”

So, if you want good fortune, start telling yourself how lucky you are, act upon chance events, trust your instincts, and persistently go after your goals!

What is your reaction to Wiseman’s findings? What are your beliefs about luck? Do you consider yourself to be superstitious? (According to a 1996 Gallup Poll, 25% of Americans claimed to be somewhat to very superstitious.) Did anything in Wiseman’s research surprise you? If you lived out these four “luck-building” principles consistently, what would it mean to your personal brand… and to your life?

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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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Ten Keys to Creating a High-Growth Environment

Last week, during a stimulating conversation with a rising young leader in our company, I used the word “successful” multiple times in sharing my thoughts with him about work/life balance.

“How do you define success?” he replied.

By Bethany Legg via Unsplash

Despite the predictability of the question, I found myself momentarily flummoxed by his inquiry. Resisting the urge to respond with some hackneyed definition (“Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal!”), I recalled a speech on professional growth by leadership author John C. Maxwell in which he described, as a young leader, the privilege he had of working in what he called a “high growth environment” and how it shaped his success throughout his career. He shared these ten qualities:

  • Others are ahead of you.
  • You are continually challenged.
  • Your focus is forward.
  • The atmosphere is affirming.
  • You are often out of your comfort zone.
  • You wake up excited.
  • Failure is not your enemy.
  • Others are growing.
  • People desire change.
  • Growth is modeled and expected.

As you read through these ten attributes shared by high growth organizations, what is your initial reaction? Do you identify with them, or are you thinking, “not in my wildest dreams?” What does it say about the work you do, the people you work with, and the leaders who set your pace? Is it unrealistic to expect a work culture that produces all ten of these? Why or why not? Finally, what would it mean to your organization–and to your personal life–to create or to fortify an environment like this where people are actively engaged in the deliberate pursuit of growth? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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