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Stand Out From the Crowd-sized

Have You Noticed That No One Is Noticing?

One of my favorite Youtube videos was shot in the Washington DC subway.

In the video, Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians alive today, plays one of the greatest pieces of music of all time on a priceless instrument during rush hour one January morning. More than 1000 people rushed by and yet hardly anyone notices the incredible performance unfolding before them.

Later, he played a concert again in the subway, this time to a crowd of thousands.

Why You Need To Get Noticed

Maybe you’re not performing on a violin, but you do need to get noticed. When you get people’s attention, they admire your work, want to be around you, and want to learn from you. Getting noticed will make your life and relationships better at work, with your friends, and with your family.

Successful brands get people to notice them. We can do a few simple things to “brand ourselves” and get noticed.

What We Can Learn From Joshua Bell

Why didn’t anyone notice Joshua’s exquisite performance the first time?

There are probably several reasons, but let me mention the main reason that apply to us and our personal branding: distraction.

Distraction takes attention away from us. People are busy. It’s a preoccupied world and everything from Youtube videos, to email, to advertising draw people’s attention and keep them from noticing us.

3 Ways to Get Noticed (Besides Standing on Your Head and Spitting Quarters Out Of Your Mouth)

There are at least 3 ways that you excel and get noticed by your coworkers, friends, and family.

1. Live and work with passion.
We are all drawn to a person who is passionate about their life and work. Communicate your passion by the things you do and say, and people will take notice.

2. Learn the language of listening.
Everyone needs to be heard, but most of us like to talk. If you can learn to be a good listener, people will be drawn to you and will seek your attention and company. Your relationships will be more intimate.

3. Create loyalty and build trust.
By doing what you say you will do and being consistent, people will begin and trust you. Dependability is a strong magnet for others—especial in difficult times. Walk the talk, be consistent, and live out your values. People will take notice and want to be near you.

The people of Washington DC did get a do-over. The second time, the performer, the music, and the instrument were noticed—thousands came to hear Joshua Bell’s concert in the subway.

If you will live with passion, listen well, and build trust with those you love and work with, they will observe it and you will get noticed.

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Why Should You Take the Goal to Heart?

I shared in my last blog about changing ourselves that I would talk about goal setting in this post. I have only one purpose today: helping you to remember how to set an effective goal.

How Do I Set An Effective Goal?

Many people mistake a dream or a wish or a desire for a goal. They are not. But, every goal will have 5 specific parts that are clearly defined: They are:

1. Able to be accomplished,
2. Clear,
3. Something that you actually do,
4. Measurable, and
5. Timed

The most popular way to remember how to set goals seems to be the SMART method. SMART is an acronym for:

S— specific
M— measurable
A— achievable
R— realistic
T— timed

Why I Don’t Like SMART Goals

“SMART” is a good acronym for goal setting, but I don’t like it because it is an acronym, and I don’t like acronyms. They are troublesome for 2 reasons.

1. It is difficult to remember what each letter stands for. Is the “s” for “smart” or “simple” or “singular” or “Seattle?” I can never remember, so acronyms aren’t very useful to me.

2. More importantly, they are not natural for our brains because they are based on words and our brains were not built for words. When you think, you do not think in words, you think in ideas and pictures. If I tell you a story about a little brown rabbit in the forest, you don’t think the letters “rabbit,” tree,” “grass.” You see a picture of a rabbit in your mind.

What Really Does Work Well?

If you will use pictures to memorize important information, you can recall details much more quickly and easily, and for longer periods of time than by using acronyms.

 

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So, when you want to set a goal, think of “Take the Goal to Heart” and remember the picture above. Our friend, the goal-setting heart, is what you should see in your mind that reminds you of the 5 important parts of a goal.

1. Contract in right hand—A goal is obtainable; it can be done just as a contract is an agreement to get something done.

2. Glasses—the goal is clear. You know exactly what to do.

3. Hammer in the left hand—You actually have to do something. It is actual work.

4. Ruler in the left hand—It is measurable. You know exactly when it is accomplished and when it is not.

5. Pocket watch—It is timed. The goal should be done by a certain date and time.

Instead of trying to remember what SMART means, just picture the heart in your head and the 5 parts of the heart cartoon will remind you to “Take the Goal to Heart.”

All In a State of Mind

2 Unchangeable Truths About Changing Ourselves

“It’s easy to quit smoking cigarettes. I’ve done it a thousand times,” Mr. Zhou said to me one day as he took another puff.

It seems that “the only thing constant is change” is true—unless it is concerning changing ourselves and our old habits, customs, and beliefs. Whether it’s sticking to a program of eating right and losing weight, quitting cigarettes, stopping wasting so much time watching TV, reading more books, or refraining from yelling at the kids when they misbehave, we have all had a hard time making changes and making them stick.

The Need for Change

The Law of Diminishing Returns drives us to constant change. What thrilled us yesterday will not satisfy us today; and what we enjoy today will be boring tomorrow. We were made for change and constant improvement—that need was built into us.

The 2 Truths

So why do we find making good changes so hard?

Truth #1: Meaningful Change Is Always Difficult

While it’s easy to start a diet and loose a few pounds, the majority of people never achieve their goal and worse yet, gain all the weight back (and more!) within 3 years.

While there are multiple reasons for this, one of the most significant is the fact that we usually don’t understand the power of past habits. A habit is like a well-worn groove that is difficult to get out of. We have to overcome inertia in order to enact real change.

Truth #2: No One Can Make Us Change Unless We Want To

While the idea of making a change sounds appealing, when it gets down to the real work of making that change happen, it gets much more difficult. When you’ve finished a big meal and you’re satisfied, it’s very easy to say, “I need to lose some weight.” That’s why every diet starts tomorrow. We have to have a real desire to make a change, not just a casual wish for change.

So, What’s the Solution?

Solution #1: Goal setting and Efficacy

Researches have studied for decades what factors help us achieve a desired end. There are many things that help, but two have been proven to have the greatest effect by far. These two things are the essentials for making sure you will achieve what you want: goal setting and efficacy. I’ll give some great tips on goal setting in my next blog and I’ve talked about the importance of efficacy before (14-11-20 Blog) so I won’t say more than these right now. But, you must have these two things!

Solution #2: Commit!

If you make the real effort to realize change is hard and commit to doing the dirty work of actually changing, you will take the first step to seeing it happen.

So, here are the 3 steps:

1. Really commit to making it happen

2. Set the goal

3. Increase your self efficacy

If Mr. Zhou will do these things, I believe that the 1001st time,  he will actually see success.

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You Are Different Than the Rest of the World

You are unique, you little snowflake!

How many times have we heard that from our grammar school teachers and the motivational speakers. The truth is that we are not really all that unique when we think about it. Our DNA is 99.5% exactly like every other human on the planet. We all need about the same amount of sleep, food, and water to live. We all feel the same emotions and feel them from most of the same causes.

But the problem is that we all think we are different from everyone else. Other people should wear a motorcycle helmet, but we don’t really need to. The government should set speed limits, but it is okay for me to go faster than that.

In the USA, nearly everyone says that it is very bad to text while driving a car, yet more than 40% admit to texting while driving and probably more than that do it, but will not admit to it.

Here is a sad fact: The rules don’t apply to us, because we deceive ourselves into feeling safer than we actually are. We want to operate as an individual snowflake.

How Can We, as Leaders, Turn This Around and Use It To Our Advantage?

There are many possibilities, but let me mention one today.

The Two-Step Buy-In Technique

Let’s suppose you are a team leader and you need to get buy-in from your team members. You want them to join the team and work for a common goal.

By using a simple psychological technique, you can get much greater buy-in from your team. In fact, in one study* researchers used this technique to increase voter turnout for an election by more than 25%—no small feat!

The first step is to set up a socially desirably behavior and then ask your team if they will engage or not. Nearly all will agree because it would be socially awkward not to.

The second step is to have them give a justification as to why they will perform this socially desirable behavior.

After we as human snowflakes melt by admitting in public that we are going to do something, we rarely go against society and fail to perform what we say we will do.

A Real Life Example

If you are starting  a new team project and you need to get buy-in from every team member, in your first meeting describe why this is such a great project. Then, ask each team member if they are going to commit to helping with the project (Step One). After they say, “Yes” ask them to give one reason why they are going to participate (Step Two). Nearly all of us as human beings will perform a task that we agree to do in a public setting.

Try it. I think you’ll find you can make a pretty good snowball when all of your snowflakes come together.

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*Greenwald, A. G., Carnot, C. G., Beach, R., and Young, B. (1987). Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 315– 18.

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How Can You Lead to Help Your Team Be Giants in Creativity?

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
― Walt Disney Company

Creativity is the lifeblood of modern business. People who are creative excel in their work and get promotions. But how can you become more creative?

The Secret of Creativity

A recently released *study from the University of Texas in San Antonio helps us understand some other things that are behind creativity in the workplace. They tell us one thing that hurts creativity and then share three things that help it.

First the Bad: Necessity Is Not the Mother of Good Invention

This research backs up what many have known for a long time: stress is the killer of creativity. Yes, if a new solution is necessary we will try to find a solution, but the more stressed we are about it, the less creative we become. Scientists think that this is because the creative process is chaotic process and stress has always been known to limit our solutions to problems.

What Helps Creativity?

According to this study, three things will help creativity.

1.) To be creative, people need the proper experience. If people have been creative in the past, they will be more creative in the future. Success breeds success and this is certainly true with creativity.

2.) To be creative, people need confidence. I have spoken before about self-efficacy in this post, this post, and this post, so I won’t go into detail here. The quick and dirty point here is that if you think you are creative you probably are creative and if you think you can find a creative solution, you probably can find a creative solution.

3.) To be creative, people need the help of their boss. This is one of the most surprising things about the study. Leaders who recognize and encourage great creativity will receive it from their co-workers. This is created especially through excellent interpersonal relationships. The authors say this should include “an emphasis on trust, loyalty and mutual professional respect.”

If you are interested in more of this, I deliver several excellent workshops on how to improve these leadership qualities.

So What Should I Do?

Here are four things that will help your team become more creative.

1.) Create a work atmosphere that is safe and free from stress.

2.) Think back and remember times when you were creative in the past and recall those experiences.

3.) Use those experiences to purposely build your self confidence in your creative abilities.

4.) If you are a leader, recognize and encourage creativity in the team when you see it. If you are not the leader, give them this post so they will start encouraging you!

Follow these 4 suggestions, and your team will be on their way to growing in the their creativity and becoming creative giants!

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*Lei Huang, Dina V. Krasikova, Dong Liu. I can do it, so can you: The role of leader creative self-efficacy in facilitating follower creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2016; 132: 49

Lucky2

It Turns Out You ARE Lucky-If You Think You Are

What do Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs have in common? Maybe several things, but one thing they had in common was that they are/were very superstitious. It is fairly well known that Michael Jordan, in every NBA game he played, wore an old pair of shorts from his college basketball days under his NBA shorts. Steve Jobs would sometimes go for weeks at a time only eating carrots and apples.

Why would they do this? Because they believed it enhanced their performance.

Did it really help? Well, it turns out that if they believed it would help them, it probably did. (For some interesting articles concerning this about Michael Jordan  and Steve Jobs  click the links.)

How could it possibly help them? The answer is self-efficacy, a fancy word for self confidence. The truth is that if you think you can do something, you are much more likely to actually be able to do it.

Consider this interesting experiment. Researchers asked volunteers to putt a golf ball into a cup. One group did 35% better than the other. What was the difference? They told the first group that they were using a “lucky” ball. That’s all! The fact that they believed the ball was lucky, made them 35% better at putting the ball. So, it really was lucky!

Without question, self-efficacy leads to enhanced performance.

How can we harness this powerful truth to help us?

When you are getting ready to make that big sales pitch, or give that big presentation to the executives of your company, or lead that important team meeting, change your self-talk to an attitude of confidence. If you have a “lucky routine,” do it; if you have a “lucky shirt,” wear it. Anything you can do to build your self confidence (self-efficacy) will probably increase your performance.

Maybe you won’t be able to dunk a basketball or create a new technology breakthrough, but you just might give the presentation of your life!

Kidding Ourselves

Do You Want to Receive Free Books?

Believe it or not, there are people who want to give you free books. It’s true!

All you have to do is sign up at a website called “Blogging For Books” and promise to write at least a 3-paragraph review of the book, and they will send you a free book or ebook. The topics include fiction; non-fiction; cooking & food; business; entertainment; faith; crafts, home, & hobbies; and better living.

I requested the book “Fooling Ourselves—The Hidden Power of Self-Deception” by Joseph T. Hallinan. I think you will enjoy some of the great insights from the book.

The review is below.

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“Fooling Ourselves—The Hidden Power of Self-Deception” by Joseph T. Hallinan.

I had heard a lot of very positive things about this book before I read it, so I was greatly looking forward to the read. Unfortunately, I was mildly disappointed. Already having a familiarity with the subject, I expected Hallinan to make a scientific case for several points and then back these points up with stories and illustrations. Instead, the book mostly seemed to be stories with little scientific basis and few points drawn.

That said, I do think the book will be helpful to me in my consulting business and I will refer to it again for illustrations and lecture topics. The main point of the book is that every day, in many ways, we lie to ourselves. That is the reason why many people don’t wear seat belts despite the risk of a car accident and why they know that other human beings have heart attacks, get cancer, and get divorced, but they believe they never will. It is also why smokers who smoked 40 cigarettes a day believed that they were at no increased risk of lung cancer.

Superstitions Can Be Helpful

One of the unexpected and most interesting ideas in the book was the fact that this self-deception is not alway wrong. Take the example of superstitions. We tend to think superstitions are always harmful, but sometimes they are helpful. To cite one example, consider athletes. It is no secret that athletes exhibit some of  the most superstitious behavior in the Western world. Michael Jordan wore a pair of shorts from his college days every game he played in the NBA because he thought it would give him good luck. Coaches and players often have a ritual they will follow before every game to get an “edge.”

That doesn’t mean that good luck charms don’t work. Superstitions often are beneficial. They increase the feeling of control and self-efficacy—both of which increase outcomes. So, if the athlete believes that his or her ritual will help his of her performance, chances are that it actually will. Ad Hallinan says,“So why would superstition be good for us? In a word, it works. Not always and not for everything: it won’t make you tall if you are short, and it won’t stop speeding bullets or runaway trains. But when what we seek to accomplish lies within the realm of our abilities—when it is, in other words, doable—superstitious beliefs can tip the scales in our favor.”

Two laughable insights

  • In almost all elevators built after 1990, the “close door” button doesn’t actually do anything. It simply gives us a feeling of control.
  • At most busy intersections, the button we push to cross the street also is not functional. Again, we have more of a sense of control and are willing to wait for the crossing signal if we push a button.

In summary, if you are willing to wade through a long stream of stories to find a few actionable insights, you will like Fooling Ourselves.

Deceiving ourselves is often beneficial, and Hallinan helps us understand that. As he says, “My goal here has been simply to point out that self-deception, for all its obvious downsides, is an inherent human trait. It has been around a long time, and it endures for a reason: under limited but crucial circumstances, it helps us persevere. It does this, chiefly, by affording us that key piece of psychological scaffolding: a sense of control. This sense may ultimately prove to be a mirage, but the results it yields are very real. People with a high sense of control tend to live happier, healthier, longer lives. Viewed from this vantage, a little self-deception is not only helpful, it’s essential.”

Motorcycle

Can 20 Seconds Change Your Life?

My wife and I got some tragic news yesterday. Our brother-in-law was stopped at a light while riding his motorcycle and was hit by a car. The injuries are not life-threatening, but he has 6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and had some internal bleeding. I’m sure he’ll make a full recovery, but his life for the next few months was certainly changed in 20 seconds.

As it turns out, you also can change your life daily for the better in just 20 seconds. We’ve talked about how to make positive changes in your private and work life before. We mentioned that it is important to have the correct time perspective and a whole series on multitasking. (Blog- 14-07-01-Multitasking Part 1-“Multitasking Part 1-Are You Really As Good As You Think You Are?”)

Today is about a very simple strategy to increase your “willpower.”

All of us have areas where we want to do less of one bad thing and start doing more of a good thing. It can be in the area of online distractions (to increase productivity) or health (to eat more heathy food and less junk food) or safety (stop talking on the phone while driving). I wish the person who hit my brother-in-law would have done that one!

Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work has a great idea of how to do those things. We should lower the cost of doing the right thing and raise the cost of doing the “bad” thing.

For example, if you have a weight problem because you are snacking too much, put the snacks in a locked drawer and put the key for the drawer in a difficult to reach location. Do you want to read more books and watch less TV? Unplug the TV each time after you are done, wind up and tie up the power cord, and put it behind the TV where it is hard to reach.

How Much “Cost” Do You Need To Add?
The exciting part about following this  technique is that research shows that for most people, only 20 seconds is the “Cost barrier” that makes the difference between good habits and bad ones. Only 20 seconds! You really can change your life in 20 seconds.

How Can You Do it?
There are two simple steps to changing bad habits this way.

1. Decide what you want to change

2. Put a 20-second barrier in your way to doing the bad habit and make it easier to do the good habit.

Do you want to read 20 books this year?

Do you want to learn how to play the piano?

Do you want to complete some big project that you have not finished in several months or years.

Take 20 seconds and get it done!

Motorcycle

Can 20 Seconds Change Your Life?

My wife and I got some tragic news yesterday. Our brother-in-law was stopped at a light while riding his motorcycle and was hit by a car. The injuries are not life-threatening, but he has 6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and had some internal bleeding. I’m sure he’ll make a full recovery, but his life for the next few months was certainly changed in 20 seconds.

As it turns out, you also can change your life daily for the better in just 20 seconds. We’ve talked about how to make positive changes in your private and work life before. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that it is important to have the correct time perspective  and I did a whole a whole series on multitasking.

Today is about a very simple strategy to increase your “willpower.”

All of us have areas where we want to do less of one bad thing and start doing more of another good thing. It can be in the area of online distractions (to increase productivity) or health (to eat more heathy food and less junk food) or safety (stop texting while driving). I wish the person who hit my brother-in-law would have done the last one!

Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, has a great idea of how to do those things. We should lower the cost of doing the right thing and raise the cost of doing the “bad” thing.

For example, if you have a weight problem because you are snacking too much, put the snacks in a locked drawer and put the key for the drawer in a difficult to reach location. Do you want to read more books and watch less TV? Unplug the TV each time after you are done, wind up and tie up the power cord, and put it behind the TV where it is hard to reach.

How Much “Cost” Do You Need To Add?

The exciting part about following this exciting technique is that research shows that for most people, only 20 seconds is the “cost barrier” that makes the difference between good habits and bad ones. Only 20 seconds! You really can change your life in 20 seconds.

How Can You Do it?

There are two simple steps to changing bad habits this way.

1. Decide what you want to change

2. Put a 20-second barrier in your way to doing the bad habit and make it easier to do the good habit.

Do you want to read 20 books this year?

Do you want to learn how to play the piano?

Do you want to complete some big project that you have not finished in several months or years.

Take 20 seconds and get it done!

How Do You Keep Going After A Setback?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Setbacks motivate me.”
— Lindsey Vonn, 4-time World Cup champion.

Perhaps it is time for you to consider the option of giving up.
— Dr. Ana Nogales, from “ The Wisdom in Giving Up”

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
― Mark Twain, American humorist

I still remember the terrible feeling I had many years ago when I was working as a music director and had to tell several people that they did not win the adulation for a solo part. It’s hard to deliver bad news that you know will sting. How was I going to deliver that news without discouraging them enough to quit singing all together?

We all receive bad news from time to time and all of us react differently. A disappointment, like a poor job review or some form of rejection, makes some people vow to work harder and others give up. Why? What’s the difference?

Two Parts of the Brain At Work

When people are faced with a similar setback, researchers in a new study* found that two different parts of the brain became engaged when a person determined to keep trying rather than give up. One part of the brain that was stimulated when subjects decided to try harder was an area of the brain that scientists know guides goals based on the history of decisions made in the past. Another area of the brain that was stimulated when the subjects decided to keep struggling on was the part of the brain which controls complex emotions and regulates those emotions in flexible ways.

In other words, the decision to continue on after receiving bad news is a very complicated decision and involves engaging two areas of the brain that otherwise would not be stimulated.

What Makes the Difference?

The researchers found that the difference in the stimulation of the different areas of the brain depended largely on how much the subjects felt they had control over the situation. If they felt like they failed because they didn’t try hard enough or didn’t do things the proper way, they most often determined not to give up and to try harder the next time. If they felt like the boss was just mean or things were out of their control, they usually decided just to give up and quit. The feeling of control was the key determiner.

What Does That Mean to Us and What Should We Do?

For ourselves personally, we should decided whether it is best to give up or not based on the situation and not our feeling of control. There are times when it is best to quit. We should not keep trying in those situations just because we feel like we have control and could do better the next time. Or, if it is actually best to keep going, we should not give up just because we feel like we don’t have total control in the situation.

When working with others, remember to shape the way you deliver the bad news and the total situation will determine whether or not the person you are informing keeps going or quits. When you have to give a poor job review to a co-worker, you might make the offer to help guide them to a better review next time. This will help give them the feeling of control and will help them persist.

So, when I was giving bad news to the would-be soloists, I should have given them a method of improvement at the same time. As is often the case, I wish I knew then what I know now!

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Jamil P. Bhanji, Mauricio R. Delgado. Perceived Control Influences Neural Responses to Setbacks and Promotes Persistence. Neuron, 2014 DOI: 10.1016