Category Archives: Self Development

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.

heart-Whole Sized

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.


heart-Whole Sized


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.

Businessman Idea- Creative-AdobeStock_90523174-Sized

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!

*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

Skills Education

Why It Takes More than Education Or Job Experience—The Good and Bad News

When most companies decide things like hiring, promotions, and other advancements, education and work experience are usually the deciding factors. Not a good choice, according to a new study* released by the British Psychological Society.

The Bad News

Why shouldn’t we rely on college education or work experience for these issues? Because neither university study nor work experience prepare an employee for the soft skills necessary to perform at the highest level with other coworkers.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are “a cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people,” according to Wikipedia. Basically, they are skills that all of us need to cooperate and function well in a work environment and a team.

Several of the most important abilities are to effectively:

  • communicate
  • cooperate
  • be flexible
  • work in a team
  • think critically
  • make good decisions

These are the skills that move good companies to great companies by not only improving the bottom line, but also making the work environment more positive. This leads to more productivity and lower employee turnover rates.

The Good News

If you can’t learn these skills at college or by getting work experience, how can you learn these things?

I am so glad you asked! This is where your company’s HR department and consultants like me come in. The truth is that these skills can be taught and employees can develop these abilities with training.

(Warning! Shameless self-promotion) Professional Gulf Consulting can provide top-notch training to:

  • take your company to the next level,
  • help your employees to perform better and feel better,
  • decrease employee turnover, and
  • create a better work environment

Visit our website to see how we can help you! Besides, it’s cheaper than a college education and faster than gaining work experience.

*British Psychological Society (BPS). “University or University of Life?


We All Knew It: Men Are Idiots

Research* just came out that tests the MIT (Male Idiot Theory). Really; I’m not kidding. Scientists researched data from the Darwin Awards and found that of the 318 cases, 88.7% were men.

The Darwin Awards is a series of books and a website dedicated to people who take themselves out of the human gene pool by killing or sterilizing themselves by doing something stupid. A prime example are the terrorists who mailed a bomb with insufficient postage but with the correct return address, and then forgot what it was when it was returned to them. They opened the package and blew themselves up.

One theory for the unbelievable behaviors that the authors cite (besides the fact that men are just idiots) is that men tend to be greater risk takers.

So let’s think a minute about risk-taking.

Leaders do need to be risk-takers and the best leaders usually are the greatest risk-takers. Taking risks inspires coworkers to take risks, and as all economists will tell us, greater risk, when successful, brings greater reward.

How can we as leaders inspire our coworkers to take greater risks?

By supplying two necessary qualities to the people who look to you for leadership: security and inspiration.


Attachment theory tells us that people look for closeness to others who give them comfort. Think of a child that will not stray far from his or her mother.

But comfort alone will not challenge others to reach beyond. Security must be accompanied with a challenge to explore.


Inspiration provides the challenge to explore and take the risks that we all need to in order to achieve outstanding results. The combination of these two factors provides the atmosphere to help our coworkers produce more than anyone ever thought possible.

How Can We Do That?

Here is a short list of actions that will provide a safe base and a challenge to inspire those around us to greatness.

1. Stay calm in the midst of the storm—during struggles people will look to you for security.

2. Accept those around you and truly care for their needs—People will feel secure if they feel accepted.

3. Listen and ask questions—The best leaders always are the best listeners.

4. Share a powerful vision—The great leader always can inspire vision through great communication skills.

5. Center on the positive—Success breeds success and great leaders remember that and harness its power.

6. Encourage risk-taking—People will respond if they feel safe and are challenged to take risks.

7. Harness the power of intrinsic motivation—Studies have shown that people are much more motivated to work hard and take risks for things that they enjoy much more than they are motivated by financial gain.

If you want to help your coworkers achieve more, provide the security they need to feel safe and the inspiration to take more risk. Hopefully all of us will keep swimming in the gene pool for a while.

*B. A. D. Lendrem, D. W. Lendrem, A. Gray, J. D. Isaacs. The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour. BMJ, 2014; 349 (dec10 20)

All In a State of Mind

It’s all in a State of Mind

Since we talked last time about how superstition can improve performance because it can increase self efficacy, I wanted to share my favorite poem on the subject. I memorized this poem as a teenager and quote it to myself often when needed right up until today.

It was written over 60 years ago—long before Albert Bandura  developed the concept of self efficacy, but that is exactly what it is talking about.


It’s all in a State of Mind

If you think you are beaten, you are:
If you think you dare not, you won’t
If you like to win, but don’t think you can
It’s almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost;
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in a state of mind.

For many a game is lost,
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work begun.

Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind;
Think that you CAN and you WILL;
It’s all in a state of mind.

If you think you are out-classed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can.

Strong Personality2

Is Your Strong Personality Hurting The Team?

It’s no secret that businesses in today’s environment must be agile. “Business agility” is defined as the ability to make quick changes as customer demands and the business environment change.

It is also known that many successful management teams are made up of individuals with strong personalities.

What happens when these two dynamics clash?

In a word: trouble.

In real life they do often clash.

What happens when they do clash? A recent study* found that people with strong personalities are less able to adapt to rapid changes in the business environment.

What Makes A Strong Personality?

Many see strong personality traits as being the same as “talent” or just being good at something. This is, obviously, a good thing and a great asset in certain cases.

What makes it a liability is that talent and strong ability in an area tends to make people rely on that strength too much. The strong personality becomes inflexible.

For example, an extroverted person has trouble sitting back and letting others talk in a meeting even when she is not being helpful to the discussion, while the introvert prefers to be quiet in a meeting, even when he has a great and helpful idea.

Also, when we have a strong personality (talent) in an area, we want to use that talent to solve every problem, even though many times there may be better ways to tackle the issue.

Why This Is a Problem

The study found that as we might guess, teams with stronger personalities were more rigid and less able to adjust to changing environments. As one of the researchers said, “Teams that had markedly strong personality traits were more inflexible than teams with less markedly strong traits.”

How Can We Solve This Problem?

There are two things that will help us out of this situation.

1. Knowledge. Usually, personality traits are the strongest when people are unaware of them and just work and interact on “autopilot.” Understanding yourself and your team will help reduce this risk.

2. Teamwork Training. If a team can learn to work together instead of being dominated by a few members who have stronger personalities, they will usually be more flexible and able to change more rapidly. Teams can be trained to function at a high level.

At Professional Gulf Consulting, we can offer the tools your team needs to understand themselves better, work together better, and function at a higher level. We are passionate about helping teams achieve their best performance.

*Jan Ketil Arnulf. Organizational change capacity and composition of management teams: A
visualization of how personality traits may restrain team adaptability. Team Performance Management, 2012; 18 (7): 433


How Can You Do the Really Important Stuff?

Today’s post is about how to get the really important stuff done. It is especially important for people who are involved in creative jobs.

Think over your day yesterday and what you did. Probably you finished a lot of tasks. The real question is: How many of those tasks were vitally important? The truth is, if you are like most people, you will have to admit not so many were actually that important.

Yet, we really do want to accomplish important things that really do matter.

But how?

By understanding the difference between the urgent and the important. One thing to remember: the urgent is rarely important and the important is rarely urgent.

The problem is that the urgent is almost always what grabs our attention. (For an in-depth look at this problem, please read Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel.


The urgent tasks: short-term, functional items, arise daily, don’t take deep thought, quick to do. Examples include answering email, problems that pop up in daily work, daily questions from clients and co-workers, and paying bills.

The important tasks: long-term, almost never pressing, need deep thought, on your plate for a long time, take a long time to finish. Examples include strategic planning, goal-setting, and solving major problems.

Part of the problem is that it feels good to get things done and check them off our To-Do List, but that good feeling comes at the price of getting the really important things finished. It is impossible to solve a long-term goal when you are answering email.

How Do You Get The Really Important Stuff Done?

  • First, understand the problem and decide to defeat it.
  • Second, two lists. One list will be the important things and the other list will be the urgent things.
  • When urgent things come up each day, add them to your urgent list and forget about them until the proper time.
  • Figure out when your best time to work is, whether that is morning, noon, or in the afternoon. For me, it is the morning from about 7:00 until 10:00. I call this my “prime time.”
  • Set a side a nice block of time (maybe 2-4 hours, if possible) during your prime time. Make it a time of non-stimulation where you cannot be distracted by email or colleagues. If an urgent item pops into your mind (and it will!) just add it to the urgent list and forget it for a while. Spend this time in deep thought about things that are truly important.
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.


“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.”