Kids Outgrow Things (Toys, Activities, etc.), Can Adults?

Yes, adults can “outgrow” what once worked for them or what they once aspired to. It’s been said that people have a hard time accepting and/or dealing with change. But nothing stays the same forever. In your own life, how do you know when it’s time for a change? Here are some signs . . .

In every job, career, and/or daily life, there exists the possibility of becoming stagnated. Work itself is a good thing, in that it forces us to learn new skills, and change and grow as a person.  If you have had a high-powered career for many years, without a lot of vacations or chances to take a break, you might become stale and/or burned out. If you’re too comfortable in a job, or otherwise bored (it’s drudgery, not exciting anymore), or you’re not challenged anymore, or out of gas (no steam left), those are signals that it’s time to move on.

If you’re not learning anything new, and you haven’t for a while, then it’s time to grow and stretch yourself in a new career or challenge. Shakeup your life a little bit – sometimes a move to a new house or another city can do the trick, or it’s quite possible that you need to make a career change. If you have already decided to pursue a new career, it’s easy to “hang back” in the old career where it’s safe (after all if you’ve been in that career for some time, then chances are you’ve been successful in it!). But you need to make a commitment to the new career and move forward. Why?

Here is a quote that someone recently sent me:

“Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,
there is one elemental truth,
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings
And material assistance which no man could have dreamed
Would come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Change requires a certain degree of risk. It’s easy to want to stay where it’s “safe” and everything is known. But that’s also part of why you have stagnated. You must weigh your fear of the unknown against your need to change and do something new. Every so often you need to take on new challenges in life. Once you commit to the change you are making in your life, the Universe opens up and aligns with what you are doing. You will be forced to grow in order to face your new challenge. All sorts of opportunities will present themselves that didn’t before.

I used to be a trainer, but I am a coach now. I finally realized that I am at a point in my life where I can do this, and I needed a change. I have learned enough through my own journey and trial-and-error to be able to help others now. How about you?

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Learning to Recognize and Seize Opportunities

After my last post regarding the incident in the ladies locker room at the gym, I decided to take a look back at another similar incident that happened a few years back. What do you when . . .

On my way home one night I stopped by a client’s office to drop off some paperwork. The lady I needed to see was having a conversation with one of her colleagues in his office. As I was headed towards her office, I literally bumped into her as she stepped out into the hall on my way by. Because I was in a hurry to get home, I quickly acknowledged her, handed her the paperwork, and left.

Looking back on the incident, I realized I should’ve introduced myself to the person she was talking to. Not only was it rude not to, but I also missed an opportunity. The person she was chatting with could’ve been another potential client down the road.

Which got me thinking about missed opportunities. What do I mean? How do you define a missed opportunity?

Many times when we are in a hurry, we don’t see something that’s right in front of us (an opportunity to introduce ourselves, for example). We are too busy trying to get where we are going, or running late, etc. This is especially true today, given our fast-paced and busy lives.

Another sign to look for is something that makes you feel uncomfortable. When you’re in such a situation, take a moment to look around, and ask yourself  “Is there anything here that I am missing?” Slow down, pay attention to your feelings, observe the situation objectively, and figure out what you can do to take advantage of the situation or turn it around.

Regarding the above incident, my “good girl” mentality (which I thought I had long since shed), had kicked in. For women who were raised to be considerate, genteel, Southern Belle-types (you know who you are!), this ingrained behavior is extremely difficult to change. At the time, I thought I was being considerate by not interrupting their conversation. I thought I would not “bother” her and try to take as little of her time as possible, since she was obviously doing something else when I stopped by.

Today I would not have handled the situation the same way (as evidenced by my locker room encounter). Looking back, I could probably have determined, from the brief interaction before I saw her, that she and her colleague were having a casual conversation that wasn’t really work related. By gauging the circumstances beforehand, what I should have done is said hello to her, introduced myself to the person she was talking to, paused to chat for a few moments, then handed her the paperwork with a brief explanation, said “nice to meet you” and left. If I had handled the situation this way instead, I would’ve been working from a position of confidence, rather than the meek/weak position portrayed above.

Learn to look for and take advantage of opportunities. This is an acquired skill, and may take some time to develop, but I have learned firsthand how valuable and worthwhile it is to do so.

Now I ask you:

Is the person in the ladies locker room the same person in this article?

What would you have done?

Which handling and/or outcome of the situation do you prefer? (Today’s or yesterday’s?)

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Claim Your Space In Life

The other day I was driving on the tollway, maneuvering in-and-out through heavy traffic. As I was about to change lanes, I noticed another driver was already starting to creep into my space, even though I hadn’t quite vacated the lane yet. I realized that in order not to be edged out, that I needed to claim my space and stay there, and not change lanes again.

This same principle can be applied to life, and in a career as well. Claim your space in life!

What do you do for a living? Are there a million other people who do what you do? Even if that’s true, there is still only one you. You have your own unique spin, flavor, and experience that you bring to your profession. Claim your space proudly, and stay there, no matter what others say about you (good or bad). You have a right to be there!

The other morning at the gym I was getting dressed after my workout in the locker room. The hairdryers are located under the sinks. I went to the sink to finish getting ready, intending to dry my hair a few minutes later. I grabbed the hair dryer and placed it on the counter, and went back to my locker for just a second, looking for a brush. In the interim, another woman came up to the same sink. Thinking that she was just going to wash her hands, I waited patiently for her to finish so I could use the hairdryer. Instead, she picked up the hairdryer and began to dry her hair!

What a dilemma! It would’ve been easy for me to simply move down and use another hairdryer, without making a scene. The old “passive” me, would’ve done just that. But there were some other things I had left on the counter, which indicated that I was coming right back after I grabbed my brush. In other words, the signs that I was returning to the sink to dry my hair were obvious. So instead I said “Excuse me, I was just about to use that!”

Claim your space! Stand your ground!

I wasn’t rude, but I was firm. The woman who used the sink was occupying a locker on the same aisle closer to the sink. She knew that I was just about to use the hairdryer and grabbed it out from under me. I had seen her at the gym before and realized that she always used that sink. She was playing a little game with me, not wanting me to use “her” sink, but I didn’t let her get away with it.

I know this sounds like a petty little story, and probably 80-90% of people would’ve just used another sink. But I decided to claim my space instead. Would you have done the same? It is in confrontation that we grow, even if it is unpleasant. Be confident! Too many people shy away from it, but the good news is that the skills can be learned to help you deal with it.

Claim your space! Stand your ground!

What would you have done?

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Seabiscuit: A Lesson In Thinking Outside the Box

Set in the 1930s during the Great Depression, Seabiscuit is the true story of three unlikely men who come together to ultimately mold a champion. Tom Smith, a wild mustang breaker, is watching his way of life vanish before his eyes, as the young United States of America becomes increasingly more populous and developed. Charles Howard, the eventual owner of Seabiscuit, is devastated over the loss of his only son, which ultimately leads to a divorce.  Johnny “Red” Pollard (the jockey) was blind in his right-eye.

Charles Howard is looking to fill the void left by the loss of his son; he ultimately finds it in a new marriage and in a forgotten love of horses. Howard is a man of means and a visionary who has the ability to see past the situation that is currently in front of him. Little wonder then, that Howard’s mantra is “The Future.” (In an ironic twist, Howard predicted the automobile age but then regressed and bought horses).

Tom Smith had an uncanny ability with horses. A true “horse whisperer,” he could see past defects in horses. In the movie, Howard meets Smith when he is literally living in the bushes, nursing a horse with an injured leg. Everyone told Howard that Smith is a “crackpot,” but that doesn’t deter Howard. He approaches Smith anyway and engages him in conversation. Howard asks Smith about his injured horse and why he would expend the effort to save him. Smith responds, “Most people would just put them [the horse] down. You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little.” This is the pivotal line that sets up the rest of the movie!

Eventually Howard invites Smith to work for him and train horses. Most people would’ve gone straight to a reputable trainer, rather than hire a no-name who was living in the bushes! Howard took a big chance by hiring an unknown, unproven “crackpot” as his trainer. This fact alone attests to Howard’s ability to think outside the box and see potential beyond the current situation.

When they are looking for horses, Smith tells Howard:  “You have to find a horse with heart. It’s not just the speed, you have to find a horse that not afraid to compete or run from a fight.” Smith ultimately finds Seabiscuit. The horse itself was an unlikely champion because it was small (15 hands). At the time, champions were large, sleek, and without imperfection. That was the model. Most buyers would’ve overlooked Seabiscuit (and did), but Smith could look deeper, and knew the horse had heart, and spirit.

Before Howard bought him, Seabiscuit had been mistreated, and was originally used as a training partner to other horses, forced to lose so the other horses could win. When Seabiscuit did finally race, he did just what he was trained to do – lose – and the horse became resentful because of it. Smith pairs the angry horse with an angry young jockey, Red Pollard. Red was angry and beaten down because he was abandoned as a child during the Great Depression. Smith realizes that Red has some growing to do as a person but sees his potential.

Smith’s training techniques were the epitome of thinking outside the box. To quiet the angry horse, he placed other “barn” animals such as goats, cats, and even another horse inside Seabiscuit’s stall for companionship. These animals traveled with Seabiscuit wherever the horse raced, to provide a sense of calm, comfort, stability, and “sameness” regardless of where they went. Couldn’t we all use a little of that in our lives!?

Another theme prevalent throughout the movie is second chances.  Give people a second chance, an opportunity. Charles Howard gave Tom Smith a second chance, who in turn, gave Red Pollard a second chance. Howard also learns from Smith. When Red Pollard loses a race because another horse sneaks up on his right side at the last second and pulls ahead to win, Pollard is forced to admit for the first time that he is blind in his right eye. Smith is incensed at Pollard. After this incident, Charles Howard uses Smith’s own reasoning against him. Instead of firing Red, he keeps him and says to Smith, “It’s okay Tom. You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little.” Finally there’s the horse itself. Branded a loser, Seabiscuit was also given a second chance when he was purchased by a new owner who could see his potential. Seabiscuit went on to become a great champion.

Given all the things that the horse and these 3 characters accomplished, there are many lessons to be learned from this story. There is no realization of goals without struggle, defeat, or failure. Nothing worth accomplishing in life is easy.

Now I ask you:

What lessons from Seabiscuit apply to our business? One that I can think of is not everything is as it appears to be, or “don’t judge a book by its cover.” After what he accomplished, would anyone still think that Tom Smith is a crackpot?

I know it sounds cliche, but can you “think outside the box”?

Perhaps somebody who is unknown is the next rising star? Would you, like Howard, have the ability to see beyond the current situation to see their potential?

Seabiscuit had heart. How bad do you want to win? What’s in your heart?

Are you afraid to step-out and compete? What’s holding you back?

I would love to hear from you, especially if you are a fan of this movie!

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What does it take to be #1?

The last two of my posts have explored the correlations between criticism and jealousy (and why people hate and/or are jealous of #1). The final post in this series will explore the qualities that it takes to actually be number #1! The answer may surprise you, as some of those include . . . .

People who are the best at what they do often possess a combination of qualities. It is not always exceptional talent and skill, although that certainly helps! First off, they know exactly what they want and they go after it. They have an almost single-minded determination to get there. For those of us who have never quite figured out “what we want to do when we grow up,” or are good at a lot of things (making it difficult to choose just one!), this can be difficult to comprehend.

In his book “Open,” Andre Agassi talks about never wavering in pursuit of a goal. If you followed Agassi’s career or tennis at all, you know that he had a few distractions of his own before becoming one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He is one of only two tennis players in the world to have won a Career Golden Slam (all 4 major tournaments plus an Olympic Gold Medal). Because he hated tennis (one of the surprising revelations from his book), he thought about quitting many times. In fact, it would’ve been easy for him to quit but ultimately he did not, which speaks to persistence.

In sports, competitive athletes are also aggressive. They have to be in order to win. Think about the personalities of Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and John McEnroe. In his book, “You Cannot be Serious,” McEnroe says “Everyone wants us to be nice, but we’re competitive athletes. We are not nice people.” (What I want to know is, is nastiness also a requirement to be a champion? In Agassi and Roger Federer’s case, I would say the answer is “no”).

Aggression and a need to dominate are required in order to win. It is almost a predator/prey relationship. “When somebody has something you want, you make them the enemy” [so you can take it]. This is a famous line from Avatar. This philosophy is what makes #1 a target! (see my blog post from 1/15/2011). Competitive athletes are also continually learning and improving. They invest in themselves and learn more than others, and which gives them a competitive edge.

Politics is also about winning. Aggressive people can’t let other people get what they want, and therefore they will do anything to win, especially once they have a taste of victory. Most people who were brought up in the United States were taught that a democracy is supposed to be representative of the people’s wishes. But many times elected officials pursue their own agenda once they are in office. With this in mind, do politics and a democracy seem like they are a good match? I once heard someone ask, “Are you too nice for politics?” Now I finally understand that question! In other words, do you have the stomach required to be in constant conflict?

In summary:

If you want something, go out and take it. Who is going to stop you? Yourself? If you don’t do it, then somebody else will. Don’t ever quit. Winning takes a mixture of talent, determination, persistence, aggression, and continual learning (how can you do something better?). Recognize and excel at your strengths, but also improve your weaknesses. If you are good at something, you have a better opportunity to win!

Now I ask you:

Have you ever experienced any of the above?

Have you single-mindedly pursued a goal?

Have you been the target of someone else’s aggression?

If so I would love to hear about it!

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3 Critical Keys to Criticism

Don’t you hate it when you’ve worked really hard on something and all anybody else can do is criticize it? Or point out the faults in your plan? For some reason, most people immediately point out what’s wrong with something, rather than what’s good about it.

Whatever it is that you are trying to do, you will always have negative people, naysayers, and critics who will tell you it can’t be done or that you won’t succeed. It may help to know that the criticism is often more about the other person (there’s that jealousy factor again), than it is about you.

I remember an incident many years ago now when I was just learning how to take pictures with digital cameras. The technique required is different from film, because it goes something like this:  click click click delete! So you can afford to take more photos in pursuit of that perfect shot!

I was so proud of myself because I had taken a photo of my beautiful niece, and then printed it out directly from the digital camera (leaving no opportunity to edit the photo on the computer). My neighbor came over and immediately said “You need to take the red eye out of the photo!” I felt like a deflated balloon. A better approach would’ve been for him to say, “That’s a really beautiful photo, I can show you how to remove the red-eye, which will make it even better!” Now that statement would’ve made me perk up!

(Point #1) See the difference? The difference is in the approach. When you frontload the message by validating what the other person has accomplished, said, or done, then the other person is more receptive to what you have to say after that and that makes the criticism easier to receive. Not all criticism is bad – in fact constructive criticism can be very revealing and help you grow as long as it’s phrased properly.

It’s very easy to criticize other people. What’s harder is to get up there and do a better job, or find something nice to say instead. Many times people who criticize someone or something else don’t have any real credibility themselves. Sometimes they are jealous of the other person and wish that they were in their place (goes back to “why do certain people hate #1” – yesterday’s post).

(Point #2) On the other hand, good leaders recognize and take advantage of the skills, strengths, and abilities of others. They are more secure with who they are so they are not jealous. Rather they recognize what others have to offer. Successful companies (and nations) are not built by just one person. Most companies have a team of smart, talented people who work together to implement a vision and accomplish great things.

(Point #3) When you pursue your dreams or an opportunity, don’t allow other people to throw you off course. Surround yourself with people who will build you up and/or support you as you pursue your dreams. Hire a supportive mentor or coach. Nobody ever got to where they wanted to go by themselves! My Dad, who is 79 years old, always told me “It’s the things in life you don’t do that you end up regretting the most.’ To this I add “even if they don’t work out.”

Now I would love to hear from you:

Have you ever been in a similar situation?

How do you handle criticism? As the giver, as the receiver?

Do you notice how other people phrase things when they talk (ie. frontloading the message)?

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Jealousy is an Ugly Emotion!

Why do we hate #1? In other words, why do some people dislike or even hate people who are more successful than they are? Do they want to be in their place instead? There are two possibilities:  1) either they are jealous, or . . .

2) They believe that that other person does not deserve to be where they are (in the top spot). Let’s look at both situations.

If you are #1 in a sport, chances are that someone else wants to knock you off and take your place. You essentially become a target. You have something that other people want or aspire to be.

An elegant and graceful player, Roger Federer is so good at tennis that he makes it look easy (it’s not)! Federer won many tournaments and was ranked #1 in tennis for 237 weeks. In 2007, there was a heated battle for the Wimbledon Championship between him and Raphael Nadal, a strong up-and-coming player. Federer won that year, but the next year, Nadal won it, taking over the top position in tennis.

The bigger and more successful you are, the bigger the bullseye! That’s one reason that it seems that the rest of the world wants to tear down the USA. The United States has been the most powerful nation in the world for most of the 20th century. Other nations want to take our place in the top spot!

Controversial and opinionated, Dr. Laura was #1 on the radio for many years. Then Sean Hannity started his national show in 2001, and over the course of the next 4-5 years, he knocked her out of her coveted afternoon time slot. I heard recently that she is giving up her show entirely. In the movie “Up Close and Personal” Michelle Pfeiffer’s character is a news reporter who works her way up the ladder and eventually replaces the much revered long-time TV anchor played by Stockard Channing. This is a pivotal moment in the movie and in Pfeiffer’s character’s career.

Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. Times change. People’s tastes change. In every industry or profession, the person (or company) on top today was once a newcomer (Wal-Mart overtakes Sears). There is a time when someone comes along and does better than the person on top. Perhaps that person is more ambitious, a better player, more adaptable, hungrier for success, or can overpower an opponent.

So why do some people hate the best? Jealousy is an ugly emotion. Why are some people jealous of other people’s accomplishments? I mean there are some people who hate Oprah! One answer is that people who are insecure in themselves try to find fault with others (rather than be supportive or happy for them) and/or don’t want others to outshine them. Others don’t believe that the person on top deserves to be there.

Once, I was teaching a class, and I had to help a woman with an exercise on the computer. I could tell by her body language that she was annoyed that I had to help her. She looked at me and said rather haughtily, “I have a Ph.D. in this!” To which I thought (but didn’t say), “If that’s true, then why don’t you know how to work this exercise?” I had a feeling that she felt she should be teaching the class instead of me, even though I had my own credentials.

I would like to know if anybody reading this has had a similar experience. Can you come up with other examples?

Was somebody jealous of you and wanted to see you gone (in office politics, or sports, etc.)?

Were you in the #1 spot and someone came along and bumped you off? How did you handle it? Were you prepared for it?

I would love to know! Let me hear from you!

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