PREPARED FOR SUCCESS IN 2018

The brand new year of 2018 is upon us. How successful you or I will be in it is largely up to us. Much of that is further determined by how open we are to moving in new directions. Moving in new directions could mean a lot of different things depending on life circumstances.

Here are important points to ponder as you prepare for success in 2018:

Be Positive Regardless Of Your Problems. Yes, I realize you do not have to look far to find difficulties, roadblocks, and bad news. Nevertheless, carrying a negative attitude into those challenges never did any good, did it? On the other hand, by attacking every challenge with a positive attitude, you consciously and subconsciously unleash more resources. Those additional resources often make a significant difference in the outcome.

Face Your Failures. Sometimes it is easier to hide from your failures. Nevertheless, denial does not mean deletion. Worse yet, denial does you a disservice. Only by fully facing the things you messed up can you learn from them. You should be smarter entering 2018 than you were entering 2017.

If You Are A Business Owner. You might come to realize 2018 demands some new strategies and policies. Will you implement them, and if so, how will you implement them? Thinking those steps through ahead of time can make all the difference in the world. Change is not always easy, but by planning for it and embracing it with a positive attitude you can make it more enjoyable and exciting.

If You Are An Employee. Think about how you can add more value to your organization. Might you have some new approaches that will benefit your colleagues and customers? Do you have ideas or insights whose time has come? Look for new or unique ways to enhance collaboration and success for your team.

If You Are Unemployed. How might this be an opportunity to reinvent you? Could this be the time you search in some totally different directions for that dream job? Although searching for a new job is a fulltime job, remember to give yourself some downtime. Perhaps now is the perfect time to dive into some of those pie-in-the-sky projects you just never had time for in the past. How might you reorganize your life for better balance going forward?

Never Discount Your Experience. You are usually your worst critic. Take a fresh look at all your experience with an eye to capitalizing upon the hidden gold. Surely there are some lessons you have learned from which you can benefit. By taking stock of those lessons now, you can build toward more solid successes in 2018. You can bring a vibrant freshness to your future. Pay attention to what Mel Robbins affirms (The 5 Second Rule. United States: Savio Republic, 2017):

“There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.” (p. 193)

Appreciate The Beauty Within Each Day. Sure, life is tough. But it’s a whole lot more than that. Life is an absolutely amazing gift! In spite of all the difficulties, your successful navigation day by day and moment by moment happens when you paradoxically see the intrinsic beauty that is transcendently present. L. R. Knost captures the sentiment well:

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

Be Humble. I never met a person who thought he or she knew it all that learned something new. I enjoy learning new things . . . every single day. However, I will never learn something new if I already know it all.

Remember Your Resources. You have friends, mentors, and loved ones around you who genuinely care about you. You have a philosophy of life, and religious and spiritual convictions that sustain you. You have hidden opportunities just waiting to be discovered. You have time-tested strengths and abilities. Summon all those terrific resources because they are there to serve you.

This year could become the most successful year of your life. Make it so!


FOUR QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF ABOUT 2017

Very soon, 2017 will be history. Now is a good time to assess how you did. If we never pause to assess our performance, we might forfeit valuable lessons. With that in mind, here are four questions I challenge you—as I challenge myself—to ask concerning 2017:

  • How did you do in your business performance? Reflecting upon all the professional roles you have held, how did you perform? Did you do your job with energy, accuracy, enthusiasm, and insight? By reflecting upon your business performance, you can bask in some well-deserved affirmation of the highlights. You can also reengineer your business approach where some fine tuning might be needed.
  • How did you do in your ethics performance? Did you stand tall and true to your ethics regardless of the cost? By reflecting upon those times when your ethical commitment was put to the test and it stood strong, you can rejoice in your victories. You can also rethink your approach to ethics if you found yourself coming up short for any reason.
  • How did you do in your leadership performance? Did you exercise strategic and sound leadership in every situation that demanded it? By reflecting upon your various leadership situations, you can affirm your leadership where it was tested and found to be solid. You can also identify those situations that may have revealed some leadership deficits and begin seeking ways to improve and refine.
  • How did you do in your personal performance? Did you exhibit maturity, passion, strength, and wisdom as you managed your attitude, money, opportunities, relationships, loved ones, spiritual or religious convictions, physical fitness, emotional and mental fitness, and overall wellness? By reflecting upon your personal performance in these areas, you can take comfort and joy where you know you brought your best self to the table. You can also take a hard look at any of those areas in which you know deep in your heart that improvement is needed.

These four questions are revealing. If you enjoy your answers, I am happy for you! On the other hand, if you are unhappy with the answers to any of these questions, then some thoughtful, soul-searching realignment is needed.

Now for the especially exciting news: you have the power to make the needed changes. Our failures are only meaningless if we do not learn from them. Let us learn from them so we can make 2018 the best year ever!


ANSWER THE PHONE

About a hundred years ago, if someone told you that a device would be placed in your home that would randomly sound an alarm at any time of the day or night and that you would drop whatever you were doing to devote your full attention to that device, you probably would have said “you’re crazy!” It would have been a relatively short time after that conversation that we all began to have telephones in our homes. But now, they are not just in our homes, we carry them with us constantly.

We’ve become addicted to our phones. Well, if you prefer, we’ve become dependent on our phones. Exactly when and how does dependence transform into addiction, or does it? How can you tell the difference? Is it necessarily a bad thing?

The advent of every new technology always brings both good and bad. Usually the good far outweighs the bad. Nevertheless, that does not excuse us from mitigating the bad. And that is a mission to which we should remain relentlessly committed.

One of the most important developments in this fight is with children’s access to smartphones. How old should a child be before he or she is granted the freedom to use a smartphone? Susan Dunaway is a cofounder of the Amend Neurocounseling clinic in Overland Park, Kansas. As reported by Rick Montgomery, Dunaway has some insightful observations to share about this issue (“A Movement Grows to Keep Kids from Smartphones Until the Eighth Grade”, The Kansas City Star, pp. 1A, 17A):

Years of online overstimulation ‘acts on the brain the way cocaine acts on the brain. . . .

Too much dopamine is released. . . . Those pleasure centers should be going off once in a while. With screen time they’re going off constantly.’

As developing brains are most vulnerable, Dunaway said smartphones may be producing a generation prone to inattention, restlessness and bursts of anger when desires aren’t quickly met.” (p. 17A)

I believe most of us have literally watched this occur. We owe it to our world to promote the positive use of technology among all ages, but especially among developing children. Technology is marvelous, but let’s use it correctly at every opportunity.

All this compounds exponentially when we recognize the constantly growing incorporation of artificial intelligence into technology. AI is already inserting itself into numerous human-to-machine and machine-to-human interactions, often without our awareness. This trend will only accelerate as Frank Malcolm, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring affirm in their recent book, What to Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017):

Within the next few years, AI will be all around us, embedded in many higher-order pursuits. It will educate our children, heal our sick, and lower our energy bills. It will catch criminals, increase crop yields, and help us uncover new worlds of augmented and virtual reality.” (pp. ix–x)

The authors also make a forebodingly accurate statement about the ubiquity of AI within our daily devices:

Once we start using them we stop thinking about them.” (p. 1)

And therein lies the danger. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for the ongoing advancement, application, and use of our incredibly brilliant and powerful technologies on every front. However, let’s see if we can start using them while still thinking about them. That thinking about our overall interaction with smartphones, the Internet, and technology is what should raise many interesting questions that demand serious answers. Understand, I for one do not claim to have all the answers. Nevertheless, that should not stop us from engaging the questions. Here are some of those sobering questions to get you started:

  • Are we studying how we psychologically interact with technology as much as we study technology?
  • What are the short-term and long-term effects of technology?
  • What damage is being done by the bad effects of technology?
  • Is Google making us “brain stupid” or is it genuinely answering our questions faster and better thereby freeing our brains to attack more complex challenges?
  • How will we improve our ability to use the Internet to extract all its positive benefits while mitigating its negative effects?
  • Has the rate of technology development outpaced our human ability to adapt to it, and if so, what can we do about that?
  • Have you stopped thinking about them?

Your phone demands an answer and so do these questions.


GRATITUDE REALLY IS BEST

We all know that emails can be concluded with any kind of wording or signoff the composer desires. However, it turns out that some signoffs elicit better response rates than others. At least that is the conclusion of a recent Boomerang survey (“This Is the Only Way You Should Sign Your Emails.” Money. November 2017, p. 26.)

After assessing more than 350,000 emails with varied signoffs, here are the top three for recipient response rates:

  • Thanks in advance. (65.7%)
  • Thanks. (63%)
  • Thank you. (57.9%)

Regardless of the signoff, many factors can color how we interpret any individual email. Nevertheless, it seems that a touch of gratitude is what makes a palpable difference for most recipients. Gratitude appeals to our shared humanity. It moves us toward our common good and it invites our better angels. We often can imagine seeing that person eye-to-eye, all just from that written word of thanks. We somehow realize all that is behind the expression of gratitude, and it is that connection that often prompts our positive response.

As important as all this is purely from a communications and business perspective, it also relates to the holiday we now approach. Just as gratitude has a positive effect in the business world, it also has a positive effect in our personal lives. Simply pausing daily to reflect on all the things for which you are grateful is soul cleansing and exciting. It tends to improve all aspects of our lives.

As you celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, I trust that you will genuinely take time each day to be thankful. You may soon find that a new sense of gratitude infuses your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!


KNOWING YOUR BEST ROLE

All of us have different roles within different contexts. You might be a leader in one context and a follower in another, the CEO in one world and a worker bee in another; the big-picture person in one universe and the bean counter analyst in another. Although we are often defined by our roles, they are not the only things that define us. How we approach our roles is equally if not more important to what defines us.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects about our roles is knowing what our best role is in any given situation. If you step into the wrong role, then bad things can happen. If you are in the right role but at the wrong time, then bad things can happen. But if you can step into the right role at the right time in the right way, then marvelous things can happen.

Knowing your best role can be tricky. We don’t always want to face up to painful or embarrassing truths about ourselves. However, failure to do so can rob us of the success we genuinely desire. The winning combination materializes when we understand our best role and we can enter into it at the right time and in the right way. The proverbial “now is the time” declaration rings true.

In looking at tech entrepreneurs, we find that some of them struggled with finding their best role or the right timing for that role. Some did not want to admit that the role or the timing may not be right as Austin Carr explains (“Uber’s Driving Lessons: What the Fastest-growing Startup in History Has Revealed about Silicon Valley” FastCompany. September 2017, pp. 25–27):

Steeped in a tradition dating back to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard creating HP in their Palo Alto garage, tech entrepreneurs are taught that they are the true innovators. And anyone who gets in their way (boards, investors, bureaucrats) is shortsighted, the small-minded naysayers to visionaries like Steve Jobs. So founders today hold tightly to control, leveraging their super voting shares to tilt power away from boards or investors.” (p. 27)

Situations can arise in which the tech entrepreneur is right and everyone else is wrong—or it could be the opposite. However, the reality is not usually quite that simple. More often the truth is somewhere in the middle. To whatever extent both sides can consider that “middle” we have opportunity for growth. The circumstances could lead to a personal, professional, and leadership growth experience for everyone. And sometimes that means paradoxically the best way to fulfill your role is to sacrifice your role. Carr clarifies:

The reality is, sacrificing the CEO title can be in the best interests of both the company and its founder. Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped aside so longtime tech executive Eric Schmidt could steer Google through its IPO during the 2000s. Page studied under Schmidt for roughly a decade before taking back the reins. Jobs, too, took nearly this same amount of time to mature as a CEO before returning to Apple.

Whatever your role might be, what is most important is that you recognize it and that you choose to use it at the right time and in the right way. This is how we maximize our value to our organization, colleagues, customers, and ourselves. Know your best role.