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Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: Real Priorities

In the wake of the hurricanes, earthquakes and fires that have recently imperiled millions of people a little prioritizing is necessary. People first. Well, let me clarify that, other people first.
I have spent the last decade (at least) studying how people can achieve their best. That is great in a world that is normal. But right now the world is not normal. It is wonderful to believe that people have the time and energy to develop skills and characteristics that can unleash their best. Yet the reality is that some of the most important characteristics and skills are unleashed or learned in the moment. Wisdom, empathy, love, compassion, forgiveness, and community are not forged in the hallowed halls of academic setting so much as they are grown and tested in a flood ravaged city or fire-imperiled town.
And the learning that occurs is not so much a “navel-gazing” affair as it is a back-breaking, heart-wrenching affair with other humans. Even if we can’t stand in the flood waters or charred remains, we can offer support and work for the best. That is the best of who we can be, fully human. Because to be fully human is to help others in their need regardless of who they are and what they believe.
So, if we want to fully unleash our best, we have to stop gazing in the mirror worrying about our own happiness or greatness and pick up a shovel, get in a boat, write to our representative, or at least donate, because then we unleash who we are at our best, people who care about others.

Five Practices for a Great Stay-cation …

Five Practices for a Great Stay-cation

Okay, I just came off a stay-cation and though I have been against them in the past, this one was refreshing. I learned a couple of lessons this time which I’d like to share. All of us need to relax, to rejuvenate and refresh ourselves. It is ideal to get away, far away, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Here are some practices that will make you enjoy your stay-cation fully.

Prepare. Okay this isn’t one of the five, but it is just as important. We all know about leaving the out-of-office message on your phone, or the email response that you aren’t available. But if you are staying home, make sure the grass is mowed and all the little jobs done before you begin vacation (including the laundry). You can lose precious time if you spend your vacation working on your house. So, now to the practices.

1. “Rent” your house. Air BNB and VRBO are just some of the companies that let people rent houses for vacation. During your stay-cation, think about your home as though you rented it from someone else for this vacation. Open the front door and explore the house. Savor the things about your home that you don’t take time to enjoy. I spent every morning of our stay-cation on the front porch of our house drinking coffee. I don’t do that enough and it is really relaxing.

2. Change your routine. Every morning during the work year I get up, get coffee, head into my office, turn on my laptop and then I journal. I completely changed that routine for the stay-cation choosing not to journal at all and heading for the porch with my coffee. Don’t do the same things you normally do when you are home because you will easily fall into old habits.

3. Be Spontaneous. Since you are on vacation, don’t set too many plans. Have fun with spontaneity. In the middle of a rainy day we decided to have a cribbage tournament. It was fun, except that I lost. But it was something we almost never do.

4. Rediscover Friends. We have a group of friends who we rarely see because we all work so hard. We had dinner at one friend’s home one night and had another group of friends in for the weekend. It was a holiday because we usually don’t get enough time with them.

5. Be a Tourist. Most of don’t explore our own area. A simple search of the “top ten things to do in (your county)” gives you options you’ve probably never known about. We finally explored a state park we’d never been to and spent the day bike riding through it. We also found a wonderful new restaurant and other fun things about our area.

There are many reasons that people might choose a stay-cation, yet in the past I’ve found I can easily be sucked back into my normal routine, checking emails, looking for business. This time was different because I approached it with a different mindset. It is possible to rest on a stay-cation with just a few practices. And you will go back to work rested and relaxed.

Step Out Of Your Box Greatness Project 2017

Step Out Of Your Box

Greatness Project 2017: As I stepped off the plane I was fascinated. Behind the wall of glass were people who did not look like me, nor speak my language. It was 1966 and my family was traveling to Hong Kong where we would live and my father would work. This was just a brief stopover in Tokyo Airport, but at that moment I realized that the world I knew in the United States was not the only world and there were many other ways to think and live that I needed to learn.
Being open to others, to their opinions and ways of life, does not take extraordinary discipline. Sometimes it just takes being with them and listening. Adam Grant in Originals cites research that individuals who moved often when they were young, especially if those moves took them overseas, are more open to new ideas and different ways of living. For those of us who had that experience, we didn’t call it openness, we called it survival. Yet there is wisdom in being with those who are not like you.
Currently there is a phenomenon in the world where the fabric of society is being torn open to reveal a level of narrow-mindedness, cultural insensitivity and even hatred of anything that does not fit how some people feel the world should be. Rather than be open-minded, they live in a world of constant confirmation bias where everything they believe is true, because they won’t listen to an alternative view.
We now have the capacity to cull the news we receive to our “favorites,” to listen only to our music, our “way of life” and separate our personal world. Those who do this can easily develop hate because they refuse to see outside of their own world view. Yet, anyone who does this will gradually box themselves in and die a slow death of asphyxiation on their own breath, and their own ideas. That is not how the world survives; we need each other. The alternative is that we can be open to the possibilities around us of different culture, art, music, and ways of thinking so that we are living full lives and learning from others. There is only one way to open up and that is to make sure we step out of our own box.

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Comparisons are Odious, Except When They’re Not …

Comparisons are Odious, Except When They’re Not

Have you ever been in a room of people whose accomplishments were so amazing that you were in awe of them? It is challenging not to compare, to listen to how they are changing the world and ask yourself “what am I doing?” Comparisons, at this point, might seem odious (according to Cervantes, Donne and others).
Recently I attended the Fifth World Congress on Positive Psychology in Montreal Canada. It is an amazing conference where scientists and practitioners share and learn about the ways that positive psychology is helping to change the world for good. And the attendees themselves are also part of the learning. I spoke with those who are changing schools to help students be aware of the fullness of their possibilities and get better grades. There was the young man who is helping “at risk” kids in Camden, NJ turn their lives around and another who is changing how corporations work in Mexico City. It was an incredible array of people who are doing fantastic work in many ways.
Okay, back to comparisons. I have long believed the line from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” So, I have tried never to compare. Until now.
What I found happening at the World Congress was a growing sense of what others had done and what I could do. The comparison did not lessen me, rather in emboldened me, gave me strength and hope in the possibility of the contribution that I could possibly add to society.
So, compare yourself to others, not to become vain or bitter, but to see what the possibilities are. There are amazing people in this world doing amazing things. When we compare, and perhaps think we can do more, they are there as a guide, a role model, and even perhaps as a mentor. Comparisons, when they lessen us or others, are odious. But when comparisons spur us on to the possibilities and probabilities of development and change, they become a wonderful tool.
Take the chance. Admire someone and then allow that comparison to lift you up. You might be surprised what you can do for yourself and for the world.

Greatness Project 2017

Greatness Project 2017: Are We Really Curious?

The fake commercial by the Saturday Night Live cast about Amazon Silver, “the echo built for seniors,” is very funny and very true. And one part of the commercial is very close to reality. One of the characters keeps asking Alexa how Satchel Page batted today. Alexa responds that Satchel Page is dead. The character mumbles “I don’t think so.” And that is where the commercial is like many of us. We KNOW the truth don’t we? Even in the face of evidence we hold on to our beliefs. And that is what gets in the way of openness, acceptance, empathy, and innovation. We are so certain that we have all the answers.
In my consulting practice with individuals and organizations we continue to offer a mantra when they come to a session, “be curious, not certain.” Yet even as I have experienced, this is tougher to say than it is to live out. Why? Because most of lean toward a confirmation bias. We believe we already have the right answer, so we look for the information that will lead us back to what we know or what we want to believe. It is not easy to keep an open mind.
Right now, what divides so much of our world, is this lack of curiosity. No matter where we live we believe we have the answers, the correct beliefs, the way it should be. And we dig our heels in and refuse to even hear what others might think. So, it affects us on a world-wide level, but it also affects us personally.
When we can’t hear our lover’s insight on something we might personally change, when we can’t have a dialogue at dinner unless everyone agrees, when we are “unfriending” people just because they hold a different view, we aren’t curious. That lack of curiosity leads to a narrowness that breeds a sense of superiority and eventually anger.
Yet, when we enter a space, a dialogue, a learning environment, even listen to a show we don’t normally listen to, and we let go of our pre-conceived notions, then we will really hear the other. When we are willing to ask more questions than state our opinion, we can learn. And when we place ourselves in the situation of another individual and see it from their point of view we will know real empathy.
Curiosity is not the characteristic of someone lacking knowledge. Curiosity is the skill of someone who courts wisdom, who embraces change and loves diversity. It starts by putting aside our ego and believing that we can learn from everyone, everything, and every situation. Curiosity can change our lives and it can change the world. Be curious, not certain.