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Be Like Einstein’s Mom …

Be Like Einstein’s Mom

Recently I read an interview of Albert Einstein in 1907 where he shared a difficult moment that changed his life.
“One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector that I was “addled” and it would not be worthwhile keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by this last straw that I burst out crying and went home and told my mother about it. Then I found out what a good thing a good mother is. She came out as my strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that I had more brains than he himself, and a lot more talk like that. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy ever had, and I determined right then that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.”
What struck me most about this moment is how we tend to live up to expectations, ours and those others place on us. Sadly, many of us, myself included, hold on to negative expectations and often don’t challenge them; “you aren’t an artist”, “you can’t play because you are too small”, “you’re not smart.” Many times we are told these things by well-meaning people. They are trying to save us from hurt and humiliation. Still, those spoken expectations or limitations can affect us for a lifetime and hold us back.
So, be like Einstein’s mother. First of all, challenge any of the spoken or imagined limited expectations you place on yourself. What if you expected more? And be the person that helps someone else lift their limitations. Help they realize their own genius. Most importantly, don’t just tell them, teach them.

Do You Feel Lucky? …

Do You Feel Lucky?
I don’t believe in luck. Or at least I didn’t use to believe in it. I believed that my life was a consequence of the hard work and preparedness that I put into it. That is true, but I was missing an essential element in the reality of my life…I’m a lucky man. I have had the fortune to be born into a family which provided a safe, secure and loving place and afforded me the opportunity of good education. But there is much more to my luck.
It is critical to our own personal development not to become enamored with our own notions of ourselves as a “self-made” person like I was. First of all, research proves that to be untrue. Robert Frank in Success and Luck makes the point that we totally overestimate the amount our contributions bring to our success in life. But why does this make any difference?
First of all, there is primary research that people who believe they are lucky act differently than those who don’t believe they are lucky. They are more likely to look for opportunities (believing they will show up) and more likely to try something new that may make them successful. Additionally lucky people realize they didn’t succeed alone. They are more likely to be grateful to others and to help others have the same “lucky” breaks they enjoyed. So, the key is to work hard, be diligent and realize how lucky you are.
So, do you feel lucky? If so, then think about the lucky breaks you have had and see if you can give that to someone else.

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.