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Keep Showing Up

80 percent of success is just showing up.— Anonymous
 
 
Desiree Linden, who this week became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years, had thought of leaving the race early on. She had every reason to quit: It was cold, rainy, and windy, and she wasn’t feeling well.
 
But Linden has a philosophy that keeps her going. As she Tweeted on March 5th:
 
Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: keep showing up.
 
This is my philosophy as well. Just show up every day and do the work. The results will take care of themselves. Too many of us live in the future, or regret the past, and forget to just show up in the present.
 
Don’t quit
Linden could have quit in 2011, when she missed first place in the Boston Marathon by seconds. But instead, the two-time Olympian kept coming back.
 
True to her philosophy, she ran in this week’s race, despite facing especially tough conditions:
 
It was such a miserable day, and when things go awry, they can kind of ding you up for a while and also take time out of your career. I'm on the back half of my career, so I have to be super careful at this point. And early on, I was freezing and my muscles were tight, and I was like 'This isn't – this is not my day.' So, I did kind of toy around with the idea of stepping off.
 
Instead, Linden decided to help fellow American runner Shalane Flanagan:
 
We had talked about it a little earlier on in the race when I knew I might be stepping off. I said, ‘Hey, if you need help with anything along the way, I'm happy to run through the wind for you and just kind of be a block or whatever you might need.’
 
And so she nudged me later and said, ‘Hey, I'm going to do the port-a-potty thing.’ And I was like, ‘OK, well, I'll try to run you back into the group.’ And we got back up there. We reconnected. There was just so much pride on the American side this year. We wanted it so bad. Thirty-three years since an American winner, and I felt like there was some team camaraderie out there.’
 
Show up for one more minute
Linden said that earlier in her career she would obsess about whether she was having a positive day or a negative day, but finally decided to put an end to her obsessing:
 
I decided to stop thinking about each day so much, and just keep showing up. Like, whatever the day gave me, just show up. That's kind of how I attacked the race, too. Once I got over the fact that I wasn't going to drop out, it was like, ‘Just show up for one more mile. Show up for one more minute.’ And that was kind of my mantra throughout this entire build and through the entire race day on Monday.
 
Creating habits
We can all learn a deep lesson from Linden’s approach. There’s power in creating habits that allow us to show up. I ran a marathon and a few half-marathons, and I know that consistent training is the key to success.
 
It’s like that in life, too.
 
We stop ourselves from taking action.
 
We hesitate and play out the negative scenarios that will take place.
 
We imagine the worst; so we don’t show up.
 
We procrastinate.
 
We overthink.
 
We let inertia win.
 
Simply starting the process can be the greatest challenge in most of the personal and business challenges we face each day. Here are a few examples of situations where the hardest part is getting started:
 
An exercise workout? Getting dressed and traveling to the gym.
 
Volunteering to do that thing that scares you? Raising your hand.
 
Working on a major presentation? Putting your messages on paper.
 
This is why I advise college students to start internships and stick with them. When you show up in front of people, they see you and will begin to know, like, and trust you. It gives you a huge step above others for the next job.
 
I recently experienced this with a friend I’m mentoring. We were meeting at Starbucks and she told me she had applied for a part-time job she really wanted at a cool local small business. In fact, she had applied twice online. I told her she needed to walk in and meet the owners.
 
As we talked she became the negative spokesperson for business owners she had never met: She argued that they’re too busy; they probably didn’t like her background; they don’t think she’s qualified.
 
I said, “That’s it. Get your resume. I’m driving you over there right now.” We drove up. I parked. After some bolstering, she finally got out of the car and walked to the door. She looked back at me and made that uncertain face. I signaled to smile and be confident.
 
About 20 minutes later she came out with a smile but also a look of surprise on her face. They were going to hire her, pending a background check. She showed up!
 
Every Sunday?
One of the ways I decided to show up was writing this weekly newsletter almost three years ago. I had a friend who blogged weekly and I said, I could never do thatHow do you come up with ideas – EVERY WEEK?!!
 
He said you just show up and write. Once you get started, the process takes over and ideas will flow. Of course, he was right. I’ll be coaching a CEO or working with a team of leaders and someone will mention their fear, concern, or obstacle and I’ll say, “Thanks for the Sunday Coffee!” and I’ll write down the idea.
 
There are plenty of days I don’t feel like writing after a long week of travel, like this beautiful Saturday morning, but I keep showing up for you, my readers, but also as a commitment to myself.
 
Take action
 
How about you? Are you showing up and doing the work?
 
What have you been holding back on in business or in life?
 
Showing up is a full commitment, the discipline to be there when you don’t feel like it, to be all in.
 
Life is not always easy, but take Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden’s advice: Keep showing up.

To share with me how you intend to show up you can send me a message on our contact form.

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Create Special Moments

“The greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievements but rather with the things we do for the people we love and esteem.”

–– Walt Disney


If I asked you to think about the most powerful moments in your life, you might first think of the big ones – your wedding, the birth of a child, the death of a parent, advancement in your career.
 
These milestones certainly stand out, as we think of our lives in broad terms. These are indeed the major chapters when we tell our stories. 
 
But if I ask you think more deeply about the special moments of your childhood, you might recall ice cream with a parent, fireworks on the beach, or the first time someone taught you to ride a bike.
 
In my coaching and training, I ask people to bring and share stories. I also ask them to start a story bank that can be used to retell their stories in business to bring their messages to life.
 
Power of simple moments
Inevitably, these stories reflect the power of simple moments. A heartfelt note from a boss, tears from a customer, or a smile from a child.

While we think of our lives in broad, sweeping terms of many years, our key, cherished memories are simple moments in time. This is why the best films and books focus on sharing small gestures and moments.
 
The special moments are just minutes in hundreds of thousands of hours of experience. As leaders, it’s critical to create the moments that shape the experience of the people we work with. Whether with your customers, employees, or others, some thought and planning may produce extraordinary experiences.
 
One recent book outlines the importance of creating these experiences. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact,*  is another great book from authors (and brothers) Chip Heath and Dan Heath, who also wrote the classic, Made to Stick.*
 

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The authors say moments are critical “because research has found that in recalling an experience, we ignore most of what happened and focus instead on a few particular moments….
 
“When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length –– a phenomenon called ‘duration neglect.’ Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: (1) the best or worst moment, known as the ‘peak’; and (2) the ending. Psychologists call it the ‘peak-end rule.’”
 
“What’s indisputable is that when we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.”
 
Create positive experiences
This is obviously an important lesson to remember in business and in life. In service businesses, it’s critical to create positive impressions and memorable experiences.
 
Traveling as much as I do, I stay in a range of high-end and average hotels and I’m always interested in the experience they create. The authors use the example of the Magic Castle Hotel, which is consistently rated as one of the top three hotels in Los Angeles, higher than the upscale Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons hotels.
 
The Magic Castle Hotel achieves this rating despite the fact that it is anything but luxurious. “It’s not that it’s a bad-looking place; it’s fine. It looks like a respectable budget motel,” they write. Then why is it so highly rated that people rave about it to their friends and share it forever?
 
Here’s the secret. They’ve created extraordinary moments that are unforgettable, as the Heath brothers write:
 
Let’s start with the cherry-red phone mounted on the tool wall near the pool. You pick it up and someone answers, ‘Hello, popsicle hotline.’ You place an order, and minutes later, a staffer wearing white gloves delivers your cherry, orange, or grape popsicles to you at poolside. On a silver tray. For free.
 

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Then there’s the snack menu, a list of goodies––ranging from Kit Kat’s to root beer to Cheetos––that can be ordered up at no cost. There’s also a board game menu and DVD menu, with all items loaned for free. Three times a week, magicians perform tricks at breakfast. Did we mention you can drop off unlimited loads of laundry for free washing? Your clothes are returned later in the day, wrapped in butcher paper and tied up with twine and a sprig of lavender.
 
The guest reviews for the Magic Castle Hotel are rapturous. What the Magic Castle has figured out is that, to please customers you need not obsess over every detail. Customers will forgive small swimming pools and underwhelming room décor, as long as some moments are magical.
 
There are so many opportunities all of us have to create unique and memorable experiences, yet we thoughtlessly stick with the well-worn path.
 
Defining special moments
The Power of Moments * defines four key elements for you to consider in creating special, defining moments:

ELEVATION: They rise above the everyday experience.

INSIGHT: They may shift your point of view of yourself or the world.

PRIDE: They capture moments of accomplishment or courage.

CONNECTION: They are often social events that strengthen the bonds we share with others.
 
Take action
I urge you to consider how you might take initiative to elevate experiences for yourself and those important to you in business and life.

  • Try a different approach at your next retreat –– as an opener, have everyone bring a meaningful object from home and explain the moment it became important to them.
  • Send a customer a thank you with a small, different gift, such as your favorite candy or dessert. 
  • Pick a “crazy” place for a weekend getaway with your partner or family.

It’s up to you. You have the ability to design the right kind of memorable experience, with powerful moments that might last a lifetime.

One final thought: as you think about creating special moments, don't lose the gift of being present for these moments. Too many of us have become consumed by our phones and have lost our mindfulness. Lots of us are capturing moments to share with others (it's Instagrammable!) rather than actually being present in the moment.

You see it everywhere: people glued to phones while walking dogs, sitting with children, dining with others.

I was watching an Austrailian DJ and singer who, during a concert, looked out and saw a sea of phones facing him. He screamed at his audience "you paid me a lot of money to be here with you so, for this one song, put down your phones and be here with me!" (I redacted over the colorful language.)

Thank you for sharing these moments with me.

Be a Calm, Assertive Leader

"Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm." – Publilius Syrus
 
 
I have a client who likes to say that leadership is easy…when you’re winning. The real test is when you’re down.
 
There is eternal truth in this. One of the greatest challenges for a leader is to maintain a sense of perspective and confidence when buffeted by the waves of change.
 
Today, these changes are coming fast and furious, including disruption of industries, global workforces, and incessant reorganizations, among others.
 
In discussing change management in a training class recently, I wrote on a flip chart the phrase: “Calm, Assertive Leadership” and a woman shouted, “The Dog Whisperer.” She was right. I was referring to Cesar Millan’s well-known TV show.
 
I read widely in my research on leadership and communication to bring the best ideas and strategies to my clients. As I read Cesar’s books and understood his approach, I saw very clearly that his methods give great insights into leadership and communication for humans. 
 
Be the pack leader
One of his books, in particular, said it all: Be the Pack Leader. Cesar notes that he doesn't train the dogs; he trains the owners – to be leaders of their dogs.
 

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Think about this:
 
Your dog wants consistent energy. Cesar says that dogs sense the energy level of their owners and respond to what he calls “calm-assertive energy.” Instead, most people give their dogs the opposite. “They are emotional, easily upset and frustrated, panicky, weak, or angry,” which is disconcerting to the dogs.
 
Your dog wants clear messages. Cesar writes that “Dog leaders are also inconsistent with the messages they send, so their dogs don’t know what to expect from one minute to the next. Is my owner the pack leader? Am I the pack leader? A confused dog is an unhappy dog.”
 
Your dog sees your intent through body language and tone of voice.  One of my favorite Far Side cartoons features a man scolding his dog, saying “Okay, Ginger. I’ve had it. You stay out of the garbage…” In the next panel, we see what Ginger hears, which of course, is “Blah, blah, blah, Ginger.” Dogs don’t understand our words, but they know what we mean.
 
This is certainly good advice for dog owners, and you might try applying these insights. But I don’t focus on dogs, I focus on people.
 
So please do this at work and at home: Re-read those three points and instead of thinking “dog,” think “person/people.” Think about what you bring to your colleagues and family in these three areas.
 
If you did re-read those points, you'd recognize that we are much more aligned with our animal friends than we sometimes believe. 

Body language and intention
Scientific research – particularly neuroscience – is delving deeply into the incredible number of signals we humans send to one another through our energy, our intentions, and our body language and tone.

So much of what we convey comes not from the specific words, but the context and delivery of the message. In coaching leaders whose behavior doesn’t align with their words, I often say, “they can’t hear a word you’re saying, because your body language is so loud.”
 
There are, of course, great differences between dogs and us in leadership – and not necessarily in our favor.
 
Cesar said that dogs would refuse to follow dogs with negative or unbalanced energy, whereas humans will. “Animals don’t follow unstable pack leaders; only humans promote, follow, and praise instability…That’s because all animals can evaluate and discern what balanced energy feels like…We humans continue to follow the unstable energy of our leaders – which is why we don’t live in a peaceful, balanced world.”
 
Calm-assertive energy

To achieve the calm-assertive energy, Cesar says that you have to get your emotions and your intentions to line up in harmony. “If you are ‘acting’ tough, but inside still feeling terrified, your dog will know it instantly. Your boss might not, but your dog definitely will. When your insides and your outsides conflict, you are powerless in the animal world,” he writes.
 
Cesar explains how to improve your approach: “…our human minds are incredibly powerful tools, and with the power of intention, we can actually change our feelings – not just on the surface, but from the inside out.
 
“If you can positively project the intention you desire through real strength and honesty, your dog will instantly react to that calm-assertive energy.”
 
My guess is that the people around you will react the same way to your calm-assertive energy.
 
Please give it a try, but don’t even think about faking it. Your dog is watching.

How to Stop Feeling Like a Fraud

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.”  – Maya Angelou
 
 
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman recounts feeling like an imposter at an invitation-only gathering of renowned artists, scientists, writers and other luminaries:
 
I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

 

Gaiman’s sense that others feel the same way is right. Research has found that up to 70 percent of us at some point in our lives feel fraudulent — like we don’t belong in our current jobs and will soon be found out.
 
This issue of feeling like a fraud came up in my conversation with leaders in a training session in Washington, D.C. this week.

I know I’ve felt this way. Starting off life in the housing projects in Philadelphia with a hard-working single mother, I would often question my subsequent good fortune in corporate life.
 
Before starting my consulting business 14 years ago, I served as Vice President of Communications at a Fortune 100 company. I was one of the youngest officers and worked at the highest level with the CEO, presidents and other senior leaders.
 
And there were moments, especially starting out, that I felt like a fraud – certain that at any moment the Imposter Police were going to show up at the door of my office in the skyscraper and escort me out. Or maybe they’d just throw me out of my twenty-second-floor window. Over time, I came to appreciate my own expertise and employed some of the strategies I mention below to reconcile my view.
 
Humans have probably experienced these feelings through the ages, but the modern concept seems to have begun with the research of Dr. Pauline Clance in the seventies.  She initially believed what she called the “imposter phenomenon” was experienced exclusively by successful women in a male-dominated culture. Through additional research, she came to realize that fraudulent feelings are rife throughout the population.
 
She developed an extensive questionnaire to determine whether one has the syndrome. This New York Magazine article last year created a nine-question quiz that will give you a quick take, if you really need confirmation.
 
Some research also links imposter syndrome with perfectionism. That’s the sense that “if I can’t do this job perfectly, I must not be qualified. I’m a fraud.”
 
The primary problem for leaders is that if you feel like a fraud, your executive presence – your communication – will suffer. Here are a few thoughts and tips I’ve used successfully myself and with clients on how to deal with imposter syndrome:
 

1. Remember, you’re not alone
As I noted, 70 percent of people at some point feel fraudulent. And this is true at every level of an organization. I work with CEOs and other very senior leaders who feel this way. In fact, the higher you rise in an organization, the more likely you are to feel less than qualified, especially in the beginning.
 
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, said that he and other CEOs talk about feeling like imposters in their roles. “Very few people,” he said, “whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”
 
2. Stop comparing yourself
There will always be people who are better and worse than we are, but we tend to compare ourselves with those who seem to have it all together. There is no upside in this comparison unless you are using someone as a role model to motivate you. Remember, they too have moments of deep insecurity.
 
3. Express your fears
As they say, FEAR is false evidence appearing real. So much of what we see and interpret passes through the negative filter created by our anxiety or perfectionism. We set such high standards and believe we are not achieving anything worthwhile. Talking to a trusted friend, mentor or professional counselor can give you the perspective you need to see the reality. Sometimes, just verbalizing your fear can provide release.
 
4. Suspend judgment
Consistent with this perspective is giving yourself a break. Try to turn off the negative voice in your head that is reminding you today of past insecurities or failures.
 
5. Reframe your story
One way to stop the negative voice in your mind is to reframe your story. As humans, we are hardwired for and the person we tell stories to the most is ourselves.
 
Take the time to write down the feelings you are experiencing as an “imposter.” Look for the root of the story. Did a parent, a coach or a high school kid say something that left you with an imprint? Was it a perceived “failure” that set a standard you’re applying today? If so, draw that out and rewrite the story. What happened in the past is not relevant to what you face today. The past does not have to be prolog to the present.
 
6. Shift your mindset
What I’ve found is helpful with clients is your mindset in two ways away from a focus on yourself: First, shift from you to the value you are bringing to others. Think in specific terms about what you do that has impact on people. Second, change from a performance mindset to a learning mindset. It’s better to gauge whether you are growing than whether you are measuring up, especially in a new position.
 
7. Fake it until you become it
In her viral TED Talk, which I recommend you watch, Dr. Amy Cuddy described her own feelings of being an imposter. She had planned to drop that section of her talk as “too personal” and later was surprised to find an outpouring of people who resonated with her story.

Cuddy’s research led her to conclude that adopting body language may physically transform us, through the release of confidence-boosting hormones. You don’t have to fake it till you make it. You can fake it until you become it.
 
As you continue to take on new challenges, it’s only natural to feel some sense of inadequacy. That’s how you know you’re growing because personal growth happens outside of our comfort zones. And that’s okay.
 
As Dr. Cuddy concludes in her excellent follow-up book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges:
 
Most of us will probably never completely shed our fears of being fraudulent. We’ll just work them out as they come, one by one. I can’t say that you will soon shed all your impostor anxieties forever. New situations may stoke old fears; future sensations of inadequacy might reawaken long-forgotten insecurities. But the more we are aware of our anxieties, the more we communicate about them, and the smarter we are about how they operate, the easier they’ll be to shrug off the next time they pop up. It’s a game of whack-a-mole we can win.
 
Well said. Please use the buttons below to share this with someone who might benefit.
 

Photo by Louis Blythe on Unsplash

How to Introduce a Guest Speaker

I'd like to introduce a man with a lot of charm, talent, and wit. Unfortunately, he couldn't be here tonight, so instead . . .

–– Melvin Helitzer


One of the most frequent requests I get is for tips on how to introduce a guest speaker. This is understandable because we are so seldom asked to perform this ritual and an introduction is so easy to mess up.

We’ve all seen it:

  • The introduction that seems to last longer than the speech
  • The person who reads word-for-word a long biography exactly as it is printed in the program
  • The introducers who make it more about themselves than the speaker 

These are just a few examples of how the simple act of welcoming someone to the stage can go awry.
 
With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you next time you’re called upon to make an introduction:

Do your research
You may have the speaker’s bio, but you should still do some homework before the event. Go online or talk to people who know the guest. Your goal should be to learn what is most interesting about this person.
 
If possible, talk with the person ahead of time. You’ll not only make a connection, but you can ask how the person would like to be introduced.

If the biography is in the program, point that out and then cover a few highlights that you believe are most relevant and compelling to your audience.
 
Make it personal
You may receive a bio or a written introduction for some speakers. As a professional speaker and trainer, I have short- and medium-length introductions ready to go.
 
If you receive one of these for a speaker, it’s most effective to personalize it based on your experiences. It could be from your research, from a colleague who has praised this speaker, or from your own interactions with this person. A brief story can have a huge impact in effectively kicking off the talk.

I always appreciate it when I’m introduced with a personal touch. This helps me to develop an intimate relationship with the audience more quickly.
 
Don’t steal the show
While it’s good to make the personal connection with the speaker, it’s also important to avoid making it about yourself. You can talk about your personal experience briefly, but then quickly transfer attention to the speaker.
 
Keep it brief
Your job is to set the tone and to transition the person to the audience. Your introduction should be clear, concise, and focused. In most cases, 60 to 90 seconds should be your goal, with some introductions shorter and some longer depending on the situation.
 
Practice your intro
It’s good to rehearse your introduction, making sure that what reads well on paper sounds good when spoken. Practicing out loud will help you feel comfortable and confident. I tell my coaching clients that reading is not rehearsing. It doesn’t count unless the words are spoken from your lips.
 
Critical tip: Make sure you have the correct pronunciation of the speaker’s name. Few things will be more embarrassing for you, and awkward for the speaker, than mispronouncing the person’s name.
 
Establish the speaker’s authority
It’s important for you to establish the speaker’s credibility as an expert on the topic and the relevance to this audience. Whether you’re in a small meeting or at a convention, it’s critical to connect the audience’s needs and interests with the speaker’s talk. People always want to know, “why should I care about what this person will say?”
 
Show your excitement for the speaker
How you introduce a speaker can set the tone not only for the speech but for your entire event. Too many introductions are lukewarm, merely going through the motions.
 
If you’re excited about what comes next, you need to let people know, through your voice, your body language, and your facial expressions. Bring some energy to your introduction, ask for a warm welcome, and lead the applause.
 
Stay focused with your eyes and body toward the speaker and smile and welcome that person like an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time.
 
The art of the introduction is not easy, but with some planning and practice, you can create a warm welcome that makes all the difference.

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Challenge Your Beliefs

Some things are true whether you believe in them or not.

–– City of Angels movie character

 
When I wrote about Amazon’s Leadership Principles a few months ago, I was struck by this sentence: “[Our leaders] seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.”

It’s a novel statement for a company and one that few of us practice.
 
Indeed, human beings, for the most part, practice the opposite: we work to reinforce and confirm our beliefs. This is known as “confirmation bias.”
 
We search our environment for information to confirm our beliefs, we interpret data to support our beliefs, we discount evidence that might conflict with our beliefs, and some of us even attack people who hold views contrary to our beliefs.
 
This is most apparent, of course, in our current political environment where we cocoon in segregated ideological communities with unlimited sources of “news” available to confirm our views.
 
In this world, critical thinking is more important than ever. We are inundated with more information than ever, and we are more distracted than ever, which means we are left with impressions of the truth.
 
We need to be able to sift through the information to find out what is actually true.

Critical thinking is the most important skill we must develop. But there is less of it on, of all places, college campuses where students too-often oppose campus speakers who hold views contrary to their own.
 
Many of us cling to our views, despite them being outdated and no longer valid. While these beliefs might not be as old as “the world is flat” and “the earth is at the center of the universe,” we often hold beliefs long past their expiration dates.
 
With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you develop your critical thinking skills as you challenge your own beliefs:

Learn to listen without judgment
When we hear others discuss ideas and beliefs, we are apt to judge them, their conclusions, and their motivations so quickly that while they’re talking, we’re already thinking of our responses.
 
The fact is, our minds can’t multitask, so if we’re thinking about what we’ll say next, or how we’ll fix the problem, we’re no longer listening to the person speaking.
 
Instead, try to be fully present and hear what the person is really saying. Ask questions to go deeper and understand why they believe those positions. We so seldom really listen to people that it can be a remarkable experience for the listener to hear, as well as for the speaker to be heard.
 
Seek to understand
In his seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, * Stephen Covey emphasizes one of the key habits, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Covey shared an event he experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York that illustrates how we can hold mistaken beliefs:
 
People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
 
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. 
 
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, ‘Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?’
 
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, 'Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either.'
 
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn't have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man's pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. ‘Your wife just died? Oh, I'm so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?’ Everything changed in an instant.
 
Proactively find conflicting views
Instead of listening to news channels that confirm your views, seek out stations that promote the opposite viewpoint. If you watch Fox News, watch MSNBC. These broadcasts vividly illustrate how we can view the same information through our own colored lenses. Try to understand what information and experiences would bring people to hold those views.
 
Argue the other side
In college, my favorite extracurricular activity was serving on the national debate team.

In half of the debate rounds, my partner and I would argue an affirmative case for a legislative change, often a compelling issue of national controversy. In the other half of the rounds, we would argue against a proposal, often the same idea we had earlier advocated.
 
This gave us the ability to fully understand all of the nuances of arguments for and against positions. We developed critical thinking skills that allowed us to make better decisions and modify positions based on new and compelling arguments.
 
Kill your self-limiting beliefs
I believe the most destructive beliefs we hold are about ourselves and our own capabilities. We are locked into self-limiting beliefs that keep us from achieving our full potential.
 
We know we should try to achieve something outside of our comfort zones, which is where personal growth occurs, yet we are held back by our self-limiting beliefs. Often that is due to FEAR, which is often referred to as False Evidence Appearing Real.
 
What about you?
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t have beliefs, or that we should change them all on a whim. Instead, we should examine our beliefs.
 
Start with a single belief about an issue in your business, in politics, or about a person who annoys you. How did you come to that belief? Is it still valid?
 
Take the time to examine your beliefs. You might be surprised by what you learn.

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