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Success

5 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Comparison is the thief of joy.  

–– President Theodore Roosevelt


By John Millen

Here in the United States this weekend we celebrate the Labor Day holiday. 
 
This traditional break between summer and fall is a good opportunity to reflect on where we find ourselves at work, and in life.
 
A sense of frustration in corporate workplaces is a key problem I see in my travels. People complain about not being promoted quickly enough, that their rival has a better title, that someone else is favored by the boss.
 
This is not confined to young, ambitious employees; a sense that someone else is unfairly benefiting runs from the front lines to the boardroom in most companies.
 
It’s not our fault. We humans are hardwired as tribal, territorial animals. We think if someone else is winning, we must be losing. 
 
And, of course, this fear of loss, or fear of less, is not confined to work. We carry it throughout our lives.
 
Back in the day this comparison was called keeping up with the Joneses. That meant envying your neighbors’ possessions and spending to compete with their status and conspicuous consumption.
 
Social media envy
Social media has exponentially compounded this effect. People focus on the “perfect” lives of others: their expensive possessions, their fun-filled travel, their pristine family lives.
 
This is why “influencers” on Instagram and other media make millions from sales of products linked to the status, identity and lifestyle of their followers.
 
This is also why social media consumption is linked to depression, anxiety and other maladies. Tech companies have mastered and exploited our most basic human survival instincts.
 
Perception versus reality
What we fail to realize is that these perceptions we have of others, while real to us, are not reality. You never know the pain and struggles people have behind what we might think of as their perfect lives.
 
During my leadership workshops, I ask people to bring and tell a three-minute story they are comfortable sharing from their work or personal lives. With most groups, a handful of people will share stories of family or personal challenges that bring tears to your eyes. From simply seeing people in the workplace, and maybe envying their success, you have no idea where they really are in their lives.
 
Secret of life
The best advice I have is the old saying:the secret of life is not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have.
 
Follow that advice and you’ll find more contentment in your life. Here are a few other tips that might help:
 
1. Recognize what you have
If you take inventory of your life, you’ll find great riches: your family and friends, your skills, your work.
 
2. Express gratitude 
We are blessed. I’ve lost family members and friends and it’s not cliché that people don’t think about status and possessions at the end of their lives. It’s their relationships and experiences that matter.
 
Giving thanks for what you have can change your life. I have a practice, upon waking in the morning (even before I look at my phone!), of focusing on three things I intend to be grateful for that day. It might be a family member or friend, a client I enjoy working with, or something as simple as the fresh opportunities of a new day.
 
The other gratitude strategy I use is to be grateful when I’m under stress during the day. We believe the myth that we can multitask, but all we do is switch our thoughts back and forth. This means that when we feel envious, or angry, or depressed, purposely thinking of something we’re grateful for will literally change our minds. Try it. You can’t be grateful and jealous at the same time!
 
3. Realize you are perfect as you are
The U.S. economy derives some 70 percent of its power from consumer spending. To promote that consumption, we are constantly bombarded by advertising to create a sense of deprivation, a feeling of unease about what we don’t have. Don’t identify your worth with your status and stuff. You are perfect as you are.
 
4. Stuff impulse buying
This doesn’t mean you have to be a minimalist living with a chair, a toothbrush, and a pair of jeans. But considering purchases carefully can make a huge difference. 
 
Paul, a friend and neighbor of mine, recently handed me a print of this fascinating article about how the father of Rob Gronkowski, the retired NFL Patriots tight end, taught his five boys the value of money. He made them work and pay for sports equipment even as kids, and the family had a rule that if they desire something they should wait for two weeks before buying. Usually they’d pass on the item.
 
Unlike many NFL players who are broke despite multi-million-dollar contracts, Gronkowski banked all the money he was paid to join the league and, his father says, until a few years ago Rob was wearing the same jeans he wore in high school. 
 
5. Practice mindfulness
Our level of distraction is unprecedented. Not only with the pull of our phones and social media, but with the blurring of lines between work and home life. When we’re home with family, we’re still at work, and when we’re on the job, we’re thinking about home.
 
People also spend a lot of time living in the past or contemplating the future. As I said in a recent wedding toast, I believe the secret to life is being present and enjoying the current moment. That’s all we have.
 
Life is too short. Why waste your time comparing yourself to others?

If you have thoughts, feedback or questions for me, just visit my contact page.

With appreciation,


John


How to Build Stronger Relationships in Business and Life

If business comes from your relationships, relationships should be your business.

— Doug Ales


By John Millen

Working with 20 mid-level financial consulting leaders in Texas this week, I emphasized the critical need to develop relationships in all directions inside and outside their huge consulting firm.

That's because, when you think about, what's the one thing that all successful people have in common?

Intelligence? No.

Good looks? Nope.

Hard work? Not necessarily.

The real answer is relationships.

Behind every successful person … or more accurately, around every successful person, is a network of people who are there to provide the appropriate support at the right time. Think about it. No one has done anything alone.

Steve Jobs? He had Steve Wozniak and a legion of other great minds contributing intellectual capital and engineering skills.

LeBron James? He had four other starters, a bench full of role players and various coaches and trainers, as well as a community that protected and nurtured him in his journey

No individual achievements

No one has ever done anything alone. Even accomplishments that seem to be individual achievements are backed by a lifetime of relationships that brought that person to that moment.

In fact, it seems the more established and influential the network someone has, the greater the person's ability to achieve — to champion ideas, to solve problems, and to lead others.

There are no exceptions. Personal and professional success is, and forever will be, tied to building a network of relationships.

Unfortunately, the term “networking” has been tainted as negative by people who think it’s all about schmoozing at business functions and handing out business cards.

The truth is that great networking is really about creating, building and maintaining relationships. And at the heart of any relationship — whether personal or professional — is communication. It’s that simple.

My friend Frank Agin makes his living helping others create successful relationships. Frank is the founder and president of AmSpirit Business Connections, a franchise organization that helps people to develop stronger business relationships through structured weekly meetings.

Frank is also an author. In his book Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like and Trust to Create A Lifetime of Extraordinary Success, Frank writes that effective networking is not about rehearsed statements or formulaic activities. Rather effective networking is about getting people to know, like and trust us.

How do we communicate (in both word and deed) to get others to know, like and trust us? Frank says there is no magic to this; no secret tricks.

In Foundational Networking, Frank advocates that getting people to know, like and trust us is merely a function of our attitudes and habits surrounding three things: Presence, Altruism, and Integrity. Here is how he describes those attributes:

Presence

Presence involves your attitudes and habits toward how you carry yourself and how you appear to others. In other words, what do your words and actions communicate to the world around you?

Ask yourself, who are you are drawn to …

·      The person who is happy or the person who is gloomy?

·      The person who expresses optimism or the person who is pessimistic?

·      The person who demonstrates great courage or the person who lives in a state of fear?

No doubt, you are attracted to the happy, optimistic and courageous person. Now answer this: When people see you, what do they see? When they hear you, what do they hear? In a quiet, private moment, give yourself that honest assessment.

To build relationships which, remember, ultimately drives success, you need to adopt attitudes and habits that communicate happiness, optimism, and courage. These things will attract people to you.

Altruism

Altruism is next. It involves all your attitudes and habits related to your disposition toward contributing to the lives of others. That is, to what extent are you committed to giving to the world around you — not just money or physical assets, but also time and talent.

Ask yourself, who are you are drawn to, the person who is focused on giving to the world around them or the person who is focused on getting from it? You likely answered the giver.

And that answer is consistent with the research Dr. Adam Grant reported in his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach To Success

Now honestly assess yourself. To what extent do your words and actions communicate benevolence? What do you give? To whom do you give? Why?

You need to remember that when it comes to communicating an altruistic attitude, it’s not really about what you give, or how much you give. Rather, what matters most is the spirit that moves you. Know that people are drawn to those who genuinely communicate a generous spirit.

Integrity

Integrity, finally, involves your attitudes and habits with respect to how you interact with others. Who are you drawn to, the trustworthy person or the person whose integrity comes into question?

While the answer to that question is rhetorical, you can make a candid assessment of your own integrity. Are you trustworthy, doing the right thing even if it might not be in your best interest? Are you reliable, doing what you say you are going to do?

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t answer these questions on the basis of major interactions or significant transactions alone. While those are important to be sure, 99.9% of the population passes those tests.

Where this assessment is most critical is the little things. After all, this is where others judge you the most, looking to see how you communicate your integrity when the stakes may not be as high and when very few people are watching.

Success is Relationship-Based

In summary, Frank notes that your success is tied to others. It is your relationships and how you communicate with the people around you.

As such, Frank says your attitudes and habits need to be geared towards communicating …

·      A happy, optimistic and courageous existence;

·      A willingness to contribute to the people around you; and,

·      An air of honesty and reliability with everything you do.

This is how others will come to know, like and trust you, developing relationships that foster success for you, and for them.

If you have thoughts, feedback or questions for me, please visit my contact page.

With appreciation,


John

Get One Percent Better Every Day

Get One Percent Better
 

Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.  —  Albert Einstein
 

By John Millen 
 
Think about a time you’ve tried to achieve change, perhaps to lose weight, exercise more often, increase sales, or develop new skills at work.
 
Most of us want to improve our business or personal lives. So we often set big goals, and start strong with great effort and enthusiasm. Over time we plateau, we back off the effort, and we may even reduce or abandon the goal.
 
Lasting change
The secret to long-term change, it turns out, is small, sometimes imperceptible, changes of habit.
 
As John Wooden, the late Hall of Fame college basketball coach, said, “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning.
 
“Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts,” Wooden said.
 
James Clear argues for the power of small changes in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.
 
Clear calls habits “the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.”
 


One-percent solution

Clear cites the effects of simply improving 1 percent every day. If you were to improve at an activity 1 percent, you would improve results by thirty-seven times in a year! 
 
Think about that in the context of what you’re trying to improve: one more sales call per day, one healthy meal per day, one short walk per day. A 1 percent consistent, positive movement can improve your results by thirty-seven times in a year!
 
“This can be a difficult concept to appreciate in daily life. We often dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment,” Clear writes. “It is only when looking back over two, five or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
 
Continuous improvement
I have a client, the CEO of a Fortune 1000, who is leading a massive change initiative. He often refers to Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement. He asks his leaders and associates to take personal responsibility for change by improving their own work and skills every day, which will contribute to the whole company’s success.
It’s bringing our attention to the micro, to the incremental, that creates lasting change.
 
I learned the power of consistent improvement when I trained for a marathon some years ago. While I’ve had a life-long devotion to fitness, 26.2 miles at once seemed daunting. But as I followed a training plan that slowly added mileage each week, I soon found myself happily crossing the finish line of my first marathon.
 
In the same vein, my wife was an inconsistent exerciser until I gifted her with a Fitbit for Christmas several years ago. With a specific goal of 10,000 steps per day, she became obsessed with making her daily quota and remains a devoted daily exerciser. 
 
Develop a simple habit or process that you can repeat every day. This is the secret to long-term, sustainable change.
 
What can you improve 1 percent every day that will improve results in your life or business by thirty-seven percent after a year?
 
If you have thoughts, feedback or questions for me, visit my contact page to connect with me directly.

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How to End Your Presentationon a Positive Note

How to End Your Presentationon a Positive Note

I realized the secret to success was finishing! And not just finishing, but finishing strong!

–– Eric Thomas


By John Millen

Which is more important, the opening of your presentation, or the close?
 
This is an oft-debated question because they’re both critically important. In communication, we talk about primacy and recency. Do people better remember what they hear first or what they hear last?
 
Generally speaking, due to extremely limited attention spans, I believe your opening is more important because if you don’t engage people right away, you might lose them forever.
 
There’s also that matter of making a positive first impression. If you get off to a bad start, you’ve dug a hole that can be difficult to climb out.
 
Having said that, how you end your presentation is also critically important. It’s a crucial part of how you organize your presentation. You definitely need to end on a strong note that is action oriented. 
 
Here are three tips to help you end on a positive note. These apply to speeches, meeting presentations, sales and all other communication that is meant to influence others:
 
1) Summarize 
We like to say that a speech, in its simplest form, has three parts: You should tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. Reinforcement of your message is extremely important. (Remember those teeny tiny attention spans.) Summarizing this way will help you to streamline your presentation.
 
2) Issue your call to action 
Asking people to do something, almost anything that is relevant to your presentation, matters for retention of your ideas. That’s because our brains are activated by requests. 
 
If there is no request made, people walk away retaining very little information because they have no reason to do anything with it. If there’s no action associated, it doesn’t get flagged as important.

By issuing a request, you have alerted their brains to the fact that something must be done with the information you provided. Your call to action can take many forms from you requesting certain behavioral actions, like buying or signing up, to something simply attitudinal like being open-minded about a controversial topic or change you discussed. In any case, ask for something.

3) Questions and answers 
If you take questions at the end of your presentation, it is important to end on a positive note. To do that you should plan to do two different closes. At the end of your first close, provide your summary and your call to action, then say “thank you” to signal the audience for applause.
 
Then announce that you’ll take questions, perhaps for a certain amount of time, and begin your Q&A. As the questions wind down, try to end on a positive question that has a strong response from you. If you don’t have a positive question to end on, finish your response to the neutral or negative question in a positive way.
 
Then say something about time running out and offer your second close, which is a slightly reworded summary and call to action so people leave with your key messages and with an action step to take, helping to aid their recall of your message.

That’s called ending on a positive note.
 
You can tell me your stories, thoughts or ideas with me by visiting my contact page.

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John 
 

How to Communicate Change as a Leader

Adapt to Change Quickly: The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.

–– Spencer Johnson, MD, author, Who Moved My Cheese?


By John Millen

Leadership is often described as getting people to do what they wouldn’t do on their own. 
 
This is the primary charge of a leader. It’s your job as a leader to influence people to adapt to constantly changing circumstances.
 
And some experts posit that, given the advance of technology, the pace of change we see today will be the slowest of our lifetimes. This creates a greater challenge for leaders and their teams to adapt.
 
‘Don’t like change’
I’m sure you’ve heard people at work say they don’t like change. The truth is they don’t like change at work.
 
I say that because in our personal lives we accept change as inevitable: people move, people get married, people create homes, people have kids, people move to bigger homes, people buy larger cars, and on and on.
 
It’s change. The cycle continues and we accept these changes as a part of living.
 
Nonetheless, when it comes to their workplaces many people somehow expect that things will stay the same. This, despite the fact that their businesses, their industries and their own tastes in products and services change all the time.
 
This is why communication is a critical, and often undervalued, success factor for leading change. With massive disruption in once-stable industries, how effectively you communicate will determine how well you influence the attitudes and behavior of the people critical to your success.

Having worked through or advised more than thirty mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations here are some lessons I’ve learned on how to communicate to successfully lead people through change: 

Focus on why
Leaders often rush to the how and what of their changes, sending orders to the troops with task lists of what they need to accomplish and when they must be done. People will certainly comply, but not with a sense of purpose. They may be smiling, but if you look closely, those are fake smiles.
 
Creating a narrative of purpose — a clear vision — gives a sense of mission that will produce better long-term results. Take the time to convey a clear picture of the end state. 
 
Some leaders think of this as a waste of time, so called “soft skills,” but it turns out people are emotional beings who have to buy into their leaders before they buy into the vision.
 
Mental transitions
One pro tip for communicating massive change: search for appropriate analogies or examples in the marketplace that help people understand transition to the future. These help people see the relationship between the past, the present, and future states. 
 
For example, look at Apple. It transitioned successfully from computer hardware and software to smartphones and music. With the slowdown of iPhone sales, Apple is transitioning to wearable technology for healthcare (iWatch), a service business, and perhaps even autonomous vehicles. There’s even talk of Apple, with its surplus of cash, buying Netflix. Every business needs to evolve.
 
Be clear about what you want them to do
Having said that you should focus on purpose doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be clear about specifics. While you want to be visionary, it’s important to provide a clear, believable path to your end state. The best course is to engage and involve people in creating the outcomes, rather than simply directing them.
 
Address the fear with empathy
The deep-seated fear of change lives in our amygdala, the small ancient part of our brains, where we feel the “fight or flight” sensations. It feels real. People wonder whether they’ll lose their jobs — be kicked out of the tribe, as it were. Their survival is threatened.
 
Technology exacerbates the fear tenfold. The rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics increases the sense of dread. It all seems to have happened so quickly. 
 
It’s easy to destroy a culture of trust by being tone deaf to people’s concerns. With this in mind, your empathy can go a long way in maintaining trust with people. 
 
Overcommunicate
When telling your story of change, repetition is your friend. I tell CEOs and other senior leaders that about the time you’re sick of repeating your messages is when people will begin to hear them.
 
We obviously live in a distracted world where, unless you share a clear, consistent story with repetition at every level through every communication channel, people will not hear you.
 
In a world of constant change, your ability to communicate change is not only important, it is a skill that will, over time, make you a more valuable leader. 

All the best,

John


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How to Change Your Habits for Success in 2019

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.  

–– Aristotle


As we begin the New Year, most of us get the urge to change our lives and make a fresh start.

This year’s NPR/Marist Poll finds the usual suspects as our top 2019 resolutions: losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, and being a better person.

Many of us make bold resolutions and ambitious plans to achieve these and other aspirations.

And we fail. We fail miserably: Research reveals that as few as 8 percent of us are successful with our New Year’s resolutions.

Of course, this is why fitness centers may sign up 5,000 new members in January for a facility that will hold only 500 people at a time.
 
As we enter 2019, how about considering a different approach?
 
Try making just two small changes this year. One now, and one in six months. I’ve put this into practice over the past few years with great success. This approach means that every year you will have changed two of your habits by the end of the year.
 
Small Changes are Powerful
Changing two habits a year might seem too small, too easy. But science proves that the lasting changes in our lives come from making small changes that are easier to implement.
 
Consider this small, but powerful example: “Replace a soft drink with water at just one meal — say, lunch. With this small change, you will drink approximately forty more gallons of water per year, while not drinking forty gallons of carbonated sugar. You also save up to fifty thousand calories and as much as five hundred dollars.” From Small Change, Little Things Make a Big Difference by Susan and Larry Terkel.
 
In his new book, Atomic Habits: An easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, * author James Clear notes the compounding effect of small changes in habits: getting one percent better every day will produce results that are 37 times better at the end of the year.

"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement," Clear writes. "The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous."

The Power of Habits
I’ve always worked on continuous self-improvement, but never understood how to change habits until a few years ago when I read this great book: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explores the neuroscience of habits, using vivid examples from sports, business and life, including the NFL, Michael Phelps, Target, P&G and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, among many others.
 
Conserving Brain Energy
Habits are critical to our brain function. To conserve energy, our brains run routines by habit that we don’t have to think about. Duhigg says up to 40 percent of our daily activities are done by unconscious habit. This becomes clear when we drive to the same location so often that we sometimes arrive and don’t remember how we got there.
 
But the key to this book for me was understanding the simple process of how habits function and how they can be hacked to make a positive change.
 
The 'Habit Loop'
Duhigg calls this the "Habit Loop.” He explains: "This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which behavior to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward.”
 
Here’s how it worked for me: I like to work out a lot, so I’ve never had a weight problem, but a few years ago I found myself with a severe nighttime sweet tooth. I didn’t need the extra sugar and calories and started getting some extra winter “insulation” on the tummy.
 
CUE: At a certain point in the evening, whether I was watching TV, reading a book or doing work, I’d get the feeling it was time for a snack. You know, The Craving.  ;-)
 
ROUTINE: I would wander into the kitchen for a snack. It would usually be a nice helping of ice cream or a few cookies.
 
REWARD: I got the sweet taste of the dessert and the rush of blood sugar.
 
I wasn’t consciously being a Cookie Monster; I realize now that I was just caught in the loop.
 
I'm simplifying Duhigg's advice here, but his research found that the secret to changing your habit is to identify and tweak your routine.  I successfully used these steps to change my nightly dessert habit.
 
CUE: For me, the tweak was this: when the cue occurred, my evening dessert craving, I would still wander into the kitchen.
 
ROUTINE: In initially changing the routine, I told myself I could still have ice cream or cookies, but first I would have a piece of fruit and a glass of water and wait for 15 minutes. I did that and went back to whatever I was doing.

REWARD: This is the interesting part. I was shocked that from the very first time I ate an apple, drank the water and refocused on what I was doing, I was satisfied and not craving more sweets. My substitute reward gave me a sweet taste, the act of chewing and the water quenched my thirst. (Nutritionists say that often what feels like hunger is dehydration.)

Mistaken Rewards
Sometimes we are seeking a reward that is not necessarily what we might assume. Duhigg details getting up from his desk every day at 3 p.m. to get a cookie from the cafeteria at the New York Times building, where he is a reporter.

Then he would walk around and socialize with his colleagues. The reporter tweaked his routine to skip the cookie and go to the social break, which was really his reward.

The other interesting thing that happens is that when you change one habit, positive changes seem to build on one another. If you exercise regularly, you might find yourself wanting to eat healthier foods.

How about You?
What habit do you most want to change?

Think about this habit: What are cue, routine and reward of this habit and how can you tweak them to rewire your habit?

Would you consider skipping the New Year’s resolutions and instead change just two small habits this year?

Give it a try. I believe that if you change your habits, you change your life.

Thank you for sharing this year with me.

Wishing you great success and happiness in 2019,

John

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