Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Don't Be a Naked Emperor

I was lucky to be exposed at an early age to literary works with enduring lessons that I still apply today. One that has had value throughout my life is the classic “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The version of the story I remember is one depicted in a children’s illustrated paperback. The emperor was an arrogant lion that pranced around the empire naked after having been convinced that he was indeed clothed in the empire’s finest. The image of that naked lion has flashed before my eyes many times throughout my professional life, mostly while listening to leaders new to their positions.

The hardest cases to witness are those leaders that are truly well-intentioned and actually care. They are passionate about the purpose and course of the organizations they lead. When they finally take the reins, they waste no time slaying perceived organizational dragons, installing new systems, and creating new initiatives. Too often though, that leader may not have performed the necessary analysis before drawing their sword and slashing away.

He has more than likely known about the future leadership role for awhile and sure—he has planned his initial moves carefully. He has also gathered information prior to moving into his role from those that he is comfortable with and trusts. Together these confidantes have stewed on the company’s problems and plotted how they might change the world or at least their tiny corner of it.

It’s there that the emperor loses his fine clothes.

If you find yourself in a position where you will soon take a leadership role in your organization, I encourage you to first turn a critical eye on yourself. Ask yourself “Am I truly equipped for what lies ahead? What capability gaps do I have? What don’t I know?” Trust me: you don’t know everything going on in your new “empire”. Then, examine your sources of intelligence. Ask “I know we’ve been friends since I started in the company, but how reliable is Derek and Susan’s input? Who else should I be talking to?” A quick dose of introspection may bring to light that you’re not as prepared as you might think. Don’t be afraid to seek out advisors who aren’t afraid to note you and your organization’s shortcomings.

Because the worst time to find out you’re a naked emperor is after you’ve taken the throne.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Fitness Rant

As many of you know, my approach to physical fitness and overall health has changed recently. I’ve been applying the principles of Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body and it has changed the way I look and feel. I revel in going to the gym now and enjoy taking next steps toward my personal goals, mainly because his philosophies have provided me a construct that makes achievement actually possible.

Now, I’m not a meddler. Everybody has their own way of doing things and I’m averse to proposing new approaches unless I’m first asked. It’s just my nature. What I am is a helper. I get a high out of explaining something, providing a different perspective and watching someone’s mental clouds part as they discover a way of reaching their own personal definition of success. It becomes more attainable through the shared knowledge.

That being said, I often watch others out of the corner of my eye and grow frustrated at what I see. It’s not tactical: I’m not looking at them thinking “Man, I wish they’d fix the form they’re using on their squats” or “If only they tried this, they’d be so much better off!” It’s bigger than that. I see the same people at the gym because through some strange life-synergy, our schedules align. And many of them never make progress. It’s not that they’re not working hard—they are busting their butts! Their problem is what happens when they aren’t in the gym.

Look, I have struggled and have yo-yo’d back and forth on my weight and my overall bodyfat content. It wasn’t until I read two books that I began to change my views and my practices. They taught me the one thing that I want to scream at them in an overly-enunciated staccato: “You can work out all you want but you won’t change unless you change what you put in your body.” And I don’t want to do it because I’m mean or arrogant, I want to do it because I’ve been there and want to help people leave that horrible place.

The books are "Why We Get Fat "(http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307474259) and "The 4-Hour Body" (http://www.amazon.com/4-Hour-Body-uncommon-incredible-superhuman-ebook/dp/B003EI2EH2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397327275&sr=1-1&keywords=the+4+hour+body). If you have any questions, ask me. I’d love to help.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I am Iron Man

He walked into the room and his face went ash white. He was not ready for this. When you’re five years old and you’re forced to interact with a girl a year-and-a-half older than you so the parents can talk about adult stuff over good wine, it can be intimidating. So, he disappeared. I shrugged and went about drinking my wine and enjoying some good conversation.

Suddenly, he reappeared in spectacular fashion. He came out of his room and the ice between him and his young guest started to melt. They started playing hard like only kids can. Any confidence issues he had were gone. What made the difference? When he went into his room he changed into his Spiderman costume. And when he came out, he was no longer a small shy 5-year-old boy facing an awkward social predicament, but a superhero.

In the past few months, I’ve made a conscious decision to be better at everything. And I truly mean every aspect of my life. I’ve read books, listened to talks, learned new skills, and generally embraced anything that might improve my life and help me achieve my goals. The changes have been amazing and the resulting sense of happiness and satisfaction have been wonderful. What started it all for me?

“I am Iron Man.”

I really didn’t have much desire to see Iron Man 3. I have nothing against the franchise and I actually like Robert Downey, Jr. a lot, but the movies never really got me that excited. Then, I watched Iron Man 3. Downey’s character Tony Stark has everything a man could want: riches, fame, glory…you name it and he has it. Still, he struggles with anxiety initiated by PTSD and he is seeking to conquer his fears and return to form. At the end of the movie, there’s a great scene that explains his healing. Standing above the remnants of his home and towing the last bits of his possessions, he reminds us that even though we might lose everything, we always have our identities. In his case, he says as much by reminding himself that “I am Iron Man.” (http://youtu.be/kQxMdI6yAyw)

It was as powerful a lesson in mental modeling for me as was my young friend running around the house in a Spiderman costume. Finding a model you want to emulate can be a powerful, liberating thing! Choose a hero, a mentor, a celebrity, or even a former version of yourself and be that person! Find out why these people are so successful by your definition and try to best set those conditions in your life. Build the mental model of the person you want to become and the life you want to lead and then make it a reality.

And if along the way you find it necessary to remind yourself of that mental model, come up with a statement that brings you right back on azimuth towards your goals. It can be as simple as reminding yourself aloud “I will be healthier,” or “I will make a difference in the world.” Whatever has to be said to help you conjure up that mental model of success you’ve painted in your head.
Getting on the path to your definition of success can be as simple and as quick as reminding yourself that “I am Iron Man”.