I was interviewed by Thomas Capone of the New York Distance Learning Association yesterday and the video recording of our 55 minute conversation is now available on their website.

About Thomas Capone, Director NYDLA

Thomas A. Capone is CEO of MTP-USA, one of the fastest growing telecommunications companies in the United States. Servicing over 300 of the Fortune 1000 companies in the United States. Thomas Capone’s clients include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S secret service. Thomas Capone is also executive director of the New York Distance Learning Association (NYDLA).

His idea behind the New York Distance Learning Association (NYDLA) is that everything is now about distance learning, not just higher education. Everything is about remote work, tele-work, file sharing, virtual classrooms, virtual work. Even virtual play! Look at the world of video games and virtual reality technologies. The NYDLA brings not only the technology – but smart people – the subject matter experts to those who must master this new world of global distance learning to be successful. The future of our world is to be a global marketplace, and it only makes sense to master the technologies and the distance learning techniques of this new world.

Original Recording here: https://nydla.org/podcasts-conor-neill/

What we cover in the Interview

  • 00:00 Welcome to Coffee in the Clouds
  • 00:27 Who is Conor?
  • 02:35 How did you become a teacher?
  • 05:35 A story about my father… “Those that can, do; those that can’t teach”
  • 12:40 The lessons of life: Faith, Hope and Love
  • 14:40 Let your intuition guide you
  • 15:30 How do you define Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Manager and Leader?
  • 15:57 What is a teacher?
  • 17:12 What is a coach?
  • 18:56 What does a mentor do? How do you find purpose?
  • 31:30 What is a manager and what is a leader?
  • 36:10 How did Aristotle have such an impact on the world?
  • 37:40 How to move from in person to online communications?
  • 42:00 “you can’t coach speed!” what are the limits to coaching/teaching?
  • 47:00 What value would you share with a child as the basis of a good life?

Be Persistent. Success takes time.

Tom Peters often says that “Everything important in Life takes time”. If you can start something and get it done ASAP, it probably is not that important.

In order to plant the seeds for important things… you need to shift your time horizon to the long term.

Building trusted Relationships… takes time.

Establishing the support of allies… takes time

Listening… takes time

Thoughtfulness… takes time

Gratitude and small gestures… takes time.

Tom Peters says that 50% of your time should be unscheduled. He asks “What’s the most important thing you do as a leader?” I paused and thought… and then he answered.

Daydreaming.

Daydreaming. Visualising a better future. Allowing your ideas to flow. Seeing from a bigger perspective.

The Worst thing a Leader can do

There is nothing worst than a boss running around from one meeting to another, unprepared, arriving late, rushed, busy, frustrated, hassled.

Speed for speed’s sake is crap.

Don’t scale crap.

Great people know that the most important thing is deep, trusting relationships with good people.

“There is no stress”

Warren Rustand

Every year in November (except this year of Covid travel restriction) I have the privilege of teaching on the EO Global Leadership Academy together with Warren Rustand.

Each year a debate starts.

Warren says “there is no stress”.

28 world leading entrepreneurs all disagree… and 6 days later, most have begun to change their minds. It happens every time.

The video below shares Warren’s outlook on how to lead your own life.

If you liked this post, you will also like my other Warren Rustand inspired posts The 3 Key Moments of a Human Life and How the US President Plans his Days.

This week I had the privilege of listening to Toni Nadal, coach of #1 tennis legend Rafa Nadal, share his story with the Vistage community. He spoke about his approach to helping Rafa prepare for difficult times. The central focus of Toni was removing all excuses from Rafa’s mindset.

How to Prepare for Difficult Times

Lessons from the life of Rafa Nadal

Conferences 2020 style…

The Struggle is the Way. It was important for Toni Nadal to help Rafa learn to love the struggle, to accept that nothing worthwhile comes easily.

He worked in practice on Rafa’s capacity to stay the course, to struggle to the end, to fight to the last minute of practice, the last point in a match.

“An excuse has never won a match”

Toni Nadal

The excuse may be true, it may not be my fault, but only when I completely accept responsibility for my current situation can I find the power to change the path.

Your excuses are all correct.

Rafa: “It was hot” -> Toni: “It must have just have been hot on half the court?”

Toni Nadal worked on character, not on ability

Character gets you through the tough times

Where is your Locus of Control, 2 choices:

  1. Me as responsible,
  2. World as responsible

I only have power to change my life when I take responsibility for my current and future situation.

It is easy to Give Up

It is easy to complain

It is easy to find reasons to stop fighting

It is easy to give up

It is easy to say that today is not your day

It is easy to say that tomorrow will be better

It won’t be…

Not until you change.

You can use your mind in two ways -> find the excuse, or find the resourcefulness to get through.

If you search for excuses you are guaranteed to find excuses. The smarter you are, the better your excuses.

If you want to throw in the towel, throw in the towel. Just get that life is an uphill struggle…

Uphill Habits

The habits that matter are uphill habits Exercise, Listening, Getting clear on your goals… these take work

Donuts, Complaining and putting the TV on… these just flow down easily.

In the most recent edition of James Clear’s weekly newsletter, he shared this gem on improving your quality of life.

Be “Selectively Ignorant”

  • Ignore topics that drain your attention.
  • Unfollow people that drain your energy.
  • Abandon projects that drain your time.

Do not keep up with it all. The more selectively ignorant you become, the more broadly knowledgable you can be.

What or who do you need to start ignoring?

We cannot control how the news will make us feel, but we can decide whether to watch it or not. We cannot control how someones words will make us feel, but we can decide to spend time with people who want the best for us. Choose who and what you let into your mind.

I’ve had some tough days this year.

I am not alone.

Covid is a physical disease, but the wider impact will be on the mental health of the billions who have been hit by the economic shutdown.

Who do you feel is struggling to keep things together?

Every single one of us has incredible power to lift up the spirits of the people that are around us. It requires a choice. It is harder when you are struggling yourself. It is important. The people around you need your leadership.

How can we help those around us feel good about themselves?

In the video, I share 3 ideas.

  1. Ask Questions
  2. Let them help you
  3. Shine a light on their strengths

Who needs your attention today? Who around you would benefit from a few minutes of facetime or skype or a phone call?

On a walk yesterday in the Perimola region of Catalunya, about 2 hours drive from Barcelona. We went on a hike up to the hermitage of Castell Llebre.

My friend Mathieu Carenzo teaches Entrepreneurship at IESE Business School and is an early stage investor in many successful spanish startups, including some Unicorns. He shared 4 keys to identify a great business opportunity…

The 4 Keys to Identify a Great Business Opportunity

  1. Market: People need you. Your product or service solves a real pain in the lives of potential customers. The people with the pain have decision power over the money.
  2. Talent: You can get Resources. Computing resources, people with skills, infrastructure, good supplier network. You will be able to systematically deliver on your promises.
  3. Profit: Revenue greater than Costs. You have an ability to produce the product for less cost than the market is able to pay.
  4. Timing: The Market is ripe. If your idea comes too early and customers aren’t ready for it, they won’t change. If your idea comes too late and there are already a number of different competitors in front of your target customers, you won’t be able to squeeze in.

Entrepreneurship and Small Business

I’ll be making a number of videos over the coming weeks and months addressing the challenges of starting a business. There has been huge growth in new business formation in the US during Covid lockdown. One suggestion is that the government handouts of money have given many people the cushion of a couple of months they need to set up their own business. Entrepreneurship is not an easy ride, but it can be a path to a meaningful and rewarding life experience.

If you liked this post, you will also like reading Can we teach entrepreneurs? and entrepreneurial sales: overcoming the 3 major objections.

Neuroscience based Habits for Happiness… There is a saying that I heard recently from Elsa Punset… “Our brain is teflon for the positive and velcro for the negative” It is a powerful metaphor.

It is solidly grounded in psychological research. In good relationships the ratio of positive to negative comments is 7:1. 1 negative comment about a friend needs 7 positive statements to balance out… because our brain is so much more tuned into anything that risks our safety.

I noticed in the summer that I was paying attention to the difficulties, the challenges and was regularly in a state of anxiety and frustration. The habit that Albert shared with me – sending him a whatsapp each day for the next 21 days with 3 things I was grateful for – achieved a significant shift in how I was paying attention to the world around me… and then a shift in my inner state.

We never really have life figured out. There are a set of practices that help me remember what is important and help me put my mind into a creative, productive state. Sometimes I forget to do these practices, and over time I lose the power to access that creative, productive state.

My Grateful Whatsapp for today:

Gratitude 1/21

  • went for a run up on Ctra de les Aigues, along the mountain of Tibidabo this morning… there was a misty rain that is more common to Ireland… and it was wonderful to run with this light cooling mist.
  • I completed several Zoom-based online leadership and communications programs this week and I am feeling positive about my ability to teach via video.
  • Had a good night’s sleep. (I stopped drinking coffee 3 weeks ago because I was having trouble sleeping… and it is so good to wake up refreshed in the morning)
  • I can hear my daughter singing the music from Frozen II right now. She regularly fills our home with songs.

This morning’s run… atop the hill of Sant Pere Martir.

There are two modes of dealing with our life:

  • Living in Fear – the mode of seeking “Freedom from” and seeking validation for our past decisions
  • Living in Confidence – the mode of clarifying “Freedom to” and making choices as a responsible being.

Over the last 7 months, I have noticed that I have slipped into the living in fear mode. I knew what I didn’t want, but not what I did. I was waiting to see how the world would work out rather than committing to creating my own clear path.

I share these two modes in the video.

Stay safe.

In an episode of internet procrastination, I came across this tweet… and it led me down a rabbit hole.

Tom Peters, the Original Management Guru

Tom Peters wrote the book “In Search of Excellence” back in 1983 and began a major shift in Business studies. In place of scientific management, business began to look at what leadership might be… and begin to treat employees not as robots, but as human beings. The role of leadership is not to maximise production, it is both to achieve productivity and to make sure that employees, customers, owners and communities benefit in the process.

I came across a recent interview with Tom Peters. He spoke with Vala Afshar of Salesforce and Ray Wang of Constellation Research. I’ll share Vala’s summary of the interview (original article here)

11 Lessons on Life from Tom Peters: 

1. The most important leadership lessons were taught to us in middle school.  

Peters has advanced college degrees from Stanford and Cornell, and yet he remembers his 4th-grade teacher as one of the most influential people in his life. Peters said that his 4th-grade teacher loved him and the other students. It is about people who deeply care about other people. Care about your people. Teach them to be better humans. 

2. Never hire anyone who does not have high emotional intelligence (EQ).

And never, ever promote anyone who does not have a sky-high EQ.

“We only hire nice people” is a mantra that Tom Peters admires. Don’t hire the jerks, regardless of their deep expertise. Can we train for higher EQ? Peters thinks that if we have institutions that are thoughtful, caring, and people first, then we will have teaching opportunities to increase emotional intelligence.

3. Positive reinforcement is 30X more powerful than negative reinforcement. 

Peters talked about a Google study of their top employees and what made them perform. They discovered all of the top 7 attributes of their top employees were all soft skills. Project Oxygen had surprising results — the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The six top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills:

  1. being a good coach;
  2. communicating and listening well;
  3. possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
  4. having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
  5. being a good critical thinker and problem solver;
  6. being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Peters also talked about the negative impact of categorising players as A-players vs. B-players — the fastest way to demotivate half the population. 

4. Always start with honesty and humility. 

No living human being today knows what they are doing. There are no experts in unsolved problems. Regardless of the size of your business, we must all admit that we do not have the answers. Instead, let’s work together to make forward progress. Be human and care about people. Peters weeps about a 20-person restaurant owner who is struggling now. Peters talked about mangers who had to execute layoffs, but when doing so with compassion and empathy, the workers effected ended up hugging their hiring manager. Be human. 

5. Take care of your employees by protecting their safety, health, and future. 

Peters read a memo from the Blue Mountain Community College, Boardman, Oregon that was communicated to their employees during the work-from-home quarantine: 

  1. You are not “working from home,” you are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
  2. Your physical, mental, and emotional health are extremely important right now. Take care of yourself!
  3. You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours.
  4. Be kind to yourself and don’t judge how you are coping based on how you see others coping.
  5. Be kind to others and don’t judge others on how they are coping based on how you are coping.
  6. Success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.

6. It is about stakeholder value, not just shareholder value. 

Peters talked about long-term thinking companies have produced vastly more income, jobs, and wealth as compared to short-term thinking companies. You cannot expect customers to love your company before your employees do. Caring about your employees, customers, partners, and the community is good for business. If you take care of people, you will make a lot of money, this according to Peters. Maximizing shareholder value is no longer the path to sustainable growth. Values create value. 

7. This is the time to listen, learn, care more, and change. 

Tom Peters was not willing to comment about racial tensions in our country because he said that “I am part of the problem.” I asked Peters to talk about the current state of health, economic, racial, climate, and leadership crisis and he said that no one should pretend to know the answers to these unsolved problems.

8. What you have done in the past two months, and what you will do in the next two months will define your leadership legacy.  

Peters strongly urged business and community leaders to recognize that who they are as human beings will be defined by what they are doing now. Leaders emerge in times of crisis. How you behave, the degree which you were helpful, the degree of thoughtfulness will define you. 

9. There are two kinds of virtues — resume virtues and eulogy virtues. 

What will people say about you at your funeral?

Peters referenced the work by David Brooks and his article on eulogy virtues. Brooks wrote: 

“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues, and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”

David Brooks

Peters reminded us to focus on the eulogy virtues — this is how you can live a recommendable life. 

10. Leadership Team Must No. 1: Put more women in charge. 

In the age of COVID-19, Peters released a new piece titled “Excellence 2020: The 27 Number Ones,” succinct guidance about where to focus your leadership — from hiring and training to culture and management — now and always.

Tom Peters shared several research findings regarding why women are better leaders than men. Peters also talked about the importance of pay equality. Women should be paid the same as men for the same work. Peters also shared encouraging news about more women are graduating from colleges than men. When Peters graduated from Cornell, there was only one woman graduate out of 800 engineering students. Today’s Cornell graduating class consisted of 51% women graduates. 

The final story that Peters shared with us was an emotional story for Peters. The story involved Dwight David Eisenhower and the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landing, where Eisenhower went to the beach, putting his arms around the soldiers and wishing them Godspeed. I want you to see the video (35 minutes, 40 seconds into the video) because the delivery from Peters will bring tears to your eyes. 

11. Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind. 

Tom Peters referenced the famous quote from Henry James. Peters said that this mantra should be the guiding principle for all schools and businesses. Let us behave well as individuals now. Let us hold ourselves to a higher standard. 

Check out the original article by Vala or watch the full interview here below:

If you liked this post, you will also like 17 Daily Personal Habits for a Fulfilling Life.