I heard David Meerman Scott share this question in a recent Elevate podcast episode with host Bob Glazer. He was asked by someone “Imagine you are in a room with 2,000 people. What could you confidently say you are the best in the room at?”

Take a moment to reflect on this question. I imagined myself in a room full of entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers… and wasn’t sure I could give a completely confident answer.

Now imagine that you have 20 years before you step into that room… What do you want to be able to say in 20 years that you have done the work to truly be a master, to have established a reputation for excellence, to have made a difference? Write that down.

If you liked this post, you will also like Excellence: the Path to Mastery and Finding Purpose.

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Original article posted at Forbes 20th January 2020 How to be Happier and More Productive in 2020.

I’ve spent the last 16 years working with CEOs and entrepreneurs to help them get clear on their purpose, get great people around them, execute their decisions and enjoy their life in the process. 

The fact that you are reading this indicates that you are purposeful. The challenge for leaders is how this effectiveness leads to an enhanced quality of life.

How to be happier and more purposeful in 2020 and beyond

Author and Harvard professor David Maister says “success is enjoying your life. If you don’t enjoy what you do, the company of the people you do it with, and the impact you are making in the world… it cannot be considered success.”

A happy life is not the absence of pain. In achieving anything of significance: pain is guaranteed, but misery is optional. Anyone who has climbed Everest has been through a lot of pain. All significant achievements of meaning require the willing acceptance of the pain necessary to make the journey, to do the work, to learn the skills. 

7 mindsets that connect a purposeful life to a happy life

  1. Think about what you can achieve in 10 years, not in a week. We so underestimate what we can achieve in a decade, and we so overestimate what we can achieve in a day or a week. Shift your focus to what you can achieve over the next decade. Where can your health, your relationships, your financial wellbeing, your skill mastery be in a decade? It is far more inspiring to see a decade of achievement than a weeks worth of tasks.
  2. Think in terms of who you will become (character), not what you will have (possessions.) I have been running leadership retreats for many years now. As we come to the end of any year, one of the questions that I ask leaders to reflect and share during the retreat is “what three words represent who you will become in 2020?” It forces thinking about how I will be, rather than what I will accomplish. My three words for 2020 are Generous, Focused and Kind. What three words would you choose?
  3. Think in terms of process goals, not results goals. I spent over a decade leading sales organisations… and we are taught not to let sales people share results, but activity. A results goal could be to grow my business by 20%. A process goal is to make two more calls per day. A results goal is to lose 10 kilograms. A process goal is to leave two bites unfinished on every plate.
  4. Think about changes in your environment, not your willpower. If you want to eat less chocolate, don’t have it in your home. If you want to do more exercise, put your sports gear on as soon as you wake up. If want to use Facebook less, delete the app. High performers don’t have greater willpower, they remove the distractions from their life.
  5. Don’t negotiate with your excuses. As soon as you decide to take any action, your mind will come up with reasons why not to do it. Don’t engage in this discussion. Your excuses have access to all of your intelligence and they will win. 
  6. Fix the little things, and the big things can take care of themselves. Over the last 3 years I’ve had a habit of noting down each afternoon my “love/hate” list. I note everything that has added to my enjoyment of life on the left, and everthing (and everyone) who has detracted from my life on the right. It is often small things that detract. I have acted to remove anything that consistently appears in my “hate” list from my environment. 
  7. Think why, who, how… not what, when, how…. In every Vistage CEO decision coaching process, the first question we ask is “why is this important to you?” And we will stay with this question until we truly understand why… before we move to who can help and how to execute. Start with why. Do what is important, not what is convenient.

David Brooks has career success, but in this TED talk he shares how he found himself empty. 5 years ago, his wife left, his kids had moved out… and he discovered he had nothing to do outside of work. He had mid-week friends, but he had no weekend friends.

Success in career is not success in life.

Individual happiness is transient and empty.

David’s 2 antidotes:

  • Commit to People. Achieving individual freedom is nice, but the our life needs committed connection to others… to not be free.
  • Chase Joy not Happiness. Joy comes when our ego dissolves in the pursuit of something bigger.

“Suffering breaks some people, and breaks some people open”

This post-divorce loneliness crisis led David to explore a deeper way of connecting to others. He began to lose his individual freedom in order to commit to other people.

Our society is in the midst of a social crisis: we’re trapped in a valley of isolation and fragmentation. How do we find our way out?

“Joy is not the expansion of self, it is the dissolution of self.”

Check out David’s full TED talk below:

This list is Conor’s “Sunday afternoon in a coffee shop brain dump” of reasons why Business Leaders seek the support of an Executive Coach or Mentor either independently or through an organisation like Vistage.

I’ve been working on leadership development for over a decade through my roles at IESE Business School, Entrepreneurs Organisation and Vistage.  I’ve come across hundreds of coaches and thousands of business leaders who have benefitted from the support of a coach.

  1. I have a specific need
    1. I regularly fail to achieve results (typically in one specific area)
    2. I want something specific (a promotion, more money, get fit, better golf handicap)
    3. I am frustrated at myself and nothing seems to be working
    4. I cannot relate effectively with somebody (children, parents, boss, team mates, senior leaders, wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend)
    5. I’m having a conflict with a colleague.
    6. I am burnt out/overwhelmed and need to release some of the pressure
  2. Someone Else tells me that I Need a Coach
    1. HR assigns coaches to all senior managers
    2. HR puts me on “fast track”
    3. HR identifies me as “needs improvement” but valuable enough to make the effort
    4. My friend/wife/husband/boss has told me that I have to make changes
  3. Conditions change
    1. I have been fired or my job made redundant
    2. I start a new business
    3. I change career path or change company
    4. I need new skills for my role (public speaking, writing, leading, managing others)
  4. I am Stuck
    1. I don’t know what I want (but I know that where I am now is not it)
    2. I have been passed over for promotion
    3. I need some help advancing my career, my career trajectory has hit a plateau.
    4. I feel bored with my life
    5. I feel that my improvement has stopped in an area of passion (golf, tennis, fitness)
    6. I feel that I am missing out on life (FOMO)
  5. My Leadership is Ineffective
    1. We don’t have a strategy.
    2. It takes too long to get things done.
    3. Turnover is high.
    4. My employees do not take responsibility for results
    5. The leadership team is not moving in the same direction.
    6. I need to take my Leadership Team or my Board to the next level.
  6. I want to “Win”
    1. I want to achieve something that will give me a sense of winning
    2. I want to increase my life challenge, I want to avoid complacency
  7. I want to be Inspired
    1. I wish to experience an excellent role model
    2. I want to see how you coach/lead me, what techniques you use
  8. I want Validation
    1. My self-worth depends greatly on external validation
    2. I lack a strong group of supportive friends
    3. I lack a trusted confidante who will be fully honest
    4. I need clear, objective and usable feedback

The Coach’s Perspective on Executive Performance

 

What about you?  Have you ever worked with a Coach?

What other situations or triggers would cause someone to see out Executive Coaching?  What is missing?  When have you sought out coaching?

This video is from Bilbao in front of the Guggenheim Museum. I was in Bilbao for the launch of Vistage in the region.

In my courses I often have participants who hate following standard processes. Sometimes this is a good thing. When you decide to break the rules, you better do your homework and preparation so that what you deliver is excellent. Too often, “creative” people break the rules of structure… but don’t do the necessary work to be excellent in delivery.

If you liked this video, you might also like Performance Excellence: Deliberate Practice and the 3 Models of Mastery and Self Discipline will make you a Better Leader.

Be careful what you wish for… In the Zoo, the animals are safe in their cages, they are fed 3 meals a day, the fence keeps out predators and competition (isn’t that what Trump promised?).

We have to be careful what we wish for.

Freedom comes with a price, and that price is called responsibility. We need to practice the responsibility that allows us to deal with true freedom.

From Peter Drucker:

“The Nature of Freedom

Freedom is never a release and always a responsibility.

Freedom is not fun. It is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace or progress. It is a responsible choice. Freedom is not so much a a right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be licence. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite, It is not “fun” but the heaviest burden laid on man: to decide his own individual conduct as well as the conduct of society and to be responsible for both decisions.”

If you liked this, you will like reading Freedom is Not Fun.

Do you have a Growth Mindset or a Fixed Mindset?

This video is about the danger of being “good enough” in many things.

As the world grows ever more connected, and ever more complex – those that accumulate a whole collection of “good enough” skills will suffer. Those that can choose to be bad in many things, and dedicate time to truly excel in one or two areas will be those that flourish.

The danger: Our schools inculcate an attitude of good enough. The system of exams fosters an attitude of being good enough for the grade you want, not aiming for a level of ability far beyond the teacher’s ability to evaluate.

If you liked this post, you will also like Performance Excellence: Deliberate Practice and the 3 Models of Mastery and 4 Approaches to Learning a New Discipline

I spoke with one of my mentors in Madrid this week.  We spoke about success in business.

What is business success?

  • What price is worth paying?
  • What are the ingredients of achieving success?
  • Is Business Success due to Great Decisions, or is it due to Excellent Implementation?

I share his answer in this video.

PS 99.9% of business (and life) success is due to Commitment, rather than Brilliant Ideas or Decisions

This video is about a strategy for focussing your life’s energy and resources into fewer but more strategic projects. (I tell a story that I have never told in class).

How do you ensure that you are dedicating your efforts to what is really important in life, and not diluting your efforts, resources amongst hundreds of small projects?

If you liked this post, you might like The Complete Guide to Personal Habits for Success and The Star Wars Guide to Saying “No” (from Obi Wan Kenobe).

“If someone followed your life and took 24 hours of film of everything you do for a day and they edited that into a one-hour documentary… the editor could decide to make you look like the worst villain ever or the greatest hero ever… it depends on which parts of your day he puts into the documentary” my friend Raul Aguirre over dinner in Buenos Aires

This video is about a Paradox that we must come to terms with in order to live a full human life. I’ve made it in Montevideo, Uruguay on a trip here to teach Leadership Communications at the IEEM Business School (part of the University of Montevideo).

We need to find a balance in our lives between the forces of external and internal success, between intentional, goal-directed living and a sense of peace within. The paradox – is that these are two forces that clash. How do you find the right balance?

I’d welcome your help on Balance between Ambition and Peace

I need your help- how do you find this balance? Do you have this balance? Do you ever lose control to one side or the other… and how do you recognise this and regain the balance in your life? Thanks… trying to regain this balance in my own life…

If you liked this, you might also like to see my recent video on Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life (an Exercise).