The founder of Strategic Coach, and one of my favourite podcasters, Dan Sullivan plans to live to 156 years old. It will allow him to see 3 different centuries (19,20,21).

What will it take for him to live that long? He’ll need to eat well. He’ll need to stay physically and mentally fit. He’ll need medicine to come up with some new techniques to extend life…. but more than all of this, he will need a powerful motivation to remain alive.

What gives a powerful motivation to remain alive? In an interview with Peter Diamandis, Dan and Pete shared the perspective that if you have friends, money and purpose: you’ll have a pretty damn good reason to keep on living.

Here’s the original podcast episode: Living to 156 Years old

If you love podcasts, you’ll like my post The world’s best individual podcast episodes

In Vistage, we say “Great leaders ask great questions.” The most important question: What’s my purpose?

The 2 Ingredients of Purpose

Your purpose is about solving problems that are meaningful to yourself. Two phrases are key in this sentence:

  1. solving problems – whilst you can get momentary happiness from experiences, only improving quality of life for other beings gives rise to lasting fulfilment
  2. meaningful to yourself – if you don’t enjoy the journey, you are going to give up quickly. If you give up, you will not solve problems. You must be selfish in this respect. You must use your own unique combination of talents and desires in a way that is satisfying to you personally

The path of the purposeless one is beset on all sides by distraction and other people’s priorities. Modern western society gives us the greatest freedom of action of any civilisation in history. This freedom is dangerous without defining how you will use it.

The greater the freedom, the more important to clarify your own purpose.

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me… “

Paolo Coelho

Dan Sullivan speaks about 2 kinds of freedom:

  • “Freedom from” – the removal of obligations: I save enough money to not have to work in a job that is not meaningful
  • “Freedom to” – the creation of a purpose: I actively exercise my power of will to choose to pursue a meaningful purpose

Being highly efficient in pursuit of what is fundamentally unimportant is a terrible life path. I know several people who are brilliant at tactics, but lack any coherent life strategy. They are lost.

Nobody climbs Everest by accident. It was a dream and a plan and part of the meaningful activity of life for a decade before the summit.

How do you begin to answer: What is my Purpose?

Write something down. Anything.

What do you want to do during your life? Bucket list, problems you want to fix, experiences you want to have, how you differ from others, how you relate to others, teachers that made a difference…

Write them all down.

That’s step 1.

My friend David Tomas and I went to a 3 day workshop with Dr John DeMartini about 10 years ago called “Master Planning for Life“. For 3 straight days we sat in silence in a room in London and we wrote a plan for our life. Mine is 150 pages of word document. It is exactly what I described – a big list of every place I ever wanted to go, every thing I ever wanted to learn, every person that matters, every teacher that impacted me, every dream I have… and a set of financial plans that would allow me to make it happen.

I haven’t done everything that is in the document. I get demotivated and forget to review it often. I have days where I ask myself “what is it all about?”

I have this document as a map and a compass that can get me back on track.

You have to write it down.

…and then you iterate it many, many, many times. You come back to it regularly and add things that are even better and delete things that don’t resonate any more.

After 100 iterations you have something that can re-motivate you about why you are here.

After 1,000 iterations you should start to have something that really reminds you what is important and how to use your time.

Is there a shortcut?

…of course not. This is too important an aspect of your life to cut corners. Imagine if you just copied someone else’s purpose document? You’d end up living a great life, for them.

…and iterations are vital – because often what you think is important or meaningful when you are young turns out to not quite be the experience you expected.

Put it where you will see it often

It is not the writing down that matters. It is the iterating and repeatedly reminding yourself of what you think is important.

The problem is not that you don’t know what matters to you and what activities are most important – it is that you forget or get distracted so often.

If you liked this post, you will also like finding purpose and defining a vision for your life and A Truly Compelling Vision.

Professional Rugby Players do it…

On a transatlantic flight this year I came across the “Chasing Great” documentary that followed the life and career of New Zealand rugby captain Richie McCaw.

When Richie was 12 years old, a friend of his father asked him to put his dreams down on paper. They wrote it on a napkin while having lunch. Here is the napkin (source NZ Herald 25 August 2016: Chasing Great: Richie McCaw’s secret video tapes revealed)

A recreation of the napkin containing Richie McCaw’s All Blacks plans.

Professional Golfers do it…

Here’s something I found today on twitter that resonated… Pro Golfer Justin Thomas shared his written goals for the coming season…

Overcoming challenges and obstacles is what makes life meaningful. I hope your dreams and visions are big enough to be difficult.

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better”

Jim Rohn

This video is about superman. When superman was first developed as a comic book character, he was so strong and powerful that he overcame all obstacles easily. It was only when the authors made him weaker that the stories became interesting.

In our own lives, it is not the easy path that makes for a meaningful life – it is the hard path, and having to become a better, stronger, more resilient, more resourceful person that makes for a meaningful life.

If you liked this post on stories, you will also like What is a Story and 7 Steps to the Perfect story.

MIT Endicott House

I was in Boston to teach on the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation EMP (Entrepreneurial Masters Program) this week. MIT Endicott House is one of the most beautiful locations for leadership retreats and programs. I brought my drone to capture the scenery around the main buildings. You’ll see the drone shots right at the beginning of the video below.

Why Do We Need to Clarify our Purpose?

Dandapani in Barcelona, 2016

Dandapani was one of the speakers at the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Masters Program event this week at MIT Endicott House, outside of Boston. Dandapani spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, meditating with his guru on the purpose of his life.

Dandapani spoke about the importance of consciously deciding what is important and what is not important in your life. Why?

Because life is finite.

More from Dandapani

Dandapani on Instagram (he takes great photos) https://www.instagram.com/dandapanillc

“How to Concentrate”, Dandapani at TEDx

A short story from the mountains about how removing drag can be more effective than increasing power. Many times we could improve our life by cleaning up the things we do that actively damage ourselves: eating poorly, drinking too much, complaining, remaining angry, holding grudges, positioning myself as a victim.

What do you think? What’s your biggest “drag”?

This week’s video comes from Champery in Switzerland where I have been part of the faculty for a leadership program for the Avanade company. One of the other faculty is a Leadership Coach called Kris Girrell. He shared a simple 4 part structure for a Coaching Conversation.

The 4 Coaching Questions

  1. What’s Up?
  2. What’s So?
  3. What’s Possible?
  4. Let’s Go!
How to Have a Coaching Conversation

Learn More about Kris Girrell

In his TEDx talk, Kris shares a wonderful idea – the “Emotional Table of the Elements” – in which he created a someone tongue in cheek copy of the Periodic Table replacing atoms with emotions. I love the metaphor. Check out his TEDx talk below:

Knowing how to respond to others’ emotional states is the essence of Emotional Intelligence. But how do we actually learn it? Executive leadership coach Kris Girrell suggests that sometimes the path to becoming intimately aware of our emotions may be a little bumpier than we bargained for, but in the end, results in stronger relationships.

Kris is an executive leadership coach, co-owner of the Goddard Preschool in Reading, and author of A Married Man’s Survival Guide.

If you liked this post, you will also like The Greatest Coaching Question of All Time and 6 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day to be a Great Leader.

One of my most read & shared posts ever is 11 Differences between Busy People and Productive People. Productivity is clearly a theme which resonates with you, my favorite reader.

Coffee
Another of my Productivity secrets

Robert Pozen and Kevin Downey write about 3 keys to productivity over at Harvard Business Review. They share a summary of their work on personal productivity with over 20,000 professionals: What Makes Some People More Productive Than Others

Here’s what Robert & Kevin learnt about Productive People

If you want to become more productive, you should develop an array of specific habits.

Focus on what’s Important

First, plan your work based on your top priorities, and then act with a definite objective.

  • Revise your daily schedule the night before to emphasize your priorities. Next to each appointment on your calendar, jot down your objectives for it.
  • Send out a detailed agenda to all participants in advance of any meeting.
  • When embarking on large projects, sketch out preliminary conclusions as soon as possible.
  • Before reading any length material, identify your specific purpose for it.
  • Before writing anything of length, compose an outline with a logical order to help you stay on track.

Develop the Ability to Focus

Second, develop effective techniques for managing the overload of information and tasks.

  • Make daily processes, like getting dressed or eating breakfast, into routines so you don’t spend time thinking about them.
  • Leave time in your daily schedule to deal with emergencies and unplanned events.
  • Check the screens on your devices once per hour, instead of every few minutes.
  • Skip over the majority of your messages by looking at the subject and sender.
  • Break large projects into pieces and reward yourself for completing each piece.
  • Delegate to others, if feasible, tasks that do not further your top priorities.

Engage with the People, not just the Tasks

Third, understand the needs of your colleagues for short meetings, responsive communications, and clear directions.

  • Limit the time for any meeting to 90 minutes at most, but preferably less. End every meeting by delineating the next steps and responsibility for those steps.
  • Respond right away to messages from people who are important to you.
  • To capture an audience’s attention, speak from a few notes, rather than reading a prepared text.
  • Establish clear objectives and success metrics for any team efforts.
  • To improve your team’s performance, institute procedures to prevent future mistakes, instead of playing the blame game.

How’s your Productivity?

How do you rate yourself on these 3 areas? What is your Achilles Heel when it comes to productivity?

More Productivity

If you liked this post you will also like How to have a Productive Dayand How to take Better Decisions.

In his TED talk, Stephen Duneier explains that what defines him are not titles, but an approach to decision making that transformed him from someone who struggled with simple tasks to a guy who is continuously achieving even his most ambitious dreams.

For thirty years, he has applied cognitive science to investing, business and life. The result has been the turnaround of numerous institutional businesses, career best returns for managers who have adopted his methods, the development of a $1.25 billion dollar hedge fund and a rapidly shrinking bucket list.

“Every one of my report cards basically said the same thing: Steven is a very bright young boy, if only he would just settle down and focus.”

“What they didn’t realize was I wanted that even more than they wanted it for me, I just couldn’t. And so, from kindergarten straight through the 2nd year of college, I was a really consistent C, C- student. But then going into my junior year, I’d had enough. I thought I want to make a change. I’m going to make a marginal adjustment, and I’m going to stop being a spectator of my decision-making and start becoming an active participant.”

“And so, that year, instead of pretending, again, that I would suddenly be able to settle down and focus on things for more than five or ten minutes at a time, I decided to assume I wouldn’t. And so, if I wanted to achieve the type of outcome that I desire – doing well in school – I was going to actually have to change my approach. And so I made a marginal adjustment. If I would get an assignment, let’s say, read five chapters in a book, I wouldn’t think of it as five chapters, I wouldn’t even think of it as one chapter. I would break it down into these tasks that I could achieve, that would require me to focus for just five or ten minutes at a time. So, maybe three or four paragraphs. That’s it.”

“I would do that and when I was done with those five or ten minutes, I would get up. I’d go shoot some hoops, do a little drawing, maybe play video games for a few minutes, and then I come back. Not necessarily to the same assignment, not even necessarily to the same subject, but just to another task that required just five to ten minutes of my attention. From that point forward, all the way through to graduation, I was a straight-A student, Dean’s List, President’s Honor Roll, every semester.”

“I then went on to one of the top graduate programs in the world for finance and economics. Same approach, same results. So then, I graduate. I start my career and I’m thinking, this worked really well for me. You know, you take these big concepts, these complex ideas, these big assignments, you break them down too much more manageable tasks, and then along the way, you make a marginal improvement to the process that ups the odds of success in your favor. I’m going to try and do this in my career. So I did. I started out as an exotic derivatives trader for credit Swiss. It then led me to be global head of currency option trading for Bank of America”

Mr. Duneier teaches graduate courses on Decision Analysis in UCSB’s College of Engineering. His book, AlphaBrain is due for release in early 2017 from Wiley & Sons. Through Bija Advisors, he helps business leaders improve performance by applying proven, proprietary decision-making methods to their own processes. His artwork has been featured around the world and is represented by the Sullivan Goss Gallery. As Commissioner of the League of Professional Educators, Duneier is using cognitive science to alter the landscape of American education. He is the former Head of Currency Option Trading at Bank of America and Emerging Markets at AIG International.

For more on achieving goals, check out 6 Reasons we Give Up on Goals and Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life.

This video is inspired by George RR Martin and his view on leadership and the price of power. Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge show that being a good person gets the greatest effort out of the people around you, but just being a nice person can mean you avoid the really tough decisions of Leadership.

What’s the toughest leadership decision of all time?  Answer below the video…

Tough Leadership Decisions?

The toughest decision of Leadership: Odysseus’ choice between Scylla and Charybdis.

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?