You are at one of these 5 places in your life

If you are reading this post via email, you can watch the video here: The 5 States of Human Performance (From the Coaches Perspective)

The 5 States of Human Performance

The 9 minute video shares a tip for how to move forward from each of these 5 states.  I share my story of 2009, of coming back from bankruptcy and loss of family and how I moved out of stage 5 (starting at minute 5:24 in the video).

  1. You know your goal and you’re going after it: Enjoy it.  (Find someone you can help.)
  2. You know your goal and you’re stuck and can’t find your way there: Find a Mentor. Ask someone who has already had success about how they overcame this obstacle.
  3. You know your goal and you are letting distractions win: Use the Pomodoro Method.
  4. You don’t know your goal and you’re miserable: Ask a few friends (not the cynical ones) what they think you are good at and what they think you should work on
  5. You’ve given up on your goals and you’re miserable: Move your body: Go for a walk. Set one tiny goal to help one other person.

 

PS if you can’t decide which state you are it, you in state 4.

Find a goal. Aim at it.

Let me know a) which place you are at and b) the goal you choose in the comments below 😉

Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. Our big difference is the cortex, the upper layer of the brain.  The cortex is the home of imagination.

Imagination gives us the choice to live intentionally.  We can make a choice: lead a life that is not just response to stimuli, but building towards a vision: an imagined future.

Why is imagination so important?

A leader sees a future that is not yet here.  This requires imagination. The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others.

Imagination is what makes us human. 2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?”  Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.  A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.  A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose. The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind, to imagine.

How can you develop your imagination?  The video below shares a tool that Jim Collins uses to develop his power of Imagination.

If you are reading this via email, the video is on the blog here: Start with the End in Mind

Two Approaches to Life

My friends live their lives in one of two contrasting ways:

  1. Guided by a Long term Vision for their Lives
  2. Take Opportunities as they come

In the short term, the opportunists made great early progress.  I have one friend who changed job every 1-2 years in the investment banking industry.  Each job change achieved an increase of 30-50% in salary.  Problem: he is now stuck and has no serious chances of moving up to the really senior ranks.

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Another friend in investment banking has stuck it out in the same bank for 14 years.  He didn’t take each opportunistic head-hunter call looking to get him to switch jobs.  His salary languished behind our opportunistic friend.  Today he is moving into the senior ranks of the bank and has enormous political support to take job choices that improve his work-life balance.

It was a hard choice when I was young.  I worked for Accenture for 9 years.  Every year I watched peers leave to join competitors for 30-50% increases in salary.  I had offers and I thought about leaving.  In the end, I valued flexibility over salary and used my network in Accenture to live in London, Chicago and Sydney.

Case: Henry Kissinger and US Foreign Policy

I finished reading Kissinger’s biography by Niall Ferguson before the summer. The central debate in the book: Was Kissinger:

  1. an idealist hit by impossible problems? or
  2. a realist who responded as best he could to opportunities?

Remember the 1960s?  I don’t…  only through my history courses and books.  I highly recommend a Coursera course with Professor Philip Zelikow: The Modern World, Part 2: Global History since 1910.  It is one of my 3 favourite MOOC courses that I have studied over the last 5 years.  Prof Zelikow is passionate and engaging.

Kissinger’s Major Criticism of US Foreign Policy: 100% Opportunist

Kissinger’s criticisms of the Kennedy and LBJ presidencies was that they were pragmatic opportunists, but there was no overall vision of what they stood for. The Soviet Union (at the time) stood for fairness, and the US argument was that its economic policies would make citizens wealthier.

It was a lost argument.

People were not inspired to fight in order to improve their economic situation. This was not a psychologically motivating appeal.

Kissinger identified freedom as the value that the US most espoused. He felt that the foreign policy decisions should be taken in the framework of whether the individual decisions improved individual freedom – not on a case by case basis.

Opportunism leads to a Dead End

Those who know why they are fighting will win over those who don’t.

The Vietnam war was militarily un-winnable, and Ho Chi Minh was always a step ahead of what the US were interested in negotiating.   He understood that the US would always be short term and opportunistic. He was fighting for a cause, the US had got themselves into Vietnam bit by bit by bit and then found themselves stuck fighting for a cause that didn’t exist.

I’m no history or politics expert, but I would suggest that the US role in the world from the end of the Vietnam war up until 2000 was largely positive.  The recent decade has seen the US fall back into an Opportunistic foreign policy – George Bush’s photo opportunity driven foreign policy was the start of a collapse in Visionary and values driven US foreign policy.  Trump is here because the political consensus had gradually become what is politically easy, not what is right.  The increasing polarization of the US political system makes it hard to establish a long term vision.

Only a life led towards a vision based on your own set of values can lead to work you love in the second half of your career.  A life led entirely on the basis of opportunism will inevitably take you towards a dead end (or Trump).

How do you Establish a Framework for your Life?

Kissinger began by identifying the most important value that he believed represented the US culture: Freedom.

What is your single most important value?  

Is your life showing this?  Is the majority of your time going to your most important value?  Are you spending your money on your most important value?  Are you building friendships and mentors that support your most important value?

You need a coach or a mentor to help you work out your vision, framework and how to take the tough decisions to orient your life around this vision.  I have never seen someone do it alone.

One of my favourite examples of a powerful personal Vision comes from Cameron Herold. He calls it his Vivid Vision. You can read his updated 2016 Vivid Vision Statement here.

“Leadership is about communicating with people, uniting them behind a shared mission and values, and mobilizing energies toward accomplishing the mission or purpose of an Organization.” Peter Drucker

Leadership is a means to an end–the mission it serves is the end.

People who accomplish great things have a combined passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.

In “Leading Change”, John Kotter outlines 6 aspects of a good vision
statement:

  1. Imaginable. It needs to paint a visual picture of the desired future in the minds of those who read it.
  2. Desirable. It should appeal to the people that are striving to reach it and the customers they are serving.
  3. Feasible. While aspirational in nature, it needs to articulate a realistic and achievable future purpose.
  4. Focused. It should provide concentrated direction to those following it.
  5. Flexible. By being broad in scope, it allows for modifications due to the dynamic nature of the business environment.
  6. Communicable. The vision statement should be easy to articulate to others.

We need to be careful about taking the easy path and not the right path.  We need people that practice it in their own lives, and we need to reward leaders who practice it in the public arena.

If you liked this post, you will also like Freedom is not Fun and Meaningful Contribution.

 

Most people do not have a compelling vision.

A boring vision attracts mediocre people and mediocre performance.

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“I want to make €1 million” is not a compelling vision. It is about you, and you alone.  Why would anyone else give their best effort so that you can have €1 million in your bank account?

Guy Kawasaki once told me that a compelling vision is based on one of three things:

  • Right a wrong
  • Give back to people something they have lost
  • Improve quality of life

How do you improve the quality of life of a group of people?  How do you fix something that is wrong with the world?  How do you give people something they once had but is now lost?

It takes courage to build a compelling vision.

It takes deep self reflection about what is deeply important to me.  The closer I get to what my deepest values ask of me, the more I will feel fear of ridicule by others.

If anything was possible, what type of world do you want to see?

Describe this world.

If it feels easily achievable, you do not have a compelling vision.  If this seems important but very difficult – you might be on to a compelling vision.

If you work for the money, you will get bored and apathetic sooner or later.  If the money is for a bigger purpose, then your journey can overcome many obstacles.

What do you really want?

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Michael Gerber, in his book The E-Myth asks this question: What are your primary aims?

Imagine walking into a room.  You pause at the entrance.  In the room, seated, are all your friends and family. You enter the room.  You walk up the middle of the room.  At the front of the room there is a box. You approach the box. As you come closer you realise it is you in the box, and this is your funeral.

You hear people talking about your life.

What do you want them to be saying?

You have to decide.

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor E. Frankl

If you want to live an incredible life and achieve amazing things, you have to decide.  Nobody ever stood on the summit of Everest and said “oh wow, this is a surprise.”  It was a vision years before it became a reality.

Living an incredible life is no accident. I have to start knowing what I want to achieve. I need to be clear on who I need to become in order to achieve what I want. And then I need repeatedly to take action, even when I am plagued by doubt.

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.” Viktor E. Frankl, from his book Man’s Search for Meaning

Do you know what you want?