The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge

As today marks the official tipping point of the half-way point for 2014, I would like to cast my vote for the business buzz-word of the year thus far:mindfulness

MINDFULNESS

It has been everywhere. Whether we are talking about corporate wellness plans, or the highly effective habits top CEOs and business leaders, mindfulness has been mentioned, discussed, debated and analyzed more times than I can ever remember. It’s gotten so big, the New York Times has decided it’s time to analyze the backlash to mindfulness. (Leave it to the media to create a monster, and then destroy it all within a year!)

The Times story aside, perhaps it’s time for the rank and file – and me – to take notice. More importantly, I feel like it’s time for me to make a change.

 


 

I’m not going to lie – the last 4 weeks have been pretty difficult. Each week … each day … each hour, it has felt like a new obstacle would be discovered, and at times the dread and despair of having to overcome it would feel insurmountable.

I have come to realize that I am the type of individual that suppresses many thoughts, words, actions and feelings. I learned early in my professional career that if I sit on something for 24-hours (or more if need be), I am usually able to come up with a pretty damn good solution and action plan to overcome any obstacle. More so, I am able to keep my own emotions in check, and have  a rationale conversation with often times irrational people.

Recently though, this has proven much more difficult. I am having a much harder time finding a solution, finding the positive in the negative. This is particularly troubling, because my personality is that of a fun, and out-going individual; but as the obstacles mount, I have turned inward more and more.

The obstacles that have sprung forth in this past month seem to be coming from every angle, some within the professional work I inhabit, and others in my personal life. Now it’s important that some of the obstacles are – when looked at by themselves – minor. However it has been the frequency and sheer number that has suddenly increased of late…it’s isn’t just one problem … it’s 999 problems of  varying size and difficulty.

As a leader (which I’d like to think I am), the stress is written all over my face, and rarely does that inspire confidence in your colleagues or your team.  More importantly, my wife and kids are seeing the difference in my personality of late too.

So, it is indeed time for a change.


 

Mindfulness and LeadershipLast year, I had watched with amusement and then great admiration of one of my colleagues go through a 30-day sobriety challenge. The results and self-analysis that it accompanied, was truly remarkable, As I am not a drinker – at least not like in my college days – I believe a 30 day challenge might be the ticket here, and I will be using the blog as my accountability tool.

Beginning today, July 1st, I will start my day with 30 minutes of meditation. I am not the hippy-dippy type, but if it’s good enough for some of the top CEOs and business leaders today, it’s worth a shot. More importantly, if the results mean I am more productive at work, and less stressed for my family at home, then break out the Tye-dye and Grateful Dead.

To assist in my efforts, I found a great app to use to help me out – called Calm – and it’s a free download too.  So – make sure you pester me here, on Twitter and Google+ to see how I’m doing. I will provide an extremely brief post weekly to share some updates and observations.

Even better – who will join me?

Hello?

Bueller??

The Emotional Leader: A Catch-22

Like most people, I love the scenes in well-scripted movies or television shows where there is a stirring speech. A monologue that inspires characters and audiences alike is the quintessential moment in my mind – the thing that for those of us with delusions of importance, we (OK, I) hope to one day have happen.

 

 

A rallying cry to the troops, the team, or co-workers to rise above an obstacle to new heights of success.

That ‘s the rosy picture. It also a rare occurrence – almost mythical.

After all – let’s just be very honest here. There are only a few heavy-duty leaders in business today that have such power. Richard Branson and Howard Schultz come to mind. I can think of a few local leaders here in San Diego who have equal cache amongst their teams.

However, emotional leaders inevitably walk a very fine line. Leading with emotion first can rally the  troops, or wear them out – all depending upon which emotions are dominant. Daniel Goleman, author of FOCUS: The hidden driver of excellence, wrote an excellent piece last week, in what to me resonated as wake-up call to leaders and managers: Be Mindful of the Emotions You Leave Behind.

One of the big takeaways: the emotions of a leader has a huge impact on her team’s performance. If the leader is in a good mood, positively reinforcing her team and their efforts – the team is  much more efficient studies find, and more likely to achieve their goal. However, if leader tries to use negativity, or their bad mood to motivate her team, it backfires. His team is not nearly as proficient, and will usually rush through a project jMC900387127ust to please their leader in the hopes to assuage his mood.

In my career, this has happened more  times than I’d like or care to admit.

Now – let me be clear: I do believe there is room for emotions at the workplace. We are human, and to pretend that we can control our emotions all the time is just silly. That said – leaders and managers by and large must be aware how their moods can affect their teams (staff, peers, and/or supervisors). As Goleman points out, it has very real effects on a team. And if you are one that has a tendency of not even hiding  your emotions, that take steps to recognize and limit the effects it may have on your team.

A well-timed lunch away from the office, brisk walk for an afternoon cup of coffee, or an early departure for the day can do wonders for not only the team but for the  leader as well. And if your emotions are so strong that you can not control them, then any advice I could offer would only fall on deaf ears.

And deaf ears are likely what an overly emotional office manager or leader will find if those rants  become all too common.

Live Your Life In Quotes

Leadership

Earlier this week, I found myself at a roundtable with about eight small business owners. The conversation circled back to defining success. One of the business owners saidLeadership while making a point that he finds it easier to stay focused when he lives his life in quotes.

The irony of such a statement is that I should have remembered the Zig Ziglar quote he mentioned, but it was his statement that stuck with me: “I’m sorry, but I like to live my life in quotes.”

It would have been interesting to have gone around the room, and  ask each business owner which quotes inspired them? And which quotes defined how they wanted their business to be remembered? That would have been a lively, and probably inspiring conversation – alas, an opportunity lost.

Or not?

I go back and forth as to what quote I would want to be defined by, how I would want my business defined. Perhaps something from the classics (Tennyson’s Ulysses: “…to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”); perhaps ripping from Dead Poets Society, like Apple did this year:

 

 

At the end of the day, the quote that has resonated with me over the last several years is one from Major Dick Winters, he of Band of Brothers fame.

 

In American History magazine in 2004, Winters said,

 

“If you can, find that peace within yourself, that peace and quiet and confidence that you can pass on to others, so that they know that you are honest and you are fair and will help them, no matter what, when the chips are down.”

 

Whether it be colleagues or clients, I would like to think that I people feel I am honest and fair, and will help them no matter what. At least, this is the goal.

So – I put forth to you, the proverbial social media readers and fellow-bloggers: if you have to choose a quote that epitomized you and your business or profession – what quote would you choose and why?

I am looking forward to seeing the responses.

A New Beginning: My Last Film Post

So blogging and I have had a unique relationship in the last few years. Every time I think I am finished, the bug starts to gnaw  at my need “to be heard.” (I just can’t quit you!) I’ve been doing a lot  of reading over the past year, and I’ve dressed up the site a bit since you may have been here last.

Little did I know when I wrote the post”The End is Near” did I know that the topic would begin

Cinepolis San Diego

Cinepolis San Diego

the birthing  process of an entirely separate site – familyroomfilmcritic.com – where I will continue my musings on all things film-related, though with a slightly different bent. If you have enjoyed my movie grousings and grumblings here on Perfecting  Naivety, I encourage you to go take a look at the new site. I have a vision for where I’d like to take it…if you like what you see, there are some bigger plans percolating.

In the time away from the blog, I’ve come to realize I want to do something different. With the absence of film commentary, Perfecting Naivety will now host observations in a variety of different areas that inspires me. In my professional life, I am challenged to keep abreast of many industries, yet have no outlet to comment. By now, with the new design elements, you can guess the areas in which I will be commenting:

  • Leadership: In the business – no matter the industry – we have a plethora of examples, both good (Hello, Mr. Branson) and bad (Do I have to say hello to David Sterling?) to choose from, and learn.
  • By day, I am the marketing director of a small career college here in San Diego. The changes that have taken place in Marketing from the time I earned my MBA (marketing emphasis) to today is absolutely astounding, and it shows no evidence of slowing down.
  • In the recent political climate, Education has been a hot topic – particularly, the for-profit sector. I aim to write about the changes to the entire education landscape, with a bent as to how it’s shifting and changing under each political leadership.
  • I am blessed to also be able to help my college launch a Small Business degree program. In San San Diego Small BusinessDiego, 90% of the economy is made up of small business, providing over 60% of the economic drivers here. In a recent survey, Forbes named San Diego the number one city in the country to launch a small business. In the past month alone, the San Diego EDC has recorded that The private sector outperformed by adding 3,400 jobs in the month of April. Suffice to say, there  is a lot going on here.
  • Finally – I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my family. So expect the occasional musing on my struggles to be a better dad, husband, brother, and son.
  • The Film and Entertainment section will stay put, but only as an archive of sorts. I feel like there  are some really good articles in that section, so if someone happened to stumble on a post or two that lead them to follow the new site – bonus!

I hope you like the new direction I am taking with Perfecting Naivety. I am excited about the change and I hope you’ll join me in this new direction. For the first time, I have some modest expectations as I throw a variety of  different topics into the giant Martini-shaker of the blog-o-sphere (shaken, not stirred) to see how it tastes. My hope still remains that you will see – on Mondays and Wednesday – an inspired concoction of the things that make us all wake up each day with a renewed sense of vigor and purpose.

Slainte!

Greg Smith, Goldman Sachs and The (Higher) Road Less Traveled

http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&safe=off&biw=1280&bih=637&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=4BZmaGRiTh2tAM:&imgrefurl=http://www.entmoney.com/2011/06/08/food-for-thought-top-wall-street-executives-unbelievable-payouts/&docid=g3fnQ4Wnvmxe_M&imgurl=http://www.entmoney.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Wall-Street.jpeg&w=840&h=681&ei=mZxhT_KjBfDaiQLmvejBCA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=117&vpy=314&dur=3763&hovh=202&hovw=249&tx=179&ty=92&sig=109020972658145264491&page=1&tbnh=129&tbnw=163&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:0Class.

Cynicism.

Pride.

Morals.

Entitlement.

Professionalism.

Accountability.

Many thoughts ran through my mind as I saw the New York Times Op-Ed headline on my LinkedIn news-feed: Exec’s Scathing Letter: Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.  Having spent a short five-year stint in the financial services industry, I was naturally drawn to see what or how this letter could be so scathing. Apparently, I am not the only one who was curious either.  The NY Times version of this piece was shared was shared on LinkedIn 2,606 times; at 10:15 PM, there was almost 200 tweets of this story in the past hour; even the spin-cycle and news-jacking was quickly in effect when the story broke, with 1,600 related news stories on my Google News Feed.

Greg Smith, was a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa prior to yesterday’s very public resignation. Seizing upon the letter’s theme, journalists, tweeters and bloggers alike were quick to make comparisons to Jerry Maguire’s crisis of conscience in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 film.

I love this scene for a lot of reasons, but the key reason is he last ten seconds (watch it again if you need to). Two colleagues who are supportive on the outside, yet cynical – derisive even – under their breath. It’s at the heart of what’s wrong with working professionals in this country today. And this mentality is pervasive.

As my twitter feed continued to vomit another 556 tweets about Smith’s resignation, I couldn’t help but feel like the only person who thought this “scathing” letter was at first much ado about nothing…then, as the day – and the story gained steam – much, much more of a problem with people in general, and maybe the country as whole.

I was left to wonder – am I the only one who thought that this move – publishing a resignation letter in one of the country’s leading media outlets – was not only overkill, but was also in terribly poor taste? Is it really news? Why do people really find it so fascinating? Am I so far in the minority to feel this way, without a single workplace “expert” to support me?

So I began to analyze why I was feeling like such the contrarian:

1. Was this news (as in, did the author break a story, or shed new light on an existing story)? Why so fascinating?

The quick and easy answer is no, and it was apparent in the opening salvo from Smith:

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.

You mean to tell me after the Great Recession, and the Great Bailout, and the well-reported stories that Big Banks continued to pay out huge bonuses to CEO’s … that anyone would be shocked to hear Goldman Sachs puts profits first? Perhaps if we had a huge protest aimed at these dastardly, foul, and loathsome devils, one that would occupy the very neighborhoods they worked – maybe if that protest had taken place recently, like in the last six months, to highlight the crooked policies and downright callous attitude of Big Banks, then maybe this would be helpful – no?

Yes, Mr. Smith did indeed shed some light for us here. Wait – I know you are saying out loud at the screen as you sip your coffee or smoothie – “it’s not news! That’s why the Times published it as an Op-Ed (Opinion-Editorial) piece!”

Great- I got it! It’s an opinion. So now, for the more important question:

2. Was this in good taste?

Again, I have come down on the side of a decided “no.”  Mr. Smith has every right to feel upset, betrayed and outraged by the shift in the corporate culture at Goldman Sachs.  He has every right to question the moral fiber of the leadership with so much evidence to support a lack of concern for the client. And I applaud him for deciding he had enough, and it appears he will be seeking a new career in a new industry (I’d be surprised if he works in the financial services industry again).

That said – what does making his opinion public actually accomplish? This letter is not only the least bit newsworthy, it is horrifically unprofessional. What happened to a sense of class, decorum – a strong sense of taking the higher road in bad situations? Where has that gone?  He legitimately questions the moral fiber of Goldman Sachs – yet by making this resignation public, he willfully ignores the hypocrisy this public resignation creates!

It dawns on me that the title of my blog reflects a yearning for something a little more pure in the world.  Perfecting Naivety – sure it’s nostalgic – naive even…so what!!What is wrong with that I ask, no I plead??!

I have two children that I pray I am raising to be good people. Yet, they are inundated by a society steeped in cynicism and entitlement.  As a parent, when I have their attention for so very little time in the day, how am I to ensure that the lessons I teach are truly reaching them? How are they to respond to a crisis of conscience when the world offers them examples like this as an acceptable form of behavior – particularly when the behavior is lauded even, judging by the (countless) comments and tweets I have read.

By resigning, Mr. Smith finally held himself responsible for the poor choice of pursuing a career with Goldman Sachs. Publishing the Op-Ed piece was self-serving, and terribly misguided choice on Mr. Smith’s part.  It was an even poorer decision by the New York Times editorial board.

Employers and employees alike must recognize and embrace accountability and eradicate the everyday sentiment of entitlement.

We must make taking the High Road one that is traveled more, not less.

Attitude Reflects Leadership

Photo by Wonderlane-used under the Creative Commons License

I was compelled to review the stops on my professional career, today, and really think about each workplace environment. What inspired this stroll down amnesia lane, you ask? The second part of a blog post by Keith Ferrazzi.  You see, Ferrazzi, the best-selling author of Never Eat Alone, is a firm believer in blending both your personal and professional lives to maximize the potential networking pot-of-gold. He writes:

In Never Eat Alone, I argued against people trying to balance their home and work lives. Instead, I advised blending– integrating the two worlds so that you’re not constantly faced with choosing one over the other. Ideally, I want you to have close, personal, and authentic relationships with people in the work place – so why create a false divide? The title of the chapter clearly stated my feelings: “Balance Is B.S.”

Of course, plenty of people disagree. They think that it’s blending that’s B.S. – your personal and professional lives should rarely mix, if ever.

One week later, after asking his blog followers to offer their opinions on the issue, he was more interested in the negative responses to the idea of blending than he was in the supportive comments.  Those negative responses fell into four categories:

  1. Hostile/Competitive Workplace
  2. Getting Stuck in the Mommy-trap
  3. Fish-out-of-water syndrome
  4. Blending is for the self-employed

As I considered Ferrazzi’s philosophy and the negative-response categories, I began this stroll through my mind’s eye, reminiscing about each of the workplaces I encountered up-to and including my present employer.  Early stops in my career fell into the first category.  And then something clicked…every negative work experience was entirely related to leadership.

Now this is important – most of it was bad leadership.  The leaders in some of these organizations were cut-throat individuals who enjoyed the drama of surrounding themselves with sycophantic suck-ups. There were, however, some leaders who did not have a clear vision themselves – this was more a lack of leadership. And then there were those leaders whose values, I found after working with them for a while, did not match my own.  Ultimately, these traits would permeate the office environment, poisoning the team.  The general office attitude, after all, often does reflect leadership.

The two greatest steps I ever took for my career was to begin treating myself as a brand, as my own company; and to develop a network of trustworthy individuals.  It did not matter if I were a 1099-employee or a W-2 employee.  By clearly identifying which values were important to me, and what I wanted out of an office environment, the easier it became for me to manage the “blending” process that Ferrazzi espouses.

A good leader will surround themselves with good people, and good people seek out good leaders.  Blending at that point becomes moot.

What do you think? What’s worked well for you?

 

[Sticky photo by Tony the Misfit – available through the Creative Commons License on Flickr]