Creation – A Sioux Tribal Story

Just the other day a great friend of mine asked me "What do you have within you that is the best of you?" and it reminded me of a Sioux tribal story I’ve read a while back.
 
The Creator gathered all of Creation and said, "I want to hide a precious gift from Mankind until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they can create their own reality."
 
The Eagle said, "Give it to me, I will take it to the highest peak of the highest mountain."
The Creator said, "No. One day they will go there and find it."
 
The Salmon said, "Give it to me, I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean."
"No. They are explorers by nature and one day will conquer the deepest oceans too."
 
The Buffalo said, "I will bury it on the Great Plains."
The Creator said, "They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there."
 
Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said, "Put it inside of them. It is the last place they’ll look."
 
And the Creator said, "It is done."
 
We have more resources within us than we usually give ourselves credit for. Some of these resources only manifest themselves in times of need. And when that time passes, those capabilities remain dormant until they are needed again. Life is a journey. Where you are today is not where you are going to end up tomorrow. And where that is is within your grasp to determine.
 
How can you shape your own reality?
What resources do you have within you that can help you reshape your current reality?

New Article: A New Outlook On Failure

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“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

– J. K. Rowling

Failure is a vital part of our own growth as individuals and as a society. However, as a society, we collectively shun the fundamental part that it plays in our development and consequently, as individuals, we often look at failure as something to be penalized.

It is common for us – part of our nature – to confuse the things we do with who we are as a person. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to failure, as there’s the risk of starting to consider ourselves as Failures when we’re not successful – and of course, no one is successful all the time. Failure, just as success, is fleeting. Just as you’re not in a permanent state of bliss, you’re not in a permanent state of success nor failure.

Considering ourselves Failures, or considering others Failures causes us to become blind to opportunities for change. We become defensive, focusing on proven methods and on what is known to work and we leave no room for creativity, ingenuity and innovation. We often self-sabotage through procrastination, excessive anxiety or an inability to follow through with our goals, which might lead to low self-esteem or self-confidence, thinking we’ll “never be good enough to take on that job”.

In a downturn market, as the rate of failing businesses and unemployment soar, it is fundamental to be able to overcome failures and capitalize on them to build your success. The thing about failure is that you can decide how you look at it. You can choose to look at failure as the “end of the world” or as the learning experience that it often is. These lessons are very important; they’re how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again.

Continue to the full article.

New Article: Finding Happiness In The Things You Do

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“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

– John Lennon

We all want to be happy in life. This means different things to each of us. One thing, however, we all have in common. No one can be truly happy routinely doing things they don’t like doing or they’re not good at.

Most of us are driven by challenging things. When we attain proficiency in something indolence often sets in and we end up doing things we no longer enjoy out of habit or simply because we’re terribly good at doing them. This can be a serious blocker to personal and professional growth. How can we “unblock” ourselves? How can we pursue happiness in the things we do?

Continue to the full article.

Balancing Work And Personal Life

[…] work/life balance is about working smarter, not longer.

Balanced Rocks Every once in a while, in all of the companies I’ve worked for, I’ve heard or got mail from HR talking about work/life balance. I’ve heard so much about it that it became almost like a mantra.

Why has work/life balance become such an important factor in the modern workplace?

Perhaps it has to do with overcoming remnants of the 80’s yuppie work culture, set by the late Baby Boomers and early Gen X’s, where working long hours was seen as something worthy of praise (think of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street”). Thinking about it, I can’t help to relate this to that late industrialist mindset where production is directly related to the number of hours spent in production.

Personally I think that work/life balance is about working smarter, not longer. In the modern, knowledge workplace, it’s all about performance, not productivity. Most modern workplaces should produce value and not quantity. Quantity, or mass production, only scales as much as your workforce. Production of value, on the other hand, can scale much more with even a small workforce.

So what does this mean to later generation Gen X’s and especially Gen Y’s, the knowledge workers of the modern workplace?

I have to admit that I find myself in a constant struggle to achieve a good work/life balance, experiencing moments where it seems I’ve got it and moments where I realize I haven’t. However, from the moments that felt like I’ve got it, I’ve come to realize the following:

First of all, work and personal life can and should be complementary. No one can be truly fulfilled if he or she only focuses on one dimension of life. More importantly, we have to acknowledge both the importance a healthy work environment plays in the stability of our personal lives, and the importance a healthy personal and family life has on our work performance.

To achieve this, we have to be able to balance professional and personal goals. What I’ve found out was that I had clear business goals, but didn’t have any clearly set personal goals. We tend to pursue those goals we can track, so a lack of clearly established personal goals makes it much more likely that we focus on our work, overlooking our personal lives.

Additionally, to reach our personal and business goals, we have to effectively leverage our skills in both areas. We all have skills that we can use or apply to situations in our personal lives with the same level of success that we do at work. The opposite is also true. Many skills that we use in our personal lives can be leveraged effectively in the workplace. Think about the way you educate your children, or how you contribute to your community. I’m sure all of us can can find examples that apply here.

A Year Of Self-Improvement

Based on J.D. Meier’s 30 day improvement sprints, here are some of the self-improvement areas I’m planning for 2009 (not in any particular order):

Speed Reading. Lately, I’ve been quite interested in developing my reading abilities, so I’ve started reading books and doing some exercises on speed reading. I’ll try to improve my speed reading abilities with greater retention of information and comprehension of the material read.

Crucial Conversations. Time to review and improve my crucial conversations skills. I think I’ll re-read the book, and review the audio files that I keep on my MP3 player for some "easy listening".

Blogging/Writing. I really enjoy blogging and writing. However, it’s not something that comes out easily and, over the years, I have had feedback that my writing skills have become more and more "telegraphic". I’m hoping that focusing on my writing skills will also help develop other communication skills.

Coaching. In the past year I’ve had a chance to work with a career coach and found the experience rewarding and valuable. I have found great personal fulfillment in mentoring others as well, so I’m planning on learning how to become a better mentor and a career and business coach to my mentees.

Running. Although I have a sedentary job (sitting at the computer all day long), I have always been a relatively active person. However, in the past couple of years I haven’t trained as regularly as I wish I had. Running is something I really enjoy doing and one of the few things I don’t even mind doing at the local gym. If I have some music or some podcasts I wish to listen to, I can run a few miles easily. My ultimate goal is to resume my workout and build it into a routine, incorporating it into my daily activities.

Japanese. I’ve always had a "knack" for foreign languages and I’ve always had a deep interest in the Japanese culture. So, about five years ago I started learning Japanese. Unfortunately the class schedule became incompatible with my other responsibilities and I had to stop attending. I managed to keep self-teaching it but have to focus in order to get to a different level.

Iaido. This is the centuries old traditional Japanese swordsmanship art. Even today, iaido follows the traditional rites of a bygone era. Like any koryu (traditional martial art), the study of iaido (and, ultimately, budo) is a life-long, often elusive pursuit. This year, I want to focus and really push myself to a higher level of practice.

Presentation Skills. I have to admit how envious I am of all great public communicators. Those people who can make complex topics accessible to laymen and have the ability to really connect with the audience. In my job I also have to do some public speaking. Although I am aware that I’m not bad (at least according to the feedback stats I get from my sessions), I’m also aware that I’m not great. So,  even though I’ve had a couple of presentation skills training, I think I really need to focus on this topic to be able to go from good to great.

Networking. Increase my influence by extending my network. I’m an I type (MBTI), so networking is not something that I do naturally and with ease. However, I do recognize the importance networking bears in a career, especially when your ability to achieve results also depends on your ability to influence others either directly or indirectly.

Can You Say ‘No’?

Here’s a very interesting article by JD Meier.

I was reading this post and something really caught my attention – avoiding a situation if it’s not right for you. I know that being successful is about playing to your strengths and avoiding situations not suited for you – it requires large amounts of personal energy and the results are never as good.

Lately, I have found myself working on a couple of projects that are not in my field of expertise. Most of the time I felt like a fish out of water. For the most part the projects weren’t exciting to me and I wasn’t that happy with the end results.

Sometimes you really can’t avoid doing something you’re not particularly good at, but as long as it is a conscious choice and not something you get pulled into.

The first step should be to understand what are the things you really enjoy doing and what are the things that just drain your energy. This is an introspection that you should do once in a while just to understand if your priorities have changed or not (people change, interests change, goals change, priorities change).

Once you have this understanding, it’s time to pursue those projects that are aligned with your strengths and avoid those that are not suited for you.

A Helpful Advice

A while back, a friend of mine told me about GTD. At first, I was skeptical about the whole thing, but as I have a high regard for his opinions, I decided to investigate this issue some more.

I did some research on the web and ended up borrowing the book for some light reading. I have to admit that I really enjoyed the simple advices and the straightforward, lightweight approach to actionable execution of tasks.

Filtering your inbox is just the first step. To be truly effective you have to make the triage actionable, i.e., you have to understand what action or actions are required to follow up on a given issue (should you address it immediately? Should you delegate it?). This is where GTD or Inbox Zero come in.

These approaches are somewhat common sense, so I think that most people who have already invested some time thinking about these issues have already come up with similar practices. Approaches like GTD and Inbox Zero are still helpful in the sense that they provide integrated, structured frameworks for these common productivity practices.

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