Positive Pride and Hunger to be Needed

Key Point: The hunger to be needed and positive pride are very good emotions, and powerful motivators. On the other hand, insecurity can drive heuristic pride and that’s problematic because arrogance and egotism overshadows. The following is from a thought provoking op-ed by the Dalai Lama, published in the Nov. 4 New York Times:

“Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger… A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed… Being ‘needed’ does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women.”

Pride is an emotion that I believe is related to our hunger to be needed and is positive when it motivates us to work hard and achieve. It can also be negative if it’s is based on insecurity and unbridled egotism. Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, looks at both sides of pride in her book, titled — Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success. She notes the following:  “What we found is that pride is a positive. It is what motivates us to work hard and achieve. I like to think of it as the carrot, this thing that we want to feel in our sense of self. We feel it when we’re doing or working or putting in the effort to become the person that we want to be… It’s a long story to say it’s the awareness that there’s a sense of pride I’m not getting in my life that I want to get, that’s what causes people to change their behavior and perform better.” 

I am in the process of leaving one executive role for another. Those of you who read my blog know how much I have loved being the Chief People Officer of our company. Being asked to do something else has put me in front of the mirror. That has been both unsettling and uncomfortable at times. Questions like, “why am I really resisting?” and “what am I really fearful of?” made me squirm a little and wrestle with the dark side of confronting insecurity and hubristic pride. Hmm. On the other hand, confronting those questions is when I came to learn more about myself. I have a healthy hunger to give, be needed and an authentic pride to do great work. If I keep that at the forefront, the world will unfold as it should. How fortunate I am to be fully alive and feel that way. If I start to respond to unfounded fear and insecurity and it becomes about “me,” I will lose my way. 

Character Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to accept that the hunger to be needed is a wonderful human attribute. The following Buddhist teaching is so simple and powerful: “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
  1. The pride of doing something well helps us create the best sense of self. It’s what we’ve heard from our wise elders forever: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” No one needs to validate us when we do good work. We know it. That is authentic, positive pride. Apply that prideful work to the benefit of others, and looking in the mirror will invite a well-earned smile. 

Needed Pride in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: If you’re not taking any pride in what you’re doing, then what’s the point? How sad would that be? Sounds like a pretty miserable existence. I think we can all see how “negative pride” could transform into arrogance, cockiness or other ugly traits, so… You know… Just, don’t cross that line. That’s where self-accountability comes in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

Winning the Podium in Inches!

Key Point: It is important to understand how our business can be disrupted so we can become offensive rather than being on our “back foot” in the market place.  However, there is still much to be accomplished by focusing on all the “inches” of progress out there. It’s a parallel process: Look for inventive, even disruptive processes, while making continuous improvements everywhere.

I was interested in an Harvard Business Review article interviewing Sir David Brailsford, the successful, now legendary coach of British Cycling. Note the following from the HBR blog that outlines his thinking in more detail:

“When Sir Dave Brailsford became head of British Cycling in 2002, the team had almost no record of success: British cycling had only won a single gold medal in its 76-year history. That quickly changed under Sir Dave’s leadership. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his squad won seven out of 10 gold medals available in track cycling, and they matched the achievement at the London Olympics four years later. Sir Dave now leads Britain’s first ever professional cycling team, which has won three of the last four Tour de France events.

Sir Dave, a former professional cycler who holds an MBA, applied a theory of marginal gains to cycling — he gambled that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated increase in performance.”

Within the blog, Brailsford goes on to say: 

“We had three pillars to our approach, which we called ‘the podium principles.’ The first one was strategy. The second was human performance; we weren’t even thinking of cycling, but more about behavioral psychology and how to create an environment for optimum performance. The third principle was continuous improvement…

For strategy we analyzed the demand of each event and spent a lot of time trying to understand what it would take to win. So as just one example — what is the power needed off the line to get the start required to achieve a winning time, and how close is each athlete to being capable of generating that power? For this and other metrics, we looked at our best athletes and identified the gap between where they were and where they needed to be. And if it was a bridgeable gap we put a plan in place. But if it was not a bridgeable gap we had to be pretty ruthless — compassionate, but ruthless. Not all athletes are destined for the podium and we weren’t interested in fourth place.” 

Notice that Sir Brailsford approaches cycling performance as a complete system. To achieve great results, the British team focused on all three of the “podium principles.” It takes relentless attention and progress in all three principles to WIN!! 

Character Moves:

  1. Strategy: Understand in detail what it takes to win. This involves very rigorous data science application. Then be compassionate, fair, and decisive in determining “house cleaning” if you have “athletes” that just won’t get you there. If gaps in people performance are unlikely to close or take too long, leaders have a responsibility to act accordingly! Have the courage to respectfully move people out if they can’t help you WIN in the system. 
  1. Human Performance: Learn in detail what it takes for “‘athletes” who have all the desirable skills and attitude, to then flourish and thrive. Create an environment that does just that.
  1. Continuous improvement: Kaizen, every day continuous improvement, was introduced by Japan Inc., and is at least a 30 year old idea. However, think how much progress an organization could make if every single person improved the processes they were involved with by inches everyday. As the British cyclist leader notes, it’s all about winning by inches.

Winning by inches in the Triangle, 


One Millennial View: A cycling team is a perfect metaphor for standard job progression because of course it takes that “rigorous data science application” to succeed. (Which, btw, also might be why it’s historically the most “cheated” sport on the planet). I don’t think people often “cheat” in the work place, but it’s tough out there and sometimes folks don’t want to take all the steps! You’re not exactly throwing “Hail Mary’s” for wins. Success as a cyclist is measured through this simpler, but more difficult question: Are you fast enough or not? And frankly, I think most of us would like to live in a more “Hail Mary’s can win” world, where sometimes you can just wing it and get lucky. But real work is more annoying. It might be headache inducing to face the task of data analysis, meticulous but steady continuous improvement, and slowly winning by numbers. But we’re in the race already, so might as well pedal for the podium, and we likely know what type of efforts we need to get there. Like a big hill on a bike ride, it’ll burn, but it’ll be worth it. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Dancing with ‘Enough,’ and ‘More’

Key Point: One element emphasized by the performance psychologists of Olympic athletes is this: If you weren’t good enough before you win the gold medal, you won’t be good enough after you win it. Winning to prove “you’re good enough” is a dead end journey. I have seen this with people at work quite often. I may have even behaved this way myself. The primary motivation connected to forward movement can sometimes be around the judgmental voice of our ego. We may say things to ourselves like, “If I get this promotion then I will finally be good enough,” “when I make this amount of money then I will finally be good enough,” “when I lose the 30 pounds then I will finally be good enough.” And of course, when they get “there,” it’s never enough . 

I recently discussed this notion with a very wise performance consultant and she talked about the conundrum and paradox surrounding personal contentment and development. She noted: “At a fundamental level personal acceptance is critical for wellbeing and high performance. No matter where we are on our life journey it is important to trust that we are whole – that we ARE enough, and ensure that our esteem not be determined by achievements. This reality, however, must coexist with another aspect equally present in people – the desire to grow, develop, aspire, be creative and curious about one’s potential. It thus begs a question… ‘How can I feel that I am enough AND want more out of life?’ It takes an open and reflective mindset to hold both as truth.” 

In my career, I have seen the most confident and humble people come from a place of deeply believing in themselves as “good enough.” However, these same people are relentlessly curious and adventurous . They come from an abundant place of always contributing, creating, building, adding,  and personally growing. They are content in the moment regarding who they are and yet relentlessly restless in giving to themselves and others the very joy associated with “more.” It is possible for “enough” and “more” to wonderfully co-exist. It is ok to be enough and not done. 

Character Moves: 

1. I am inviting you to join me in a recommended exercise if the above topic resonates with you in any way. On a blank page draw a line through the middle. On the left hand side, write “content and I am enough” as a heading. On the right side of page, write “more and not done yet.” Then for each side, ask yourself and write your reflections: 

When and in what ways do I feel content? When and in what ways do I desire more?

* How will I live in ways that reflect that I am content? How will I live in ways that acknowledge my potential?

* How will I communicate to others that I am content? How will I communicate my eagerness to develop and grow?

2. This exercise may help us better discover and live the dual path of contentment and more. At the root however, must be the belief: I AM enough! 

Relentlessly content in the Triangle 


One Millennial View: I’ve come to the realization that my least favorite phrase is likely one I’ve used before, but now diligently try to avoid. I dislike saying, “it is what it is.” To me, it’s a phrase that suggests stopping, being stuck, or unable to progress in a favorable direction. It’s a way to justify brushing a difficult issue under the rug. Not believing you’re “enough,” seems to lead to anticlimactic conclusions like “it is what it is.” 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Picking Yourself Up After the Trip

Key Point: You only trip when you’re moving. I’ve had some great success as a leader. I’ve also failed in small and BIG ways. That’s the plain truth. I’ve learned so much from both. And I am so much more complete as a human being as a result. Am I “perfect?” Hardly and never… But I get better in iterative ways all the time.

Yesterday, I gave a presentation on behalf of a leader I really care about, and I wanted to add so much value to his offsite leadership event. Problem was, I was off my game. I couldn’t seem to achieve a meaningful connection with the audience even though I pride myself in doing that more often than not. The other week, I presented a plan to my boss and he threw up over most of it. I didn’t listen well enough to what he wanted. In between these events I’ve had some nice wins. The goal is to deposit more value than the deficit attached to doing things that diminish it. But trust me, if you’re moving, trying things and have a point of view, you are going to fail; it’s only a matter of when and how big. Don’t believe the pristine press of the perfect “golden child.” Those stories are often made up. The reason we love real and objective biographies is that we see authenticity, humanness and embrace the value or devalue related to the subject. We learn… We relate. 

So what happens when we trip? How do we best respond? To give us some researched guidance, please note the following from a recent HBR blog by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis and Ron Ashkenas:

“We’ve interviewed hundreds of executives who have been fired, laid off, or passed over for promotion (as a result of mergers, restructuring, competition for top jobs, or personal failings). Often, we find them working through the classic stages of loss defined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: They start with shock and denial about the events and move on to anger at the company or the boss, bargaining over their fate, and then a protracted period of licking their wounds and asking themselves whether they can ever regain the respect of their peers and team. Many of them never make it to the “acceptance” stage.

That’s partly because, as social psychologists have found in decades’ worth of studies, high achievers usually take too much credit for their successes and assign too much external blame for their failures. It’s a type of attribution bias that protects self-esteem but also prevents learning and growth. People focus on situational factors or company politics instead of examining their own role in the problem.

Some ask others for candid feedback, but most turn to sympathetic friends, family members, and colleagues who reinforce their self-image (“You deserved that job”) and feed their sense of injustice (“You have every right to be angry”). This prevents them from considering their own culpability and breaking free of the destructive behavior that derailed them in the first place. It may also lead them to ratchet back their current efforts and future expectations in the workplace.

Those who rebound from career losses take a decidedly different approach. Instead of getting stuck in grief or blame, they actively explore how they contributed to what went wrong, evaluate whether they sized up the situation correctly and reacted appropriately, and consider what they would do differently if given the chance. They also gather feedback from a wide variety of people (including superiors, peers, and subordinates), making it clear that they want honest feedback, not consolation.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. The first thing a great pitcher does after throwing a home run is focus on how to make the next pitch better. The same goes for quarterbacks after tossing an interception. The sports metaphors (and others) are endless. Yes, we must REALLY learn from the “trip,” but we have to be both humble students AND fearless going forward. The first step after reasonable grief and frustration is to commit to forward progression. 
  2. As noted above: Do not get stuck in grief or blame. Sure, we must be aware of our feelings of loss, disappointment, etc. But at the right time for each of us, we have to ACCEPT, get up, and look for that chance to “throw again.”
  3. Recognize that you’re writing a rich and wonderful autobiography filled with the fully authentic you. What a boring story if you’re just sprinting on a perfectly smooth highway. And how much would we all learn from that? Relish the TRIP… A true double meaning!!

Tripping and getting up in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: As someone starting out in an industry where we don’t “know all the ropes” yet, a little “trip” can be day ruining, but a “big trip” could be career ending. (At least that’s what we scare ourselves into thinking). Really though, we can handle the scrapes… What’s even worse than a “trip,” is not being allowed the opportunity to fall in the first place. I’d rather max out a credit card on Neosporin because I “tripped,” than stand in place because my company doesn’t trust me enough to take that risky jump. Millennials want to jump, so let us. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
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Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

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Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

Read more about the Character Triangle


Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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