Lessons from 1,000 Deaths

Abundance Well-being

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Key Point: We can all live a little better by thinking about dying. This weekend I needed a little reminder about death and its wonderful lessons. I was dragging my behind after a very long week, complaining about having to get on a plane and then drive on Sunday to give a speech Monday morning. I seemed to ache all over, and then came a little kick in the behind when listening to a podcast involving Dr. BJ Miller! I’m on the plane writing this and “feeling” a heck of a lot better. I’m grateful for the aches and much, much, much more! 

“At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? And how can knowing this help you live better lives now? ” These were questions posed by Tim Ferries in the wonderful podcast noted above, interviewing Dr. BJ Miller (@zenhospice). BJ is a palliative care physician at Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, where he is deeply committed and involved in how to create a dignified, and graceful end of life. BJ is also a triple amputee, (due to a horrific accident as a sophomore while at Princeton). Miller’s 2015 TED Talk, “Not Whether But How,” is a powerful story and is ranked among the top-15 most viewed TED talks of the year. I encourage you to watch it, and/or listen to the Ferris podcast. He is an expert in death, AND as a result he’s learned how we can dramatically improve our own lives, often with very small changes. Miler has guided or been involved with approximately 1,000 deaths, and he’s observed patterns we can all learn from. One is how any pain is a good sign of being fully alive. (So Lorne… Embrace that pain and be so grateful to be alive). Here is a related “thought to consider,” as noted by Kim Forrester in her article, “Tips for Transformation & Inspiration,” posted in Maria Shriver’s website:

“Death is nothing to fear, and neither is life. Research into the process of dying has revealed one, unwavering detail; the process of passing from this life is a blissful and peaceful experience. In the moment you choose to leave this life, there will be no pain, no sorrow and no trauma; just a complete understanding of all that you have experienced and the vital contribution you have made to this world. Therefore, life is not about being tentative and safe; stepping carefully through your days in order to avoid that dreadful chasm of death. It is about grasping the concept we call life; throwing yourself into this miraculous experience with joyful abandon and with a clear understanding of the incredible gift each and every moment brings.” 

Character Moves:

  1. The small stuff does matter and yet so much of what happens in our life is out of our control. Most often, however, we do have a choice in how we react to how we choose to live. We all know what the ending is. So live!
  1. “Do it now, be kind and give more” is the short form version of The Character Triangle. The research behind promoting the personal power of these combined values was very much influenced by the lessons learned from hospice nurses. BJ Miller’s insights reinforce the Character Triangle and more. Listen to the podcast if you can, and live The Character Triangle  

Feeling the beauty of aches in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I’m not sure I’m out of that stage of “feeling invincible.” I don’t often get sick, I drive pretty well, and in the day-to-day life, I don’t really have to take care of anyone but myself. “Danger” isn’t really something I deal with often. If you think that sounds ignorant, well, so do I. I can’t think like that forever, and it’s probably about time I stop to appreciate the small things a little more. I may not think about death much, but I’d certainly like to think that I enjoy living, but if you can’t appreciate the beauty of “aches” then you’re probably not living to your full potential.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Order the Combo! It’s a Better Deal

Accountability Contribution Productivity

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Key Point: Embrace your very hectic and busy life by considering the following two ideas. I’m suggesting you order them up as a “combo deal” for your life going forward: Deep work and essentialism.  

The formula for “Deep Work” is: High quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus). Essentialism, as I refer to it is this context, is about taking control of choices and intentionally deciding where to focus energy.  It involves learning to filter through all of life’s options and select only those that are truly essential. When we have the combo of understanding and applying BOTH concepts, you and I will get more of the results we most want in life. I see so many people who allow their life to be controlled by the many distractions around them. And FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) adds to the conundrum. I actually worry about people’s emotional well-being because the shiny baubles of unlimited opportunity populate people’s dreams and yet they allow much of their time to be dictated by default rather than intention. Time passes and little of what they have dreamed about has occurred. Their life has been dictated by the rationalization of default, (“I will think about doing it later”), and the rut of a routine that’s often meaningless to what’s really important. (“It’s so less stressful when I just do what’s in front of me”).

Adam Grant became the youngest professor to receive tenure at Wharton and within five years, became the school’s youngest full professor. Grant is also a New York Times bestselling author and prolific researcher who performs at a very high level. In his book, Deep Work, Georgetown professor and author Cal Newport notes that Grant decided early in his career that productivity was a scientific problem that could be solved, and one of the fundamental components of his solution is doing “deep work.” Grant batches hard but important, intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches. According to Newport, rather than continuously work on research throughout the year, Grant reserves the fall semester for his teaching responsibilities, and the effort that he puts into his classes and students has resulted in him being Wharton’s top-rated professor for four straight years. The spring semester and summer are then dedicated to research. When he’s working in his office, he’ll sometimes spend a few days working in total isolation. During these stretches, Grant will set up an email auto-reply telling people he’s not answering messages for a few days.

In his exceptional work, Essentialism, author Greg McKeown draws on the experience and insight from working with truly exceptional leaders who have achieved the disciplined pursuit of less. Essentialism according to McKeown, is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. It involves distinguishing the vital few from the trivial, recognizing that if we don’t prioritize our lives, someone else will. Sometimes what we DO NOT do is just as important as what we do! And we know that some efforts just produce exponentially better results than others. As leadership Sherpa John Maxwell has stated, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Honestly answer the following: What are the BIG things in life you DEEPLY want to do? If you can’t write this down in less than a few minutes, you haven’t defined it. Are you able and disciplined enough to batch deep work when you want and need to focus on your essential things?
  1. To discern what is truly essential, you need space to think, time to look and listen. However, you also need to give yourself permission to play, have the wisdom to refuel, and the discipline to apply the above highly selective criteria to the choices you make. Remember that there is something self-propelling and powerful about visibly seeing progress toward a goal. You’re worth it!!

Eating the Combo in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I think some Millennials are often told that it’s ok not to be “hungry” yet. We live as if it’s 4 p.m., we’d like a “combo meal” later, but we’re not ready to eat till 8 p.m. and we haven’t really looked at the menu yet. We’re encouraged to try appetizers. But, sooner or later, our waiter is coming to take our order and if we don’t know what big things we want, they might just move on to another table. I guess it’s never too early to develop an appetite.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Smelling and it Stinks!

Organizational culture Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: People can usually see right through our B.S., although it may take some time to pierce the flash or veneer. People in executive positions live in an aquarium. Observers watch and listen to us all day, evaluating our authenticity, integrity and generally seeing if our lips and feet really work together.

I heard a story the other day about a new CEO who gathered all the troops so he could “fire everyone up.” His comments were all about how everyone should get more excited about customers, working harder, and even having more fun. He ended the speech with the inspiring “fact” that there were too many under performers and he was going to fix that. The presentation was slightly slicker than the paraphrase above, but the real “message,” as “heard” by some employees, might as well have been: “Look, my bonus and total comp as CEO depends on you guys doing better. I know you need a job because it’s a ‘buyers’ market for talent. So watch out, because we can likely get more while paying less. And the ‘fun’ comment was a suggestion made by HR, and is a ‘throw away.’ I want to have fun here, but frankly I really don’t care if you do. Now go out there and win one for the big guy, ME! And remember while you’re lucky to have a job, be sure to fill out that engagement survey we sent you correctly.” 

The CEO’s comments have some merit of course, but they do not convey a real “People First” strategy. People First is not mush headed employee pandering or some deviant form of socialism. It is a way of recognizing that the first and foremost commitment of leadership is fully engaging the heads, hearts and minds of the entire team in a way that will ultimately lead to the best business results. The answer to, “what’s in it for me?” goes beyond survival and lucky to be employed.

It is time for EVERY organization (with the premise that they have some inherent value in the marketplace) to put People First! The debate about who is more important between people, customers or shareholders should be over and done. Institutions need to have a predetermined responsibility to be a vessel for transporting employees towards living better and richer lives (and of course achieve bottom line results). Yes, organizations need a commercially viable offering as a foundation for sustainability… However, the “ticket” to lead in any institution must be the ability to deliver customer and shareholder happiness through the constructive contribution of people; not on their backs.  By putting people first, customers and shareholders will ultimately win too. And you can’t fake this belief. People watch carefully and eventually assemble the moments of truth into the story that lets them know what to really believe. If we’re out of step from what we declare, then the smell will sit on top of us like a stinky, puke green cloud of phoniness. I promise employees, customers and shareholders will all be poorer for it.

Character Moves:

  1. Test your real beliefs. Be sure if you drive with a People First philosophy, that the moments of truth in front of you will reinforce, rather than contradict that proclamation. We’re not perfect and will likely make mistakes in this context, but people will forgive and work with us if they trust our intentions.

Smelling good in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Sometimes as Millennials, we can feel pretty out of the loop when it comes to office agenda and politics. We don’t need to know everything that happens behind closed doors in executive meetings, but the more truth and transparency offered, the better we can do our jobs too. A People First plan would absolutely be ideal, and even if the truth stinks, we’ll achieve better results than if operating in an uncertain haze.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Forward Accountability!

Accountability Management Organizational culture

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Key Point: I think many managers (not leaders) like the idea of holding people accountable. It’s like their inner voice and ego zeros in on that part of their job description that states in bold: “Ensure that people meet your expectations and their commitments.” So, what do these managers often do in the spirit of applying confusing terms like “performance management?” They grind on their team by micro managing, over inspecting, hovering, threatening, and applying other so called “accountability methods.” Then, what eventually happens? People working for these so called “performance supervisors” usually become tentative, fearful, and ultimately produce worse results. Of course, the chest pounding, tough-minded “accountability manager” proudly announces to all who might listen: “I told you I would hold them accountable.” So, they eventually get rid of the “under performer.” Predictably, not too much later, they repeat the process. The manager builds their brand as a tough-minded, performance driven boss, when in fact, that mindset and behavior is so archaic and misguided that it is practically shameful. 

Here’s another thought. What if we applied inspiration as the vehicle for self-accountability? When I look for people to get better results, I like the idea of having them aspire to make things 10x better, rather than grinding them on whether they have completed incremental tasks. Furthermore, what if we deepened relationships with each other to the point of never wanting to let each other down? If these two elements are in full flight, the idea of accountability leadership is very much forward moving. Why would I have to hold people accountable when I know they are inspired to “jet up 10x”AND never let me OR their teammates down? When these forward thinking accountability principles drive contributions, a leader’s role is to serve rather than hound. This is more than semantic differentiation. In my view, it’s a completely different approach to accountability and much more rewarding for all involved.

Character Moves:

  1. Be an inspiration rather than an inspector. Do you inspire or inspect your team’s accountability? If it’s the latter, I hope you don’t work for us. All inspection (while occasionally necessary), is essentially wasteful. There is a difference when people seek coaching versus you trying to catch them screwing up.
  1. Establish an accountability care bank. Care so much for people that work for and with you, in the most authentic way, so that they will never want to let you down and vice versa. When relationships deepen to embrace mutual personal concern and respect, holding people accountable takes on a much different context. In this way, “hold” means to cherish. A richer, more forward view of accountability emerges because we would never intentionally let each other down.

Forward accountability in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: If you’ve ever watched a military documentary (and I’ve watched quite a few), you may have noticed a common theme. When soldiers are asked why they fight, they have little concern for themselves, and simply say they’re fighting for the brothers and sisters next to them. All ranks. If they don’t do their job, it could have serious consequences on those they’re fighting with. It’s understood the feeling is reciprocated. Now, a cubicle is about as far as you can get from a foxhole, but this is a mentality that us civilians can give serious consideration.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Flow to Glow

Purpose Respect

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Key Point: Doing what’s right or best is not always convenient. Probably like most of you, I like to plan my daily schedule in advance so that my agenda isn’t distracted by everything that pops out in front of me. This past Sunday was no exception. I had it all outlined in my head: FaceTime and/or phone my travelling wife, kids and grandkids, as well as my mom. I hoped to do some gardening, have a late breakfast and leisurely coffee with the Sunday New York Times, finish a bunch of writing for work, take a 30k bike ride, make dinner, prep for my Exec team meeting, catch up with email backlog, then write my blog and zzzz. Then it happened. I got a text from my niece who was in the area on a weekend outing with her girl friends, inviting me to catch up at a local winery that afternoon?

I love all my nieces and nephews, so it was an easy decision to make. I not only wanted to see her and meet her friends, I was hoping to invite them to our home too. However, to be honest, there was that momentary pause when you realize all your plans have to get reshuffled. I’m so glad my niece texted because it reminded me about priorities and the importance of having the agility and flexibility to go with the flow. Some of the delicious richness of life comes from the fact that things do unexpectedly come up, giving us a choice and chance to do the right thing, which may not always be the most convenient.

The “girls” could only come by for a couple of hours before they had to scoot to the airport, but it was sooo much fun! It truly made my Sunday a Funday. I’m so fortunate and humbled that she even sought out my company. My niece and her friends are all accomplished in their personal and professional lives. If I had been “busy,” I would have not only missed seeing her, but also the context of the wonderful friendships she has established. The biggest chuckle during the visit on our front porch (wine may have been involved) was a discussion of their weekend “sports highlights,” which as you might expect, included a lot of hijinks and laughs. Perhaps the funniest was their creative and hilarious use of “glow in the dark” kids toys to add visual texture to key moments. Before your imagination gets the best of you, it was all in good taste and fun (but the stories stay “sealed” on our front porch).

Character Moves:

  1. Do you have a well-defined filter for making choices during each day? The Sunday visit reminded me to make sure my priority filter is working properly. Am I making choices to do things that include enough generosity of spirit for others that subsequently replenishes me too? I still made enough room for everything else that really needed to get done on Sunday. So what if my bike ride was shorter? And of course, the Times will be there next Sunday.
  1. Do you leave room for the unexpected in your day? Great production systems rarely schedule to capacity because they know S#!* happens (almost everyday). If you have no flexibility, when something breaks down, you’re in schedule hell. We need to leave room for the flow AND according to my niece and her friends, we will “glow from that flow.” Thanks for the blog title and inspiration, ladies.

Glowing in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Sometimes I hear my co-workers brag about going to bed very early. We’re talking prideful boasts about hitting the sack as early as 7:30 p.m. They’ll express how wonderfully rested they feel, while silently judging the bags that are probably under my eyes. Congratulations! But, I always think, “Yeah, but what’d you miss?” What laugh didn’t you have? What piece of information did you not learn? Funny enough, I discussed this very subject during a dinner I recently had that could have easily been scrapped due to inconvenience, laziness, and scheduling conflict… If I followed convenience, I would have really missed out.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis