Juice it Up!

Accountability Capacity Choice

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Key Point: I detest playing “not to lose” versus “playing to win.” The mindset difference between the two positions is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a while since I’ve written about this, and the U.S. election just fired me up on the topic again. I do not want to over simplify a very complicated political situation, but from my perspective, Hillary Clinton (after having a double-digit lead just weeks before the election) went into a “prevent defense,” (playing not to lose), while Donald Trump left “nothing left on the table,” to win. 

Just several days earlier, the world observed Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon take enormous risks. He might have been run out of town if the Cubs lost, but he played to win. As an example, he used his relief and closing pitchers against conventional thinking, and risked losing the series on a questionable, suicide bunt call. You may not know baseball, but trust me; he let it all out. He played to win rather than avoid losing. As most of us now know, the Cubs ended a 108-year drought by winning the 7th game of the World Series in extra innings. Cubs fans are still celebrating.

According to a 15five.com article, the difference between playing to win versus playing “not to lose” is often a matter of knowing how to reframe threats as a challenge. This is more than silly semantics. Based on the article, the following is the difference:

“A threat situation alters the way the brain sensitizes to risk and reward. The amygdala, deep in the limbic system, is highly attuned to fearful stimuli. The risks of a situation become prominent in the mind. Meanwhile, the brain’s reward center–though activated by the opportunity – is still the lesser partner. All this changes in a challenge frame of mind…

‘In a challenge state, you’re NOT expected to be perfect, and NOT expected to win, but you have a fighting chance to rise to the occasion. You’re free to take risks and go for it, which activates the gain-orientation system. A cascade of hormones is released that suppresses l-TPJ activity, and the brain gets comfortable, as if everything is familiar. Decision making shifts back to automatic mode. The hormones dampen the amygdala, making you fearless, and they juice up the reward networks, making you highly attuned to the spoils of victory. Competitors breathe freely, feel energized and approach opportunities…’

Based on this knowledge, creating a threat situation greatly impacts your ability to perform. Think about how often we create our own ‘threat’ situations. We sometimes think or expect the worst, and mistakenly, feel it’s a way to avoid failure – hoping to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed by dreaming too big.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Think BIG and frame up desirable opportunities as a challenge. When we think challenge versus threat, we often find the capacity to win. Juice up the reward networks and become fearless.  
  1. The idea of bringing heat will never ignite when our orientation is just to “get through the day.” Competitive fire will flourish when long-term goals are high, and when it’s accepted that risks and mistakes go hand-in-hand, and we are free to let ambition reign. Let it #%%} go! 
  1. Believe in yourself. Give it! Bring it! Leave it all on the field, and you owe it to yourself and others to play to win. Focus on the challenge versus the threat. If you do lose, it’s an opportunity and challenge to win next time.

Juicing up in the Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Well, with the election being literally the most important story in the whole world, how could we not touch on it? But ALL political opinions aside, please, I bet we can see the point here together: It’s not over till it’s over, and you have to run till the whistle blows. Whether it’s gunning to lead the free world, win the World Series, or closing that next big deal… Play to win it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Five Minutes to Live

Accountability Choice Purpose

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Key Point: Why don’t I live and love more as if I had just five minutes before I died? What might I do differently today if I did? This past week we lost a beloved team member. He passed in his sleep, and likely was unaware of his last five minutes. Thirty years ago, the seven astronauts on the Challenger that exploded in the Florida sky, remained alive during their 65,000 foot plunge into the ocean. Can you imagine what the atmosphere was like in that cockpit, knowing that in a few moments you would be dead? What would go through our minds?

Over the last few days, I have found myself feeling sad and unsettled thinking about our colleague Steve’s death. Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid-60s and appreciating that the statistical life expectancy “runway” is getting shorter. Or maybe because too many people I cherish and love live so darn far away. Although it’s not usually something I think about, I must remind myself that I just cannot blithely live assuming there will be another day. Essentially though, without becoming too morbid, in some ways it’s really all a blur. Whether it’s five minutes, five days, five or fifty more years… Life is over faster than we could have imagined.

When I was doing research for my book, “The Character Triangle,” too often I found the advanced elderly and/or dying looking backward wishing: “If only I could?” “If I only realized?” “If only I did?” This often included acknowledging having given in to the twin seductions of “when” and “hope.” “WHEN I’m… I will…” “I HOPE one day that…” However, I found that fiercely self accountable people had a growth mindset, and much more of an action oriented “do it now” approach to life; not in a reckless way, but in a “joie de vivre” fashion. They live and love with few regrets and seem to have a built in clock that reminds them how fragile their next five minutes is.

Character Moves:

  1. Even though we all understand the theme, this blog is a gentle reminder to me and you that we DO have NOW! Thankfully, most of us also have the next five minutes and more. What will we do to live more fully, understanding that fact? Who will we love more?
  1. And what if we challenged ourselves about what we have not done yet on our way to a richer life? What might we do? What are we waiting for?
  1. Please keep the work we do in perspective. It is a significant part of our life and it’s only a portion of the mix that makes up who we are and what we stand for. Appreciate the blessings we have. Also, I must throw out a cheer for the short form version of The Character Triangle: Do It Now! Be Kind! Give more! We’re worth it!

Last Five Minutes in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: When I ever get the bravery to dwell on how long I’ve been in the professional working world, or how removed from college and high school I am, it’s almost hard for me to believe. I’m a Millennial, but I’m an old Millennial. When’d that happen? I don’t worry about mortality so much, but, I’m getting the first sense of how fast Monday turns to Friday, Sept. 1 turns to Oct. 1, and how fast 2016 will be 2017. Per cliché, life goes by fast, and those last “five minutes” must feel like warp speed. We owe it to ourselves to be self-accountable and make sure our story, however long or short, doesn’t have chapters that readers would skip through.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

The Strength of Kindness

Choice Kindness Respect

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Key Point: It is so easy be mean spirited. It requires little or no emotional muscle and therefore it is so handy for the weak to serve it up. And bullies master meanness. I’ve seen hate-filled behavior in every part of my life. When it becomes the norm in a culture, the experience is toxic and deeply damaging. Kindness, on the other hand, takes intentionality and emotional strength. It also involves generosity of spirit. When it becomes resident in a culture, the members thrive and even fly. 

I was inspired to write this after attending a funeral. It was for the matriarch of a family in a wonderful farm community. I’m in the small town bar, post funeral, having a beer and reflecting as I write this. The town’s community hall was filled to the brim in celebration, as this 99-year-old woman’s life received appropriate tribute. This marvelous person was an exceptional mother, wife, grandmother, great-grandmother, seamstress, baker, community leader, and more, but the overarching theme of her life was kindness. She gave so much of it to caregivers in her nursing home during the last four years of life that the staff needed a quiet room to cry together upon her passing. The eulogies on her behalf inspired me to remind myself (and hopefully you) that one of our very reasons for living is to freely and generously offer kindness. Of course, to be genuinely kind, one has to have the strength to deeply care for others.

Five million people have read RJ Palacio’s book “Wonder.” It’s written for adolescents and (if you haven’t already), I encourage you to read it regardless of your age. August “Auggie” Pullman is a 10-year-old living in the fictional neighborhood of North River Heights in upper Manhattan. He has a rare facial deformity, which he refers to as “mandibulofacial dysostosis,” more commonly known as Treacher Collins syndrome and a cleft palate… As Auggie exclaims: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Due to numerous surgeries, Auggie had been home-schooled by his mother, and his parents decide to enroll him at Beecher Prep, a private school. As Auggie works at navigating school, his biggest nemesis is a character who barely conceals his disgust at Auggie’s appearance. He bullies Auggie and hates him for the way he looks. As Auggie struggles through the meanness and bullying, he sometimes wishes every day could be Halloween… “We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” How many people around us at work and in other parts of our lives feel this way? What do you and I do to make a difference?

Character Moves:

  1. At your eulogy, will one of the adjectives describing your life include kindness? (Not just the time you worked at United Way, or gave at the food bank). I’m talking about the everyday stuff from the moment you roll out of bed until you fall asleep. Every day has hundreds of moments inviting acts of kindness. 
  1. When given the choice between being right, or being kind, do you choose kindness? Personally, I have work to do here. I do not need to “win” all the time even though my ego says I should. 
  1. In the closing chapters of “Wonder,” the middle school principal addresses the student body at the end of school year’s awards ceremony. He introduces the challenge of “being kinder than necessary,” and concludes the event with a powerful quote by the 19th century abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher: “He/she is the greatest whose strength carries the most hearts by the attraction of his/her own.” How about getting emotionally buff through the strength of “more than necessary kindness?”

Kind strength in the Triangle,

PS… The following includes a link with great books about kindness. Reading them to children will be a little strength work for us too. 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I often discuss how nice and kind I find people in Los Angeles to be. This is surprising to some, because L.A. is stereotyped as a stuck up, shallow city. But people mostly  smile here, they’re friendly and cheerful, and while some believe that’s just a fake front, it’s important to recognize that they’re choosing a positive demeanor over a negative one. I think this is because it’s easier to be kind. I’d argue that it takes more effort to be mean… Meanness also shows insecurity, and sends unappealing vibes… It’s just “not a good look.” As you also may have heard, in Los Angeles, a “look” is something people certainly do care about.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Nudging People’s Behavior

Accountability Capacity Choice

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Key Point: How can you and I change people’s behavior? Well it’s a trick question, because of course; we can’t change people’s behavior. We can only change our own behavior. However, we can help people make better choices and act in ways that lead them toward their desired outcomes.

Victoria Fener is a co-founder of stickK.com, a firm dedicated to applying behavioral economics and related tools for better outcomes. She recently spent some time with our team and shared some important insights.  

Fener notes how research shows that people behave in irrationally, but somewhat predictable ways. The following are a few examples: 

  1. Default choices, like “opting out” work better than “opting in.” For example, if you wanted permission from people to allow for organ donations, the results are much better if people can intentionally opt out versus intentionally opting in. We are kind of lazy.
  1. Loss aversion is more powerful than the equivalent gain. Most us would take stronger action to avoid losing an already awarded free plane ticket than do something to earn an equivalent new one.
  1. People are less patient as time decreases. Most of us would rather have one sure thing immediately, than more of the same if we waited. This is the “bird in the hand versus two in the bush” idea.
  1. Most of us are more attracted to winning experiences than cash. Research shows more of us would rather buy lotto tickets to win a dream home or safari, than tickets for the cash equivalent. 
  1. Framing is a vital component when helping people make choices. For example, if we knew there was a possibility that 600 people would die and we were given two options. A: Saves 200 people, or B: 400 people die. Most of us would choose A. Of course, 400 people die either way, but framing the positive “saving” option is more appealing.
  1. We do better with a head start even when the distance is the same. If we had one of those stamp cards where we get a free drink after buying 10, we would be more likely to use a card requiring 12 drinks but with two free stamps already on it, than one with 10 and no free stamps. Of course, in either case, one has to buy 10 to get a free drink, but we do better with a little success already built in.
  1. We are biased by what we’ve recently seen or heard. If a 20 percent tip option is put in front of us, we are likely to choose that versus tipping at our own discretion. Our mind tricks our body a little when the sub-conscience is influenced, hence subliminal messaging. 

All of us design things, and therefore we become architects in impacting choices people make. We are recognizing more and more that information and knowledge alone do not necessarily help us change. Nutrition knowledge and obesity trends validate that. We often know what we should or would like to do, AND still need a nudge. If not, we’d all be skinny with six pack abs.

Character Moves:

  1. Really dig into understanding “what’s really in it for ourselves and the other person” to help us better understand how to help and encourage a desired outcome. Remember, we need to be humble enough to appreciate that knowledge and information does not automatically lead people to better outcomes. Of course understanding “why” is vital, but not necessarily sufficient.
  1. Invest in understanding behavioral economics and recognize the importance of design and choice architecture. Learn how to give people a positive nudge. When we combine knowledge with experience and choice design, then people will be more motivated to change… Including developing new habits. Design intentionality and choice architecture are going to get a lot more attention than they have before. Get ahead of the curve. 

Nudging in The Triangle, 

One Millennial View: As a Millennial, I’m aware it’s my generation that would be the first to challenge this… “How dare you challenge my behaviors? Where’s my safe space?” Blah blah blah. But really, we all know a million ways we’d like to improve ourselves. It just comes down to whether we’re willing to curb our laziness, selfishness, fears, comfort, routines, etc. in order to walk toward what we know will be a tough, uneasy, unpredictable journey. It’s scary, but this is where that whole “no one told you it would be easy” comes to play. And we could all benefit from a positive nudge.

– Garrett

‘How’ Versus ‘How Much’

Accountability Choice Honesty

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Key Point: “The more cashless our society becomes, the more our moral compass slips.” 

The above quote is based on solid research conducted by Dr. Dan Ariely, one of the world’s most respected behavioral economists. I work in the financial industry, and it is clear that we are rapidly going cashless (Apple Pay, etc.), so this conclusion is bothersome if not downright scary. In his book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves, Dr. Ariely believes that cheating is contagious, and that a group’s behavior will have a powerful effect on each individual.

Two current and very popular television series (House of Cards and Billions) portray contagious behavior by all participants in spades. The overall theme is that “the end justifies the means” and that “greatness” is determined by achieving “how much” at any cost, instead of honoring “how” the end is achieved. Ariely’s work points out: “We all want explanations for why we behave as we do and for the ways the world around us functions. Even when our feeble explanations have little to do with reality. We’re storytelling creatures by nature, and we tell ourselves story after story until we come up with an explanation that we like and that sounds reasonable enough to believe. And when the story portrays us in a more glowing and positive light, so much the better.”

In a very relevant HBR article by Dov Seidman, he stresses the importance of reframing greatness from the how much definition to the how“How do we conduct ourselves in life and business? (Do we act fairly? Do we treat our colleagues, customers, and community with respect)? How do we sustain success so it lasts for decades, not just fiscal quarters? How can we all work together to build something greater than ourselves?”

Seidman says, “It’s in how that we should find our inspiration for greatness. And this is not idealistic: The individuals, organizations, and even countries that end up consistently winning over the long term are those in the grip of how, a far bigger idea than how much.”

Maybe Seidman’s viewpoint needs to connect with Ariely’s conclusive comment:  “Acts of honesty are incredibly important for our sense of social morality. And although they are unlikely to make the same sensational news, if we understand social contagion, we must also recognize the importance of publicly promoting outstanding moral acts.” 

Character Moves:

  1. We need to constantly challenge ourselves to emphasis that the “how” is ultimately more important than the “how much.” The workplace is a living daily laboratory for emphasizing and celebrating the “how.”
  1. As imperfect beings, we have to be on guard for the social contagion that convinces us the end justifies the means. It is so easy to tell ourselves it’s “ok” when we know darn well it’s not. 

“How” in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I work in media, and I know for a fact that we’re not helping to fix this. And we never will. Ariely’s above comment, “and although they are unlikely to make the same sensational news,” blew up at me, because it’s the absolute truth. Sorry, “how” just doesn’t get advertisers buying like a “how much” story does. But don’t sleep on the general public, because they know when a “how much” story becomes loathsome. Eventually, a genuine “how” becomes the true subject worth reporting about and learning from. “How” will never be breaking news, but do you want the instant cover page? Or do you want to one day be featured as someone who did it right?

– Garrett