Dr. Joe Siegler's Peak Leadership Blog

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Cold Showers May Give You the Jolt You Need

Here’s an interesting (*non-scientific) theory: Cold-water therapy may turn you into a positive person by default. It appears that a cold shower may get you to stop caring so much about what you want and what you don’t want – i.e., it may neutralize preferences so that you can think more clearly.

We’ll wait on more research to make definitive statements, but this may be something to try if you need to implement a mindfulness goal, like clearing your head. In the meantime, heed these words from Chinese Zen master Z, ‘‘Do not like; do not dislike; all will then be clear.’’

So: Cold or Hot for you?

Aha! I trapped you into a preference.

Enjoy the day!

Joe

Letter of Recommendation: Cold Showers. Dolnick, Ben. New York Times Magazine. July 20, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Hero: Jerry Ragovoy

Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy passed away on Wednesday, July 13 at age 80. Ragovoy leaves behind the legacy of hit songs performed by the Rolling Stones (“Time Is On My Side”), Janis Joplin (“Piece of My Heart”), Jimi Hendrix (“Stop”) and numerous others. A memorial piece in The New York Times shows Ragovoy’s career as a songwriter was just as intriguing as the hit songs he’s written.

Ragovoy began his career as a music buyer for a department store in Philadelphia. Though he started his own record company, Ragovoy had is sights set on being a songwriter for Broadway.

In New York, in 1962, he found his career taking a different turn. He started writing a number of songs for groups like The Majors and Garnet Mimmis and the Enchanters. His song “Time On My Side” was adapted and made into a hit by the Rolling Stones. By 1966, Ragovoy was the head of artists and repertory at Warner Bros Records and in 1969 he founded a new record company, The Hit Factory.

Jerry Ragovoy sought to work on Broadway, but ended up getting famous for writing hit songs for classic artists, earning praise from his contemporaries for his mastery of the R&B idiom. Because he was willing to put his theatrical plans on hold, he ended up taking his life in directions few get to tread.

What executive coaching lessons can we glean from this man and his remarkable career trajectory?

  • Your career path may allow you to expand, shift your focus, and even change your direction entirely. Opportunities in slightly different fields may be offered to you. If you’re interested, you may find yourself excelling in something new and unexpected.
  • Ragovoy “shelved” his plans for Broadway to write for musicians. You may have a specific dream or goal in mind – don’t let it close you off to new experiences that may become new realities. Be prepared to adapt.

JS

Hero: Bob Herbert

The already-reeling newspaper medium is suffering another loss: Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times. In his final column for the paper, Herbert has published a useful summary of our country’s worrisome strategic mistakes. In “Losing Our Way,” Herbert finishes an inspiring career at NYT of publishing the hard truths when other journalists are afraid to report.

The America in “Losing Our Way” reveals how greed rules as the most wealthy keep all the profits to themselves, leaving the bottom 95% to compete in a ever-more bleaker job market. Even bright young graduates are forced into careers that limit their ability to accomplish goals. Wages are too low to think about starting a family, and the future seems more uninviting every day. In times like this, peak performance in career planning is more important than ever.

How can you, or someone you know, hope to rise above these challenges and conquer the competitive job market?

  • Solidify your vision of your ideal job. Excelling is far easier when you have the passion for your work.
  • Launch an entrepreneurial endeavor. The Amplifier Blog has previously posted tips for doing this such as a guide to planning, a list of excellent resources, and some advice on keeping your plans flexible.
  • Always keep an eye on your personal brand and how potential employers might see you.
  • Be flexible with your business/career plan. Be willing to change directions when you know that is what is needed.

Bob Herbert’s final column at the New York Times is an accurate portrait of a country in crisis, but Full Life’s coaching services can inspire you to meet the heightened challenges and and compete for diminished resources.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Hero: Gene Sharp

With the recent uprisings in Libya and Egypt, much of the world’s attention is focused on the ongoing struggle for universal democracy. One understated influence on these movements is the scholar Gene Sharp, an unbelievably humble political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth whose numerous tracts on nonviolent change have greatly inspired freedom seekers around the globe. Sharp’s revolutionary ideas are all the more impressive when one considers his incredible humility and old age. He refrains from taking credit for his influence, giving the Egyptians credit for their actions. The man is a true hero for peacefully advancing the cause of democracy and doing it based entirely on the strength of his ideas.

Sharp’s ideas expand upon those espoused by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In essence, Sharp’s philosophy emphasizes people’s strength in numbers and resilience to oppression. Despite the professor’s lack of experience with the internet, he also touts the use of new media both for organization and informing the world about the joys of freedom and news updates regarding potential oppression and hidden abuses. Though Sharp has his fair share of detractors that criticize his “passivity”, the wide spread reach of his work and the actions they have inspired speak for themselves.

Gene Sharp’s democratic teachings are incredibly admirable, and what’s even more impressive is that they come from such a self-effacing man. This professor is a true hero for his amazing contribution to the evolution of democracy.

What do you think about Sharp’s approach to change?

JS

Health Through the Soul

A recent article in Psychiatric News reviews Thomas Moore, Ph.D.’s book Care of the Soul in Medicine, an intriguing book concerning the idea of the human soul in healthcare. According to the author, modern medicine overlooks the important factor of caring for the patient’s soul during treatment, a practice that has its roots in ancient studies and techniques. Dr. Moore claims that modern medicine has too great a focus on the biological aspect of medical treatment, treating people like machines that need repair, not humans that need healing.

This is a very interesting approach, and while I wouldn’t want to downplay the biomedical aspect of healthcare, I agree that there is something more than biology at play in many patients, something that may well be called the soul. Dr. Moore points to the impersonality of healthcare. It is vital that we find ways to personalize the patient experience and introduce wellness approaches to education.

I’d say that Dr. Moore’s ideas overlap with my Spheres of Life® approach, especially since some clients can improve their functionality simply by getting in touch with their spirituality. Everyone’s different, but I’ve seen a lot of clients improve their workplace performance and lifestyle by devoting more time to what is meaningful for them, which in turn nourishes their soul.

In coaching, I teach clients to focus on on the soul by concentrating on two spheres:

  1. Spirit Sphere – This sphere covers your faith, religion, and values. Take some time to crystallize your beliefs and make sure you always act in accordance with your values. What makes life more purposeful for you?
  2. Self Sphere – This is your personality, development, your story, and your character. Clarify who you are by focusing on the aspects of your life that you are most proud of.

At this time of new year’s resolutions, what simple goal can improve your spirit?

JS

The Plastic Brain and Resolutions

2011’s New Year’s Day Op-Ep piece entitled “This Year, Change Your Mind” by Oliver Sacks concerns the ability of the brain to literally grow to handle new tasks throughout the life span. Dr. Sacks is the author of the book that inspired the Robin Williams film Awakenings. So a new year’s resolution regarding a new skill, job, hobby or adventure can actually stimulate the mind to grow and keep your mind agile and effective. Dr. Sacks uses some neurological patients as examples of the brains of adults reconfiguring themselves to demonstrate that learning a difficult new skill is not something that only children can do: mature brains can also be reshaped by new skills and talents. But ample evidence now exists that normal people can influence brain development throughout the many phases of life and work.

For years now I teach a coaching exercise regarding ONE BIG RESOLUTION. It’s hard enough to be successful at one important goal. So pick one thing you really want and make it happen. Start a new career; wake up energized in the morning; lose that ever-staying weight; do something completely out of the box! Do something new that you haven’t done before. Choose a big change in your life.

Here are some examples:

  1. Take dance lessons or learn a musical instrument. Dr. Sacks cites music as an important part of affecting the brain’s health, so try something rhythmic. Take up the drums!
  2. Start doing yoga. It’s not just trendy, it’s also fun and healthy; plus its mental components will help keep your mind limber.
  3. Start a business. There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than running your own business, even if it’s small at first. I have posted a number of blogs with resources for new business owners.
  4. Write a book. This will expand your mind in new and huge dimensions. A large project like writing a book will help keep your mind focused, organized, and productive.
  5. Volunteer for that organization you love and support. If you have wanted to volunteer, then it is time.

So pick a BIG resolution, and:

  1. Chart out an action plan to accomplish it.
  2. Then be sure to follow-up with your self to check that you maintain it over time.
  3. Consider that many people say that it takes about 3 weeks to form a new habit.

Remember, goals are set in definite strokes and missed in vague shades. Come up with your aspirations concretely and don’t let small slips poke holes in your dreams.

What are your big resolutions, and how will you accomplish them?

JS

Simplify and De-clutter Your Life

An exchange variously attributed to an interviewer and either John D. Rockefeller or J. Paul Getty—both astronomically wealthy oil tycoons—goes like this: A reporter asks the interviewee how much money is enough, and the response comes: “Just one dollar more.” Indeed, mankind has grown more and more materialistic and possession-motivated in the last century. A new movement resisting this notion is gathering steam, however, claiming that people might be happier once they actively limit their possessions and focus on relationships with those close to them.

An article in the New York Times called “But Will It Make You Happy?” contains an overview of the movement. Most commonly, websites that support the minimalist philosophy gauge the metrics of how simplified your life is by counting your possessions. The blog Stuck in Stuff has a number of articles about limiting what you own to 100 items, and it’s this type of site that inspires the people discussed in the NYT article. 100 items is an extreme, but we all have something to incorporate regarding simplification.

The effect of cutting off superfluous attachments is to drastically simplify your life and eventually allow you to focus on being happy. It works like this: as you limit your possessions, you need less space and less transportation to go about your everyday life. This means you spend less money on smaller apartments and transportation, which means you can work to earn money to support yourself, not your possessions.

An unhappy worker is unproductive, no matter the industry. Cutting ties to possessions and trimming fat can be a very liberating action, and can contribute to happiness. If you feel like you’re working for those around you and to support your habits, not your choices, maybe simplifying your lifestyle is a good idea.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Habits: Challenging How We Think About Study Habits

A terrific article describes groundbreaking effective study strategies in “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” informing us about new cognitive research that challenges conventional ideas about the best ways to learn and study. I have never identified with boring and repetitive study habits, and instead have found that mixing up and varying one’s approach is the way to go when it comes to effective studying or work output. I was intrigued to find that this research confirms my own preferences and the methods I teach to Full Life clients.

There are two main ideas that the article takes issue with: first was the idea that students should have a set place where they always study. Actually, as I’ve found and as the article reports, it’s better to learn and work from a variety of different locations. The article explains that we make numerous subtle associations between the subject we’re studying and our surroundings while we study it; and by changing our location, we force the brain to make multiple associations to increase retention. I noticed this practice helped me greatly when I was writing my book, Fire Your Therapist, which I wrote in many different places: one day I would work from home, one day from the office, another day from Starbucks, then in Florida. This kind of alternating also helps you from getting fatigued: by varying your surroundings, changing the background “noise” and keeping the routine from getting boring.

The second convention that the article challenges is the idea that the best way to learn large amounts of new material is immersion in each separate subject. I’ve found that it helps more to turn studying into something of an exercise regiment—just as you vary speed, weight, and power training in a workout, you might consider sampling different kinds of subject matter in each study session to build mental connections between the different subjects, thereby replicating a multitasking testing experience while you study. Immersion may still have a place in a study regiment, but it’s good to see it supplemented with more innovative and effective study methods.

So new study approaches include:
1. Vary study locations
2. Vary background noise/music
3. Vary light, temperature, smells, tastes
4. Study by sampling and limit immersion

It’s always difficult to disregard conventional thinking, even in the face of empirical research. This has always been evident, and we can see it in the article: the research that led to claims that alternating a study space is helpful comes from 1978, yet students are still widely told to set aside a dedicated study space and stick to it. In fact, there are more conventional beliefs about learning that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Study habits are widely stuck in antiquated ruts, and need to be supplemented with modern innovations.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Possibility: Hillary

Ok, I decided I would write you again on the eve of Labor Day 2010. Not an easy time for Labor these days….

But, sitting here with the real-time, real-paper (not my laptop, Kindle or iPad versions), I lay the New York Times in front of me on this fine Sunday, and I smiled as I read the words, “It may prove the greatest test yet for Mrs. Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband….”

OMG, what an amazing lesson for all regarding the business power of persistence and diversity, which I will be writing a lot about in the future. It seems like yesterday (about seventeen years ago) when Hillary Clinton was the punching bag for leading the health care initiative over ten years ago. Partisan politics aside, look where she is now, the odds on favorite for brokering the major mid-east deal that no one else has accomplished.

This is an amazing position to be in. This is a Leader who gets better at what she does and never gives up. Hillary, thanks for reminding us of what each of us have to do and do again.

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and visualize how you want to express your labor in the coming year.

JS

Follow-up

As you walk out of the office or home for your weekend holiday, I want to give you some food for thought.

As Labor Day celebrates the return to labor after summer (even though we all know, in these times, many of us either never stopped laboring or are unemployed) I was struck by George Clooney’s humble words as he won the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his work in disaster relief at the Emmys last Sunday evening:

“The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story. Honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts. I fail at that,” Clooney added. “So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That would be an impressive accomplishment. Thank you.”

It made me think about how in our businesses and lives, we also get caught up in new priorities and we let older programs we have implemented get sloppy or die.

That is why when I teach implementation of the five steps of dealing with a crisis or of starting a new program, I include the 5th step below about follow-up.

When you start a new program, follow these 5 steps:

1. INVESTIGATE fully what going on

2. Make accurate CONCLUSIONS

3. Make RECOMMENDATIONS to others

4. Take the appropriate ACTIONS

5. DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW-UP after it’s all in place

Follow-up is one of the greatest challenges of the human race at this time. As things get more and more complicated, there is a need for more solutions. But if we forget that we have to maintain what we have put in place, then nothing will get better at work or in the world. Whether it is learning that if we have an egg-producing chicken operation, it has to be impeccably clean; or if we ask something of our valued employees we have to bother to see how old systems are still working.

So after labor day, take a moment to ask the key people in your family, work place, and community activities, “So, how’s that great program we implemented doing?”. Make a list of all the important systems in your life that you have put in place, and take a moment to check on how they are doing!

Have a great labor day weekend and safe travels!

JS

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