Stronger Than You Think

 

Intelligence, awareness and individualism are all excellent qualities to develop in executive coaching. Interestingly, these “differientators” may have caused problems during the high school years. A New York Times review of “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” a provocative new book by Alexandra Robbins, shows us that nerds often have successful adult lives.

Embracing who you are as an individual and making full use of your most positive, unique traits is what executive coaching is all about. Traits that arise in adolescence become integral to our character well beyond high school. The nerds in science, computers and theater might not have been star athletes or prom queens. But they have taken us to the moon, invented the iPod and written our favorite movies, books and plays.

Here are some survival tips from high school that remain relevant in our executive coaching work today:

  • Don’t be afraid of being original. Going against the grain is the first step to discovery and innovation. Look at Bill Gates who bucked the trend of complicated computers, created a user-friendly interface, and made a fortune.
  • Never be ashamed of doing what you love. Concentrating on your own happiness and fulfillment (as opposed to what you think others expect from you) will play an important role in everything from your job to your relationships.
  • Your uniqueness can be your strongest quality. Bullies and those privy to the whims of the group are often doomed to “peak” in high school. In adulthood, “yes-men” and “office sheep” won’t get much farther in life.
  • Embracing your personal AND unique qualities makes you stand out and commands the respect of your peers.

How does this apply to you? Leave questions and comments below.

What Can We Learn From New York’s Gay Marriage Victory?

On June 24, New York became the largest state in the nation to recognize gay marriage. According to a New York Times article, the state government approved it by 33 “for” votes to 29 “against.” Four Republicans ended up becoming the deciding votes by basing their decisions on their personal and professional feelings, rather then voting the party line. Had it not been for them, the vote could have been deadlocked.

Even Senator Mark J. Grisanti from Buffalo chose to remain undeclared after, by his own admission, struggling with his own party and with his personal opinions. He stated that he could not deny a fellow New Yorker the same basic rights he and his wife enjoy.

In executive coaching, it’s important to come to terms with change. What was once taboo can actually be accepted in time. Our values, opinions and goals may evolve. Humility and respect are often integral values involved in personal and professional growth.

New York’s groundbreaking civil-rights breakthrough can teach us a number of executive coaching lessons:

  • Though we may feel offended, or disagree with what’s popular, we must consider respectfully tolerating our differences.
  • For Senators like Grisanti, it became increasingly difficult to find a clear legislative reason to vote against gay marriage. If we don’t like a person, or group of people, it helps to ask why we don’t and if our position is reasonable. Quiet introspection is a very potent coaching tool.
  • According to the article, a statewide poll revealed the proportion of residents in New York supporting gay marriage ballooned from 37% in 2004 to 58% at the start of 2011. Society continues to change and evolve. Accepting changes over time may help us accept those we used to consider so different from us.
  • Lastly, remember legalization of marriage in one state is only one big step on this particular civil-rights front – an important one, but one that needs to become accepted more on a national level to have greater impact on the culture at large. This relates to the concepts of follow-up and maintenance in executive coaching – as you achieve new goals at work and in life, it’s important to stay focused on what’s ahead.

What do you think? If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to “share” it with your friends and colleagues.

JS

The Balance of Manhood

Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner now joins the elite group of public officials who’ve damaged or destroyed their political careers over a bad decision. A New York Times op-ed article, “Those Manly Men of Yore,” looks at why powerful men make these kind of mistakes. The piece explains how, historically, sexual restraint was proof of a more capable man.

The idea of self-restraint is nothing new as writers from the Roman age celebrated men who controlled their desires, according the article. Obviously, many women have been in favor of greater restraint in men, in order to help protect family unity. (The author of this article happens to be female.)  Can greater restraint potentially strengthen the family and honor marital vows?   Possibly but the issue is greater than this question.  For each man, to be alive and strong, actually needs to strike a balance between restraint and pleasure.

The concept of managing oneself is important in my model of executive coaching. For example, it’s vital for those looking to quit smoking or excessive drinking to exert greater self-control. For those like Anthony Weiner, former California governor and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, or struggling Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, restraint theoretically would have saved both their careers and reputations.

However, in life, and in coaching, we discuss when there are  pulls in two directions, as there are with the forces of restraint and “nirvana.”   Nirvana, enjoying and living in the moment,  is the opposite of restraint.  This tension is managed by all throughout the life span.  All men deal with these tensions and generally strike a balance that works.   Each man finds himself in a unique situation, culturally, situationally (i.e, married/unmarried, living in a dictatorship or free country,etc.), and needs to determine his approach to this tension.

Some coaching ideas include:

  • There is nothing at all wrong with feeling physical attraction to someone, even if you’re in a relationship. But there is a difference between recognizing attraction and acting on it.
  • Unfaithfulness can belie a lack of responsibility in a married person (unless a couple is in an “open” relationship that is mutually agreed upon).  A lack of restraint is apparently far more serious in the public eye in a married man than in a single man.  Anthony Weiner “sexted” women while his wife was flying around the globe with Hillary Clinton.  In general, the public has a different standard for a married man.
  • Managing oneself  is apparently one component to leading a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to manage habits such as food, drugs, gambling, and alcohol can prevent a lot of bad consequences.
  • If you are having difficulty with the tension between nirvana and restraint, consider talking to an executive coach or counselor who can help you get clear on what you want.

Home Ownership and Changing the Dream

Not long ago, owning a home was considered the “American Dream.” Today however, people are disenchanted with the idea of homeownership. The New York Times article entitled “Housing Index is Expected to Show a New Low in Prices” interviews people who choose to rent and adapt their investments in the midst of a housing slump sometimes compared to the Great Depression.

Unemployment, foreclosure and underwater mortgages have led many to prefer renting and pursue investments that don’t involve residential real estate. Investors have become more creative as they search for new markets with more secure returns.

As the housing market struggles to right itself, the advantages of renting and new investments strategies have become more accepted, according to the article. For those deciding what to do in terms of real estate and investing, here are some coaching tips to keep in mind:

  • Look into investments which are more secure. Currently, gold and other precious metals are highly sought after. Also, try looking into stocks in the S&P 500.
  • Reevaluate your future plans when finding a new place to live. If you don’t want to be tied down to one location, renting may be more preferable then owning.
  • The housing ebb is a buyer’s market. Potentially, you can purchase a house with the plan to sell when the market regains.
  • Always consider speaking to a professional. There are numerous companies that offer experienced advice and help look for other investment opportunities.

It’s difficult for experts to predict the market within the next few years. However, making decisions based current information can help when deciding where to live and what to invest in.

Should I Stay or Should I Sell?

For many entrepreneurs, it’s hard when deciding to sell part or all of their company. The New York Times piece, “Why It’s So Difficult for Entrepreneurs to Head for the Exit,” had a Q&A with, Paul Spiegelman about his reluctance to sell a company he built from the ground up. His story serves as a mirror for those in the same position. For Spiegelman and for fellow entrepreneurs, selling a company often goes beyond a paycheck.

Spiegelman considered handing over his company to investors for the sake of growth and fresh capital. Though he saw the advantage of an outside investor, the possible damage to the brand of his company was too big a risk. For those in the same position, it means looking at yourself as much as you look at your business.

There are some coaching tips to help those who are in the process of making one of the hardest decisions as an entrepreneur:

  • Ask yourself what you want as an entrepreneur. Do you think it’s time for you to move on? Do you have any interests beyond your company you’d like to seriously pursue? Is there more you want to do with your company?
  • Weigh the risk vs. reward of selling part or total control of your company. For instance, it could be useful to have outside investors with useful capital and new ideas. But it also might mean less or no say on company strategy.
  • Consider the doubts about selling. Would you regret it? What would you not want to have happen to your company if you were to sell? Would you feel better leaving it in the hands of a relative? Do you still want to work part-time?

Speigelman made his decision based on what he wanted for his company. In a decision like this, find out your priorities and be confident in your final decision, even if your answer is “no.” Sometimes capital is not a “good enough” reason to sell.

How can we curb the spread of stigma against the overweight?

In a New York Times article called “Spreading Fat Stigma Around the Globe,” it’s being demonstrated that cultural views of obesity are becoming more and more negative. Even in cultures like Puerto Rico where the ideal of beauty has more curves, the tide of public perception about obesity is turning; an increasing number of people are perceiving overweight people as lazy as opposed to being perceived as suffering from a condition resulting from genetic and social circumstances.

It’s easy to be judgmental about an overweight person, especially if their condition is unpleasant or inconvenient for you. But it’s important to remember that genetic factors play an enormous role in a person’s weight, and that losing excess weight takes a great deal of discipline and self-control. Stigmatizing obesity will not help: shame is never a good motivator.

What can you do to avoid developing a judgmental attitude towards the overweight?

  1. Stay respectful towards others by constantly trying to empathize with them. Think about things you’re ashamed of and how mortified you’d be if someone were to draw attention to them. Don’t dwell on this, but at least keep it in mind.
  2. Be polite to overweight people, even if they inconvenience you in some way. For example, many people can recall an occasion where they’ve had to sit next to one on a crowded plane or bus. If your “space” is invaded, consider whether you can politely ask them to move slightly, or if you can discretely ask a flight attendant if you could switch seats. But do not allow yourself to grow rude or impatient as this would further propagate disrespect of the overweight.
  3. Don’t ever draw attention to an obese person’s appearance, which could make the problem worse by raising their levels of self-consciousness.

Resist the temptation to negatively judge others. Obesity is an epidemic, and shaming its victims is counterproductive and belittling. More importantly, it’s never productive to cultivate judgmental attitudes about others, even internally.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Could writing more concisely help your career?

A recent article in the New York Times called “Teaching to the Text Message” demonstrates the importance of writing concisely and packing a lot of information into a small space. This challenges conventional English-teaching wisdom like the research paper, but it’s a very valuable skill to get to your point quickly and with few words, as in a text message. The long form has its place, but in these times, brief and precise communication is preferable.

Usually, the most direct way of saying something is the most accurate and telling. At Full Life, we begin the initial coaching sessions by having our clients cut to the main point: “In one sentence or less, what brings you here today?”

What are some advantages to writing shorter and more concisely?

  • It’s more likely that someone will read your communication, ensuring that your main points will be comprehended and addressed.
  • You will appear more competent at expressing your thoughts if you get to the point quickly, as opposed to taking a while to get there.
  • Your points will be more clear and noticeable. Excess words bog down your writing and cause the main point to get lost in the text.
  • Your writing will be easier to follow and understand. If you go into too much detail, your readers will get lost in the nuanced particulars and may lose interest.

In the age of texting, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s becoming more and more accepted to write directly to the point. Making an effort to be concise in your writing and speaking can help your career, both in how people perceive you as well as how you engage others.

What are your thoughts?

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

Empathizing with Seniors

A recent article in the New York Times called “A Graying Population Spells Business Opportunity” explores the business opportunities surrounding an aging population. As the baby boomers enter retirement age, they’re going to bring with them BUYING POWER. As the NYT article demonstrates, marketers are starting to wake up to the potential boon of marketing to seniors.

Even now there is some stigma to marketing to seniors: young people don’t want products designed for the elderly, and many seniors don’t like the implied admission of their age that buying these products could mean. But with the huge potential that the growing senior population may bring, marketers are finally starting to come around and design products that could appeal to seniors, and sometimes to younger ages as well. The best example cited by the article is cars with motion sensors in reverse: this is meant to aid those unable to turn their necks while backing up, but it appeals to younger people interested in cool toys.

This doesn’t just mean that businesses can make lots of money by targeting the elderly in their product designs and marketing schemes. It also is important to address the fact that in ten years, we are going to have an unprecedented amount of seniors. If we don’t start paying attention to them with products offered, they’re going to have an even harder time. Baby boomers are unlikely to be willing to go into conventional retirement homes as previous generations have, so creative forward-thinking will be vital.

Here are some reasons that it’s essential that we start paying attention to the needs of seniors:

  1. It’s moral and respectful to care for seniors.
  2. It will preserve order. They are already a huge part of society and will only grow more significant. Failing to appeal to their needs will only result in an unhappy group of elderly people.
  3. It’s time to start paying attention the needs of the elderly. It’s time to wake up and give them the attention they deserve.
  4. It could mean very big money. If the needs of senior citizens are studied more closely, then new products and services could be devised to make their lives easier. People are retiring with bigger and bigger nest eggs; they have more money to spend and are looking to spend it on useful things.
  5. We’re going to get old, too. Let’s set a good example for the younger generation on how to treat the elderly. They’ll probably do the same, and whatever brilliant products and services we come up with now will still be around when it’s our turn.

Increasing the effort of marketing to seniors can only result in positive effects for everyone, so it’s very good to see people finally paying attention to the boomers and their elders.

What are your thoughts?

JS

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Resisting the Falling Education Standards

An article in last Saturday’s New York Times called “College the Easy Way” refers to the falling standards in America’s colleges to discuss the lowering standards of higher education in general. Students are taking easier courses, putting less effort into their studies, partying more, and eventually leaving college without sufficiently developing higher skills like complex reasoning, advanced communication, and critical thinking. It is worrisome that, even in times of skyrocketing tuition and attendance costs, the quality of American college education is in a steady decline. This cheats college students out of the education they’re paying for and students need to take more responsibility to learn and master subjects. More significantly, this trend is extremely dangerous for the American economy.

It’s been a commonly-cited statistic that American school children are less-prepared than their equivalents in other countries, especially Korea and Japan. Now, with the development that standards are falling for college students as well, the future seems all the more bleak. If we can’t teach future generations adequately, they’ll be less and less prepared to compete in the future’s global marketplace. American influence may fall as a result of large numbers of poorly educated college students.

This trend is a two-way street: colleges are allowing classes to become easier, but students still have an influence over the quality of education since they are the customers. Here are some things you can do to get the most out of higher education:

  1. Take difficult and well-taught classes. Not only will they be more intellectually stimulating, they will teach you more and better prepare you for the world after college. Look at teacher ratings before signing up for classes
  2. Forge relationships with professors and teaching assistants. Not only will this make difficult classes more fulfilling, but they may encourage you to do better and go farther with your studies.
  3. Take advantage of extracurricular learning opportunities. Most colleges have guest lectures and seminars from prominent intellectual authorities on a variety of subjects. Attend as many of these seminars as you can to broaden your scope of learning. You can also audit great classes and lectures.
  4. For parents: push your children to be their best and follow the above suggestions. You’re the most significant guiding force in their lives and you can have an important positive influence during college.

College standards might be beginning to let students down, but there are things students and the parents of students can do to resist this trend and work towards educational mastery.

What are your thoughts?

JS

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