A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “Luck”

Paradigm Shifter #5: You’re only as good as your last gig

Paradigm ShiftAndy Warhol stated that everyone will experience at least 15 minutes of fame.  The scope and reach of that fame might be different, but everyone will be in the limelight at least once in their lives.

The problem occurs when we cling tightly to our previous “moment in the sun” – and forget that yesterday is NOT today.

Couple this human tendency to dwell on our previous “glory days” with the enormous amount of information available to us and you have a society in which people’s focus is constantly being redirected to whatever is new or “trending.”

According to one blogger,

“one bit of information leads to five facts, which leads to three articles, which leads to an interesting interview you must listen to right now, which leads to 10 pages in your browser.”

Whew – no wonder we feel overwhelmed by the information overload in our lives! And no wonder many of us don’t even remember a lot of what we see, read, or even do.

The old cliché of “time marches on” has never been more apparent than today. Instead of marching, time seems to be running a never-ending sprint, constantly moving faster as we leave things behind.

So, even though we may remember the exact details of our past victories and successes, others will generally remember (at the most) just the highlights of our successes – and vice versa.

We have become a society that forgets.

While this might be depressing to some, I believe that this creates an opportunity for us to continuously re-invent ourselves. Instead of resting on our past laurels, we are presented with unlimited possibilities to create something new in our lives.

Dwelling in the “glory days” of our past prevents us from moving forward. As we learn more, grow more, and experience more, the types of successes that we can create ultimately expand well beyond what we were capable of in the past.

If we’re dwelling in the past, we can’t be fully present in the now.

Artists and musicians have always been aware of this fact. The curse of the “one hit wonder” is something that successful artists often use to fuel their creative drive so that they will be the ones who beat the curse and have a lasting body of work.

Why don’t more people in business embrace this perspective? Is business really so different from the arts?

Throughout my years in business and working with clients, I have found that it is all too easy to get “stuck” in one’s past triumphs. Change resistance is rampant. Just like the old joke about the size of the fish that keeps growing when compared with others, many business successes are glorified – even though important details and preliminary sequences are lost in the re-telling.

For example, I knew a financial planner who boasted that he held the record for the highest one day sale in the company’s history. Pretty impressive. However, he conveniently omitted that he had worked on closing that sale for a solid year before the deal was signed. He didn’t do it one day.

And he never again met (let alone exceeded) that triumph.

By looking at each day as a new opportunity to grow and learn, we can appreciate our past successes as the fuel that helps us move forward to something even better. It might not exceed the previous dollar amount or be completed as fast or even achieve the same level of notoriety and awe. But it can be something new that we have never before achieved – and that is personal growth and success.

Due to the revolving door found in many corporations, our professional lives are really comprised of a series of gigs that create not only our careers, but also our professional legacies. Gone are the days when we are hired right out of college, receive consistent promotions, a corner office, and a fully funded pension when we retire.

Just like the actor will play many different roles in many different venues, we, too, will have different jobs with different employers that are often in different industries. And, just like the actor, we will have both triumphs and failures.

But the successful move forward and move on.

What about you? Are you dwelling in your past successes – or looking forward to how you can excel based on what you have learned and who you are right now? After all, to others, you are only as good as your last gig.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #18: Never say “never”…and never say “always”

Paradigm ShiftSome parts of life are predictable.  Birth, death, happiness, sadness, success, and failure.

Other parts of life catch us by surprise.  Serendipitous meetings, relationships, and “good luck.”  Unexpected illnesses, accidents, or tragedies.

The predictable events in life “always” happen, but the unpredictable, life-altering events are things that we “never” expect to happen.

Why, then, do so many of us use the extremes of “always” and “never” to describe what will or won’t happen in our lives?

Given the right circumstances:

  • Anyone can do anything – both good and bad.
  • Anyone can become anything – both good and bad.
  • Anything can happen to us – both good and bad.

To compound the conundrum, we humans are hardwired to paradoxically want both stability and surprise.  Yet we are bored by the predictable (the “always”) and caught off guard by the surprises (the “never”).  It’s impossible for us to simultaneously exist on both ends of this spectrum.

But life is not a black-or-white experience.  Life is inherently about the grey nuances – nothing is either totally good or totally bad.

These grey nuances of life are colored by the surrounding circumstances.  The exact same event can be viewed positively or negatively AND have good or bad consequences, depending upon what else is occurring at that time.

The events and results following whatever happens to us (both expected and unexpected) are shaped by our perceptions.  While we can control our actions and reactions to any situation, it is impossible for us to control the thoughts, minds, and actions of other people which help to shape that situation.  We might be able to influence others, but their free will assures us that we can never control them.

The curse and blessing of learning to accept that certain things are outside of our control presents a huge challenge:

  • The curse occurs when – despite our most valiant efforts – we realize that we can’t control the world around us and that bad things can (and will) happen to good people.  It can be terrifying if we choose to view ourselves as pinballs mindlessly being buffeted by the hands of fate in some cosmic game.
  • But the blessing occurs when we finally agree to control the only thing that we can control:  our own thoughts and actions.  We then recognize not only our own self-imposed barriers to success, but also our inherent power to eradicate them.  We finally have the freedom to get out of our own way.

Paradoxically, therefore, we have ultimate control yet we have no control.

The Peaceful Coexistence of Ultimate Control and No Control

Recognizing and accepting the boundaries of our personal control can be invigorating and exciting.  It creates a fertile ground for the anticipation of surprise or serendipity in our daily existence.  We begin to notice the nuances of the circumstances surrounding us and forego rigidly trying to change reality to match our personal expectations.  Living life in this way is rarely boring.

Understanding the paradox of having both ultimate control (over oneself) and an utter lack of control (over others) shatters many existing paradigms.  This balance is the core of staying on course toward our goals and mindfully enjoying the journey because:

  • We acknowledge that some things are predictable and that certain actions lead to predictable consequences, so we consciously act in ways that are more conducive to success BUT…
  • We also embrace the surprise and serendipity that are the “stuff” of life, so we focus on what we can control (ourselves) rather than what we can’t control in order to determine the ultimate “goodness” or “badness” of any unpredictable event.
  • We accept that (despite sounding like an oxymoron) change is constant and we embrace it.
  • Finally, we recognize the futility of saying “never” or “always” to describe what may or may not happen in the future.  After all, life is what happens when you’re planning something else.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Curiosity, Thinking Outside the Box…and Noticing

CuriosityIn my consulting practice, keynotes, and training sessions, I have consistently recommended that business professionals need to become more curious.  In fact, I often recommend a megadose of curiosity in order to solve problems and make better informed decisions.

Obviously, curiosity is essential to being creative – which is closely related to the ability to “think outside the box.”

Curious, creative people tend to ask more questions, investigate more thoroughly, and are not afraid to “play” in order to come up with new ideas, innovations, and solutions.

Then why do so many creative people fail to turn their dreams into reality?  Are we focusing on the wrong things?

Recently, I began reading a fascinating book, The Power of Noticing by Max Bazerman.  While we’ve all been encouraged to analyze the internal and external factors that can contribute to the success or failure of any given action, the idea of simply noticing is often overlooked in decision making.

As a university professor, I’m often amazed at how many of my colleagues are fantastic at delving into minute details – but missing the “big picture.”  In academia and business, many people unfortunately remain in their area of expertise and ignore anything that is not related to their field of interest.

In other words, many people “can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Although specialization has long been an important consideration for a job-related promotion, there has been an urgent need for business professionals to also have at least a rudimentary understanding of how their particular job fits in with all the other jobs in the organization.

There is a tendency to become complacent when it is assumed that we already know the key factors in a situation – at least in terms of how they relate to us.  In our minds, it is just logical that we focus on those important elements and ignore the rest – somebody else will focus on them, right?

The current trend is toward harnessing “big data.”  As I’ve noted in many of my blog posts, “big data” is critical in business and can be a powerful tool to help move a company up to the next level – but it is only part of the picture.  Focusing exclusively on the “data” (without noticing any factors outside that data) skews both the information and ultimate decisions arising from that data.

Bazerman’s book addresses these issues head on and challenges us to actively notice what is going on around us.  The book, however, is not a fluffy, “here’s how to heal your relationships” kind of book.  Instead, it looks at major failures that led to loss of revenue, reputation, and, more importantly, loss of life (such as in 9/11 and the Challenger space shuttle disaster).

If we don’t notice, then we are bombarded with “predictable surprises” – situations that we did not expect…but should have if we had only taken the time to notice.  In other words, “hindsight is 20/20.”

The goal, of course, is to help our foresight (not just our hindsight) become 20/20.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Noticing Forces Us to Challenge Our Assumptions

We all have blind spots in how we take in and observe information – it’s part of the way our brains are wired.  This short, classic video simply asks you to count the number of passes made by the basketball team in white.

Here’s another example from a “real life” experiment:

If you watched these two videos, then you might have been surprised at something so “obvious” that you didn’t notice.

Thinking inside the box means that we are following the instructions given to us.  We’ve been taught to block out anything that is not related to the subject or object of our focus because it is “irrelevant.”  But this tunnel vision actually skews our ability to see what is really happening.

Noticing, therefore, is more than just observing.  I agree with Bazerman that the ability to really notice is often underrepresented in modern business.  Whether we ignore these insights from ignorance, arrogance, or a focus on the bottom line is debatable.  But what is not debatable is that not noticing can lead to horrific consequences that could have been avoided.

  • How aware are you really of what is going on around you?
  • Do you notice certain things – then dismiss them because you assume that they are not relevant to you?
  • What assumptions are skewing your ability to be curious and notice?
  • Isn’t it time for you to take the notes of the signs that you might have been missing?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #54: Luck = Preparation + Opportunity

Paradigm Shift

Many people believe that Friday the 13th is unlucky.  But if this one date is unlucky, then are all the other dates in the year “lucky?”

Believing that every day has the potential to be lucky is a true paradigm shift.

But what exactly is “luck?”  Are some people “luckier” than others – or, conversely, are some people cursed with “bad luck?”

One of the most powerful insights that I ever experienced was the realization that we can control the amount of “luck” in our lives.

“Luck” magically occurs when preparation meets opportunity.

Think about this 2-step formula for luck:

  • Preparation relates to the internal work – the consistent planning, action, and practice.  These activities need to be completed even if the goal that we’re seeking might appear to exist on some far off horizon.  Baby steps are still steps toward the ultimate goal.
  • Opportunity relates to the external work – meeting others, establishing visibility, and being curious about our environment.  Opportunity tends to “magically” appear when we take our preparation out into the world.

Luck requires both preparation and opportunity.

  • Preparation without opportunity indicates that we’ve ignored the environment in which we all exist.  “No man is an island,” so it is critical that we harness the courage to take our gifts and talents out into the world.
  • Conversely, situations will never be viewed as opportunities unless we’re adequately prepared to take advantage of them – now!  Being ill prepared delays how quickly we can pounce on both expected and unanticipated opportunities.

But what exactly is an opportunity?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an opportunity is “a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.”

Even if the condition is right, we won’t succeed unless we are prepared to take advantage of it.  In fact, acting on an opportunity when we are not prepared often leads to failure – the results of which may be either short-term or long-lasting.

I personally know how frustrating it can be to commit yourself to take the necessary actions that will prepare you to move forward – but the opportunities just don’t seem to arise.  This is especially seen in small businesses as well as job candidates – situations in which both are looking for that “break” in order to get what is desired.

In this type of situation, we can sow the seeds for future “luck” by focusing on creating new opportunities for ourselves:

  • When you’re really good at something, don’t be afraid to let others know what you can do – not just what you want to do, but also what you can do to meet their needs or resolve their problems.
  • Don’t be a recluse and hibernate!  Actively reach out to meet new people who have similar interests; this creates a common platform from which conversations about joining forces often emerge.  Social media, online groups, and live networking events can be a great start.
  • Don’t forget to make sure that your friends and loved ones are also aware of what you want to accomplish.  Far too often, those closest to us really don’t know what we are trying to accomplish – tell them!
  • Don’t limit your vision.  Sometimes the opportunities might not be geographically around the corner; in fact, the Internet and social media have expanded the potential for opportunities on a global scale.  Always practice due diligence, but don’t be afraid to reach out.

“Luck” is not the result of some mystical force that is outside of our reach.  Rather, it is the ultimate result of internal preparation meeting external opportunities.  Shifting our view to this simple equation lessens the possibility of feeling like a “victim” and instead emboldens us to proactively move forward to what we really want.

P.S.:  For some strange reason as we embrace the power of preparation plus opportunity, the number of unforeseen “lucky” circumstances seems to drastically increase.  The question is, are we prepared to take advantage of them?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

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