Rethinking Life

The comfort you're not looking for

What’s your favourite moment of the day? Is it the still morning or the quiet evening? Maybe it’s at night when no one else is around? Have you ever noticed how the time we usually prefer is when things are calm. I think that leads us to believe what we want is a life that is always quiet and comfortable.

But we’re wrong.

As Ken Davis said:

“A comfortable life is not the path to being fully alive. It’s a ticket to boredom and despair.”

The reason we look for calm and comfortable

We look for stillness because that’s where creativity lies. That’s where we can think things through and prepare. That’s when things have a chance of becoming clear. That’s where new ideas are born and old ones become new.

We also look for calm because there’s too much going on. We need what we don’t have.

We’re wrong

Where we go wrong is believing we want a comfortable life. Moments of silence, yes; Comfortable life, no. While stillness leads to creativity and focus, we need the dizzying highs and the scary lows to keep us on our toes. We need to be pushed, we need to be challenged. The lessons, the learnings and the teaching all reside in discomfort.

What does it mean?

We were meant to strive in uncertainty. All the pills, our education, our bosses and schedules lead us to believe we had to be normal, quiet and calm. Because when we’re comfortable, we’re quiet and bored which makes it easier for others to take the lead.

Why does it have to be easy? When you’re feeling discomfort, when you’re feeling uncertain. Instead of running for shelter, try looking for lessons. There’s something to be learned there. There’s something to be improved. There’s an issue that needs resolving.

Look for discomfort, your greatness is right there…

(Photo credit: Iain Watson)

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Four links that will make you rethink

Today again, I thought I would share with you four “must read” articles that will make you rethink — rethink marketing, rethink business, rethink work and rethink life. I read a lot of great content online. I share a lot of it on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, but today I’ll share four that I think are particularly amazing. They’re not necessarily articles that are related to marketing, business, work and life, but you can apply it to those areas.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did

  • [Rethink Marketing] Official: Google Confirms “Conversational search” is live on Chrome. This might not sound like much or it might not sound like a marketing lesson, but it is. What Conversational search is, it allows you to search Google through voice command on your computer (you’ll need Google’s browser for that). The cool element is this: you can converse with it. Let’s say you ask it to search for “Barack Obama,” Google will deliver some results. If you want to refine your search all you need to say is “when was he first elected to office?” and Google will know you’re talking about President Obama and deliver those results. Whenever I see something like that I can’t help but think of marketing and how quickly our world is evolving. Sure this will probably impact some SEO stuff, but I’m talking on a much larger scale. On the one hand it’s hard to make sense of it all; on the other, we need to move with it. Scary and so very exciting. How are you keeping up with it all?
  • [Rethink Business] Carney’s parting advice: Capitalize on Canada’s natural advantages. One reason Canada did so well compared to the other G7 countries during the current economic crisis is Mark Carney, the soon-to-be ex-governor of the Bank of Canada. He accepted the job at the Bank of England — a country that’s still struggling from the downturn. The policies he implemented helped Canada weather the storm so to speak. I don’t know that he deserves all the credit, but part of it for sure. In his last public speech before leaving, he argued that Canada needs to develop its strengths, expand in developing regions and “continuously invest in our workforce. With technology and trade transforming the workplace, the need to improve skills across the spectrum of work has never been greater.” Whether you’re a Canadian company or not, there’s a lesson here. What does this mean for you? Are you expanding your client-base beyond the US and Europe? Are you investing in your skills and technology? That’s where the future lies… I think the advice works for everyone from small and large businesses to freelancers and entrepreneurs.
  • [Rethink Work] Retirement is not an option. It’s the beginning of the end. Pickens is somewhat of a financial tycoon. He turned 85 this week and isn’t planning to retire anytime soon. Although his behaviour might be extreme for some people, it’s his philosophy I admire. More and more of us have the incredible opportunity to do the work we love and when you achieve that, it doesn’t feel like work and you can go on forever. Are you still working for your weekends? Are you just waiting for retirement?
  • [Rethink Life] Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley. Our world is changing and fast. Look around you. It’s hard to deny. Yet, education is still teaching our kids how to operate in an industrial age. Are we teaching our kids the skills they need to succeed? Our education focuses on conformity and averages and it prepares them to look for jobs that frankly might not exist by the time they are done with school. Sir Ken Robinson tackles this theme again in his third TED Talk. His Talks are some of the most watched and with reason. If you have 18 minutes, do yourself a favour and learn how we can escape education’s death valley.

What are you reading right now?

(Photo credit: David Sifry)


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Four links that will make you rethink

Today again, I thought I would share with you four “must read” articles that will make you rethink — rethink marketing, rethink business, rethink work and rethink life. I read a lot of great content online. I share a lot of it on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, but today I’ll share four that I think are particularly amazing. They’re not necessarily articles that are related to marketing, business, work and life, but you can apply it to those areas.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did

  • [Rethink Marketing] Lead up: Are you happy with your customers? How are your projects? What about the last campaign’s results? Why is that? Is the customer difficult? Maybe the project manager didn’t cut it? The campaign didn’t work as well because the email marketing tool didn’t do what you wanted it to do? It might be time to lead up. “In many ways, we get the bosses and clients we deserve. If they’re holding you back, change them.” I think marketers often spend way too much time complaining and not enough leading, changing and making.
  • [Rethink Business] Facebook is about to launch a huge play in “big data” analytics. I’ve been thinking a lot about Facebook recently. I’m not sure why exactly. I’ve actually been spending a lot less time there and more on LinkedIn and Twitter. But the company fascinates me. How could it not, 1 billion users sharing some personal information without always realizing it. During my University days one of my marketing professors said about McDonald’s — “basically what they’re telling their customers is this: ‘you’ll come in, wait in line for food, eat it in uncomfortable chairs and then clear your own table.’ If you told anyone this was your plan for a restaurant, they’d tell you you were crazy.” That’s exactly what Facebook has done. “We’ll give you a place where you can share and interact with your Friends and favourite brands 24 hours a day and in exchange we get all your information…more than you can imagine.” Right now, “[m]ost ordinary Facebook users don’t realize how ambitious these plans are. If you bought something with a credit or debit card in the last couple of years, you’re probably in Facebook’s data pool right now.” They’re betting that there’s a clear, important and valuable connection between impressions and purchases. I think business can learn something about setting down a path that, on paper, makes no sense.
  • [Rethink Work] Barron’s: Facebook is still overvalued: Let’s stick with Facebook for a bit. According to the financial newspaper Barron’s, Facebook stock is still overvalued despite recent gains. At the time the article was written, Facebook was trading at more than 75 times its earnings (compare that to Google which trades at 20 times), this despite warnings that some of its ad revenues might drop. And that’s exactly the problem “Facebook seems more focused on barraging subscribers with ads to meet Street profit expectations.” They compare that with Google’s initiatives — they’ve been “investing in a range of products, from YouTube, self-driving cars, interactive eye wear, maps and Android software.” I’m not sure if it’s a fair comparison considering Google is 14 years old, but it does pose an interesting question: is it better to be a one trick pony with a laser focused drive or kind of play in different sandboxes to apply and integrate learnings? Is it even an either/or type of situation?
  • [Rethink Life] Meditation produces opposite effect of “fight or flight”: I’ve been meditating semi regularly since my meditation challenge (part of my Hack Your Life Project). Yes it does reduce anxiety and stress. But did you know it can actually change your gene activity? “Specifically, genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance are turned on, while those involved in inflammation are turned off.” That’s pretty much the opposite of the “fight or flight” mechanism. In more scientific terms, “[p]eople who practice simple meditation aren’t ‘just relaxing,’ explained the study’s senior author, Dr. Herbert Benson. Instead, they’re experiencing ‘a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress’.” I’m guessing that means meditation not only helps you deal with daily stress by helping you focus your attention, it physiologically helps you deal with it.

What are you reading right now?

(Photo credit: David Sifry)

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Four links that will make you rethink

Today I thought I would share with you four “must read” articles that will make you rethink — rethink marketing, rethink business, rethink work and rethink life. I read a lot of great content online. I share some of it on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, but today I’ll share four that I think are particularly amazing. They’re not necessarily articles that are related to marketing, business, work and life, but you can apply it to those areas.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did:

  • [Rethink Marketing] Use Sales Linguistics to Structure Winning Presentations: Marketers spend a lot of time presenting to clients, small crowds or big auditoriums. We present to clients, colleagues, bosses and peers. Why? To sell our ideas. This article helps you understand how to structure your presentations to get your point across. Learn about Situational Dominance, Behaviour Interruption, Commands, Foreground and Background Suggestions.
  • [Rethink Business] Homegrown Retailers Falling Behind as Canadians Embrace E-Commerce: The Globe and Mail article outlines how some Canadian retailers have fallen behind…way behind their American counterparts when it comes to E-Commerce. As Canadians are getting more comfortable with purchasing online, their loyalty to Canadian brands and businesses is suffering. They are heading south of the border (virtually that is) to do their shopping despite the higher shipping and custom fees. This articles highlights the consequences of ignoring the digital space for too long. At some point you just won’t be able to catch-up. I hope it’s a lesson for all; digital is here to stay (it’s 2013, I don’t think I should have to say this).
  • [Rethink Work] AP Twitter Hack Causes Panic on Wall Street and Sends Down Plunging: This article fits in each category. On Tuesday April 23rd the Associated Press’s Twitter account got hacked and announced an explosion in the White House. Wall Street freaked out. The Dow plunged 143 points. Did you feel it? Probably not, the losses were quickly recovered. So what’s the big story here? The reason the Dow plunged so fast is that increasingly Wall Street is guided by algorithms that scour news sources like Twitter, analyse sentiment and trade stocks accordingly. The algorithms read “explosion at the White House, President Obama injured.” which means sell, sell, sell. Limited human intervention needed. Of course they’ll rectify and the algorithms will get “smarter.” But think about this… How easily can your work be replaced by an algorithm? Trading stocks seems like a complicated process of analysis and evaluation, but if you break it down enough, computers can do it (and get tricked, just like their human counterparts). I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying…think about it. We are still at the early phases of an increasingly complex digitalized and robotized world. Like it or not, it’s happening. Fascinating question.
  • [Rethink Life] The Secret Workings of the World’s Central Bankers: Let’s stick to the world of finance. This radio interview highlights some of the workings of the world’s top Central Bankers. Their mandate is to keep world economies stable and predictable. They’re currently printing tons of money and at the same time keeping interests incredibly low. In a way wiping out the savings of a generation who was told to “save their money.” My aim here isn’t to be all doomy and gloomy, but it’s to say this — how much influence do you think you have over your future? While it’s impossible to have complete control, I know that; but in a world that’s becoming increasingly complex (in large part due to digitization and robotization…see previous link), the answer has somehow been to simplify. Don’t wait for a saviour.

What links would you like to share?

(Photo credit: David Sifry)

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The key to success?

Shit happens. Of course, sometimes great things happen. And the thing is, it happens to us all. We all live bad times, we all live great times and that…that is the key to success.

What is success?

Success is not about knowing how to generate a profit or find a new client. That’s actually a very limited definition of success. Success isn’t even luck or wealth either. No, it’s much simpler simpler than that. When the bad times come or when the good times come, there are two basic ways to respond. You can rise up or you can hide. You can create or you can bury your head. Every time you choose to keep on truckin’ instead of standing still — that’s success.

  • Why does the entrepreneur keep going when the business seems to be going nowhere?
  • Why does the author keep pushing after every publisher has said no?
  • Why do you continue looking for the “dream job” after all the other interviews don’t go your way?

Did you know Seth Godin got rejected 950 times before selling his first book? And JK Rowling? She got rejected 12 times before Harry Potter got picked up. Kris Carr got diagnosed with a slow-growing stage 4 terminal cancer, but instead of sitting back and waiting, she decided to turn her life around. She’s now a New York Times best selling author.

But, your tough times are much worst. Right?

What’s really going on?

There’s a physical part of your brain — the amygdala — that controls primal responses like fear, sex and the fight or flight response. Steven Pressfield calls that The Resistance, you can call it what you would like, but I think both success and failure pushes it into action. You see, at its core, it’s there to protect you. Failure is harmful; so the amygdala pushes you to go hide so you can’t fail anymore. Interestingly success also means harm and, in a way, it’s much worst because you’ll fall from much higher when you fail. So go hide before you ultimately fall. But I don’t even think that’s the scary part. I think the really scary part is this: The Resistance often goes unnoticed. Sometimes others can see it, but it’s rarely, if ever, noticeable to you. That’s why you stay at the dead-end job or you put off the project or you let “other stuff” get in the way.

There always seems to be a perfectly good reason to hide, isn’t there?

Once you realize that every time you feel “I don’t want to do this” or “I shouldn’t do this” or “this is never going to happen” or even worst, “I can’t do this,” it’s only  The Resistance talking; then, you can go ahead and do what scares you. Not because you’re particularly brave, but because you’re only being protected from something that isn’t really harmful. Because you need to stand tall if you want to move on.

Ignoring The Resistance and achieving success

How do you ignore The Resistance? How do you choose to stand up and keep going? I think the answer is Resilience or  an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. I don’t know if you’re born with it or if you learn it, but the American Psychological Association suggests 10 ways to build resilience:

  1. Maintain good relationships with close family members, friends and others;
  2. Avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems;
  3. Accept circumstances that cannot be changed;
  4. Develop realistic goals and move towards them;
  5. Take decisive actions in adverse situations;
  6. Look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss;
  7. Develop self-confidence;
  8. Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context;
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook, expect good things and visualize what is wished;
  10. Take care of your mind and body by exercising regularly, paying attention your needs and feelings.

I’m not sure you need all 10, sometimes only one or two will do. Almost like a Swiss Army knife — you pick the tools you need:

  • When you don’t control what’s going on — accept it and let it be.
  • When you’re not sure if you can do it — learn to believe in yourself.
  • When you don’t know where to go — pick a destination that makes sense and start walking.

So what are we left with? We all have dizzying highs and scary lows . Some are more dizzying or scary. Some are actually very scary and dizzying. That’s a given.

How you respond, that’s what makes all the difference.

(Photo credit: Shane Anderson)

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Anniversaries are as real as you make them. The truth is, any day can be an anniversary. I don’t know that they necessarily need to be ground-breaking moments of revelation, but they often stand as a reminder of what once happened — a wedding, a meeting, a new year, a passing, a tragedy, an accomplishment, a birthday. You can live it as a group, as a couple or alone.

All I know for sure is that some take on more meaning than others and those deserve more attention. Sure as a way to remember what once was, but especially as a way to take notice of what is and what can be. It’s a way to encourage us to grow and be better; to invest in our future selves as a community, a couple or an individual. One thing is for sure, they’re not a reason to idly celebrate or remember.

If you’ve decided the day has importance, give it the time it deserves so as to learn. But more importantly maybe, so you can set the pace for a bigger and better year that you’ll look back on 365 days from now with joy and awe and find new ways to inspire yourself.

Although, it’s true, sometimes the best way to live a special anniversary is to find a healthy way to blend in to the calendar year as nothing more than another day.

(Photo credit: Kevin Dooley)

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