Five Reasons Why You (or Anyone Else) Can't Claim that You're "Self-Made"

In Brian Miller and Mike Lapham's new book, the authors argue how the myth of the self-made and successful American is not just damaging but in accurate. No one is self-made because at different crucial junctures, both government and society have contributed heavily to any individual's success.

Here are just five examples of outside factors that are often overlooked but still crucial to the success of any person or venture:

Factor 1: Education. Business owners and everyone around them got a public education. Find me a successful business person who didn’t benefit from public preschool, grade school, high school, college, college loans, fellowships, graduate programs, or the GI Bill. Found one? Okay, let’s take a look at where the employees of that business got their education, or where that entrepreneur’s private school teachers got theirs. Who pays for all that public education? We all do. And we should make sure it’s the best it can be.

Factor 2: Stable Business Infrastructure. Any successful business in the US benefits from a stable legal and regulatory structure built over centuries. Just knowing, for example, that the products or services you buy are up to snuff, or that the contracts you sign will be enforced by the state and federal court system is priceless. Those are things that can’t be taken for granted in many other countries.

Factor 3: You are protected. Whether it's your business or yourself, you have certain protections. For yourself, there's protection against danger, violence, and mistreatment. For your business, there's national defense and local police protection of your company’s property, your workers, your vehicles, your products, etc. All those concerns have been outsourced – to the government.

Factor 4: Clean water and safe food. You can trust what you eat and drink. Government agencies certify foods to make sure they are suitable for consumption, set up stringent standards for maintaining quality and freshness, and enforce heavy penalties for those who don't follow them. The government checks to make sure that there aren’t dangerous levels of pollutants in the food, water, or soil so that you don't have to worry about them — this is something we take for granted, but pollutants in food and water cause a huge number of deaths in other countries.

Factor 5: Pre-existing privileges. Financial head starts in life, race and gender all contribute to success. Being born white, male, and to a wealthy/well-connected family have been reliable indicators of future success for centuries, at the expense of others who were not so lucky as to fit this demographic profile. An honest accounting by any successful entrepreneur will include references to these factors, plus things like timing and just plain luck, all of which are beyond the individual’s control (and thus not the product of the entrepreneur’s hard work).


Five People Who Learned Leadership Later

As Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller illustrate in their latest book, leadership is an ongoing process that has no end point. There is no juncture at which one can (or should) say, "Okay, I am now a leader, I need not learn any more."

To illustrate this point, here are five famous people who did not step into their greatest leadership roles until they were much older in life:

1. Ethel Percy Andrus: The retired school principal is the founder of the largest organization for older people in the nation and among the largest in the world. Ethel was 74 when she founded AARP. Read more about her here.

2. David Cohen: Liberal Democrat and stalwart fighter for civil rights and a champion of the poor who served on the Philadelphia City Council for 38 years until he passed away at age 90. He was still fighting City Council when he passed away just a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday. Read more about him here.

3. Sarah Louise Delaney: A committed civil rights pioneer who rose to fame and became a leadership model to many after publishing her New York Times bestselling work "Having Our Say." She was 103 years old when she published the book. She published another book at the age of 107. Learn more about her here.

4. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones:
A prominent American labor and community organizer who co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1902, at the age of 66, she was called "the most dangerous woman in America" for her success in organizing mine workers. She continued to work and speak about union affairs well into her 80s. Learn more about her here.

5. James Fisher:
A celebrated blacksmith who returned from retirement to become the first person over the age of 100 to achieve the ACA qualification.


Big Goals Start with Small Changes

As Ken Blanchard indicates in his foreword to Ken Jennings and Heather Hyde's book, change does not always have to stem from huge and life-altering events. Everyday changes in small measures can add up to a big difference.

Here are Ken and Heather's list of five small changes that anyone can make in their daily lives that can contribute to the greater goal:

1. Pick Just One Positive Behavior: Pick one behavior and commit to practice it every day. For instance, if you want to become known as an encourager, find three occasions every day when you see someone doing good work and recognize them for it. Put three coins in your left pocket each day and each time you encourage someone, move the coin from your left pocket to your right pocket.

2. Connect with Just One Colleague:
Most jobs, functions and projects in organizations are highly interdependent, but people try to operate as if they weren’t. Select someone who is working on a project with you or working on a project that directly or indirectly impacts you. What power does that person have over your ability to achieve your goals? What power do you have over their outcomes? Talk over how you can help each other reduce effort. Challenge each other to come up with a specific request or offer of help that will make a positive difference in your shared goals.

3. Just Listen to One Person at a Time.
All coaching starts with great listening – being really present to the one who is trying to do their very best thinking. Next time a friend asks you to listen about an important decision they’re making, ask them “What do you care most about achieving by making this decision?” Then just listen without interrupting, probe for details, maintain a relaxed and attentive presence, and resist the urge to react or think about your response. The other person will eventually reveal their deeper, greater goals.

4. Have People Share and Trust One at a Time: Sometimes lack of trust occurs simply because people haven’t had the opportunity to share hopes or concerns in a “safe space” – a forum where they won’t be judged negatively for sharing. To build trust at your next work meeting, suggest that you begin with asking each person present to state the greater purpose for the meeting -- from their personal perspective. End the meeting with another round for each person to express what’s working well with trust and alignment, and where they see opportunity to expand trust.

5. Examine Just One Unexpected Success. It’s funny how larger companies forget that unexpected success is really important feedback that should be paid attention, rather than just celebrated and then disregarded. Find an unexpected success in your work that occurred somewhere on the fringes of your efforts, rather within the core of your focus, and see what it tells you about your customers, your products and your future.

Five Ways Corporate Personhood Directly Impacts You

Lawyer, activist, and author Jeffrey Clements has been fighting for years to overturn the Citizens United case which granted corporations the same rights as citizens in terms of campaign spending and free speech.

But doesn't this decision only impact politicians and big business? Actually, no. Jeff presents below five ways in which corporate personhood impacts you directly (and negatively):

1. Your voice and your vote. Corporations now have the ‘free speech’ right to spend unlimited money in every election, from the presidential race to state and local judge elections, from the water district to the local school board elections. Corporations can now influence what happens in your own community and (quite literally) your own back yard.

Example: In the November 2010 mid-term elections for Congress, corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed, un-sourced electioneering activity, adding to the most expensive mid-term election in US history. Why would monolithic companies put so much money into local elections? Think about that when the next Wal-Mart opens in town.

2. Your food. Laws requiring disclosure of the use of genetically modified drugs used in animals and in food production are now unconstitutional, held to be violations of the “corporate speaker’s” right not to speak.

Example: Monsanto’s genetically modified bovine growth hormone drug (rBST) that makes cows produce unnatural amounts of milk and is illegal in virtually every democracy on Earth because of potential side effects for humans. In the U.S., the FDA approved the drug. Monsanto has fought successfully to strike down state laws requiring dairy products made from cows treated with rBST to be labeled as such.

3. Your land, water, air, and life.
Corporate ‘speech rights’ have struck down laws that previously required utility corporations to stop promoting energy consumption contrary to the state policy of energy conservation. Unregulated corporate lobbying and election spending results in laws and subsidies favoring multi-billion dollar fossil fuel corporations over innovative but relatively cash-poor alternative energy companies.

Example: 500 mountains, 2500 miles of streams and headwaters, and numerous communities in Appalachia don’t exist anymore, obliterated in the past decade by coal corporations engaged in unregulated mountaintop removal coal extraction; 10,000 excess deaths each year from coal-burning utilities; 29 coal miners killed in April 2010 mine explosion labeled “industrial homicide” by the United Mineworkers Association.

4. Your job and income. Citizens United and corporate ‘rights’ are not about speech, they are about power. When the people are not allowed to regulate corporate election spending and lobbying, we have crony capitalism, where those who fund the policymakers get the policies that favor the few who control the largest corporations. For global corporations that have the capital to ‘pay-to-play,’ the American employment market is the same as any other in the world -- an expense to contain or eliminate.

Example: In 1980, before corporations had a Constitutional trump card over our laws, the average CEO made 42 times the average employee salary. Now that average CEO multiple is 263 times the average employee wage. Between 1950 and 1980, average income rose 75%, from $17,719 to $30,941. Between 1980 and 2008, average income went from $30,941 to $31,244, a gain of $303 in twenty-eight years. The more money that is paid to the people at the top, the less there is for everyone else.

5. Your politics and your time. Corporate personhood will fracture the late 20th century political arrangements. The old alliance of Chamber of Commerce corporatists with small government conservatives and libertarians in the Republican Party will break. The alliance of Wall Street corporatists with progressives in the Democratic Party will break.

Example: The last time that corporate personhood fueled a dangerous Gilded Age, Americans built a movement of Republicans and Democrats, populists and independents to enact four Constitutional amendments between 1913 and 1920. They ensured the Congress had the power to adopt a national progressive income tax; they required that Senators be elected by the people; they guaranteed the right of women to vote. And, well, they also put Prohibition into the Constitution (to be removed by another amendment a decade later).

Today, fundamental reform is coming again: Seventy-eight percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats oppose Citizens United and support a People’s Rights Amendment to the Constitution to reverse it. More than two million have signed resolutions.


Five Good Reasons NOT to Step Up (and Five Better Reasons to Do It Anyway)

John Izzo's latest book is all about the importance (and difficulty) of stepping up to address and help solve problems and speak when others may not or be afraid to. It's a challenge and there are many good reasons why people don't want to do it.

However, John knows those reasons and has more reasons for why you should do it anyway. In fact, here is his list of the Five Good Reasons You Shouldn't Step Up, and Five Better Reasons Why You Should Anyway:

Reason #1 to NOT Step Up: I Am Only One Person so it Won’t Matter if I Step Up

The Reason to Do It Anyway: It’s easy to forget that every movement or organization started with one person! When one person acts it often inspires others to act. Every action creates a ripple. The power of aggregate influence occurs when our actions are added to the actions of others. All you need is the belief that you can and the willingness to take that first step.

Reason #2 to NOT Step Up: People Who Stick Their Necks Out Get in Trouble

The Reason to Do It Anyway: Sometimes this is true but more often than not, it’s just a myth. The reality is that people who speak up and take action and challenge the status quo are actually perceived as leaders and more likely to get promoted (and research supports this). Did you know that if not for two frontline up-stepping employees at Starbucks who refused to listen to their superiors telling them that the public would never go for it, the Frappuccino would have never been created? Today that one product alone is a billion dollar business.

Reason #3 to NOT Step Up: I Might Fail So I’m not Going to Risk It

The Reason to Do It Anyway:
Yes, you might step up and fail. But failure is not the worst thing -- regret is. Until you step up you may never know how powerful you are. Sitting back and doing nothing when you see a problem while knowing you can do something about it could leave you feeling worse than if you took a risk and failed. What if you succeed? You’ll never know if you sit passively on the sidelines. No risk—no reward.

Reason #4 to NOT Step Up: Who Am I to step up? I Don’t Have Anything to Offer.

The Reason to Do It Anyway: Whenever we think of stepping up it’s easy to think, “Who am I to step up?” Maybe we think we are not talented enough, influential enough, or courageous enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who most often step up are not especially gifted or powerful people -- just ordinary folks who did extraordinary things. A classic example of this is the story about a homeless, unemployed dumpster diver who started a recycling revolution.

Reason #5 to Not Step Up: Other People (with Greater Responsibility) Should Step Up First

The Reason to Do It Anyway: We have no control over what other people do, whether it’s your boss, your spouse, your coworkers or your neighbours. Just because they should, it doesn’t mean they will. But we have the freedom to take action ourselves. Research shows people who are passive tend to be less happy and less successful than those who actively take responsibility and try to make things happen.


Five Lessons to Learn from China

Long a controversial nation that has drawn media scrutiny and public ire, China still remains a superpower to be contended with. Here are five good lessons to learn from China:

1. Progress at a Fast Pace

A brand-new six-lane highway opened in suburban Shanghai in October, 2009. The whole thing took about two years to build — roughly the time it would take to get the bureaucratic regulatory permits for a new highway in the U.S. If, that is, you could get them at all. There's no direct translation into Chinese of the phrase can-do spirit. But yong wang zhi qian probably suffices. Literally, it means "march forward courageously."

2. Have a Strong and Rigorous Educational System
After decades of investment in an educational system that reaches the remotest peasant villages, the literacy rate in China is now over 90%. (The U.S.'s is 86%.) And in China, students don't just learn to read. Equal emphasis is put on science and maths education, resulting in a rigorous but academically superior educational system. The Chinese understand that there is no substitute for putting in the hours and doing the work and accept the rigors of the educational system. Chinese students, according to a 2006 report by the Asia Society, spend twice as many hours doing homework as do their U.S. peers.

3. Take Care of Your Elders
In China, senior-care costs are, for the most part, borne by families, and putting people in homes is frowned upon. For millions of Chinese, that's a burden as well as a responsibility, and it unquestionably skews both spending and saving patterns. Still, there are benefits that balance the financial burden: grandparents tutor and look after the young children while Mom and Dad work; they acculturate the youngest generation to the values of family and nation; they provide a sense of cultural continuity that helps bind and sustain both community and society.

4. Spend Less, Save More

The savings rate in the U.S. is currently about 4%. In China, the household-savings rate exceeds 20%. It is partly for straightforward policy reasons. As indicated above, wage earners are expected to care for not only their children but also their aging parents. And there is, to date, only the flimsiest of publicly funded health care and pension systems, which increases incentives for individuals to save while they are working. In addition to this, Chinese culture, like the cultures of many other East Asian countries, esteems personal financial prudence, and has done so for centuries.

5. Look for Long-Term Growth Over Short-Term Benefits
The Chinese government isn't frantically building all this infrastructure just to create make-work jobs. And kids aren't studying themselves sleepless because it's a lot of fun. China is striving to become what it has not yet become. Culturally, hard work today means a much better life decades from now for those who will inherit what people today helped create. The benefits of growth are not measured within the span of a single lifetime. The Chinese view of progress is one that stretches over multiple generations.

These were excerpted from several reports on China's growth by Time Magazine and specifically the work of journalist William Powell.

Thoughts? Reactions?


Five Teamwork Lessons from Geese

These facts have been attributed to numerous individuals including a pastor, a biologist, a Buddhist monk, and an environmentalist. The source is not important, the lessons are:

Geese Teamwork Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Geese Teamwork Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Geese Teamwork Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Geese Teamwork Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement is the quality of honking we seek.

Geese Teamwork Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

The Five Diversity Myths Still Alive and Well in Corporate America

Martin Davidson holds post-graduate degrees from both Harvard and Stanford and is a professor and Chief Diversity Officer at the Darden School of Management at the University of Virginia. His latest work delves into why diversity initiatives are so faulty in the American workplace. Here he presents five of the most common diversity myths that still rule most American businesses:

Myth 1: Having diversity will increase performance and profits

Why it’s a myth: Having greater diversity in your team and in your organization only helps if you understand what to do with it. Bringing together people of different ethnicities, genders, or sexual orientations and saying “go to work” is a blueprint for failure and several studies bear this out. The key is being strategic about what kind of diversity you need to get the job done and going after it.

Myth 2: If you increase the number of women and people of color, you have increased your diversity

Why it’s a myth: Of course gender and ethnicity play a role in the way people see things. But the value of diversity doesn’t come from the appearance of a person. Rather, it comes in taking advantage of diverse perspectives to create business results. You can have a group that very much looks like the rainbow, but thinks pretty much the same -- and in that case, you haven’t increased your diversity at all.

Myth 3: Diversity efforts always benefit women and people of color

Why it’s a myth: White males are the generally the dominant group in the U.S. workplace and often believe they have the most to lose -- jobs, promotions, status -- when it comes to diversity. But women, people of color, and other people who are different also resist when diversity rhetoric and norms of behavior single them out and put them under a microscope. If diversity is only about counting heads, neither the organization nor “diverse” employees benefit in the long run.

Myth 4: A diverse workplace is ideally a harmonious and integrated workplace

Why it’s a myth: When diversity is working at its best, people are constantly bumping up against new ideas and perspectives that challenge long-held beliefs about how they see the world. I don’t know about you, but that activity usually unsettles me. A workplace in which differences are being leveraged is dynamic, energized, emotional and rarely boring. If you think that the ultimate vision for true diversity is constant harmony, think again.

Myth 5: Corporate leaders who want to increase race and gender diversity will make it happen

Why it’s a myth: Leaders constantly juggle the need to meet business goals with the need to meet diversity goals -- often causing them to choose between either increasing race and gender diversity, or focusing on corporate performance. Because diversity is not well-linked to performance, they have to choose that which will take precedent -- corporate performance. An added cost: these leaders -- who really want to do the right thing -- end up worried that they will be seen as biased because they aren’t making progress with diversity. The only solution to this is to make diversity efforts and corporate performance one in the same. Leveraging difference, not managing diversity, can do just that.

Thoughts, reactions, ideas?


Five Things You Didn't Know About the Aravind Eye Hospital

This eye hospital in South India manages to provide world-class eye care to millions despite the fact that the overwhelming number of their patients are poor and cannot pay. The story of Aravind can be read in the book Infinite Vision.

Here are five more things you probably didn't know about Aravind Eye Hospital:

1. They never close and they never slow down. Aravind keeps its surgical equipment in operation 24 hours a day, which reduces the cost-per-surgery significantly. Also, doctors focus only on performing surgeries and leave nurses to handle pre-op and post-op care, which increases doctor productivity. These actions allow the hospital to operate on the poor at no cost while still being profitable. From April 2009 to March 2010, Aravind treated over 2.5 million out-patients and performed over 300,000 surgeries for poor patients.

2. They have McDonalds to thank for their modus operandi.
Aravind's founder (Dr. V) was inspired by McDonald’s restaurants and wanted to model the eye hospital on them. Dr. V. was fascinated by the service efficiency, speed, and consistency of McDonald's operations and wanted to transfer that same process to the Aravind system as a way to cope with the increasing numbers of patients who began turning up at the hospital's door.

3. It’s still a family business. Today Aravind's top management team of nine executives are all Dr. V's family members, and all but two are doctors. Twenty-four other relatives work at lower levels in the hospital system's hierarchy.

4. They're not a charity and don’t ask their doctors to forego healthy salaries in order to serve the poor.
Aravind's administrators can afford to pay market rates and competitive salaries. They recruit doctors from their own training institute, which offers an internationally-recognized two-year postgraduate specialization in ophthalmology. While doctors at privately run hospitals face pressures to deliver revenues, Aravind encourages "honest medicine,” with a balance between clinical practice and community work.

5. They make their own lenses and instruments – which are of such high quality that they are imported to over 120 countries. Up until 1992, Aravind was importing lenses at almost $150 per unit. By adapting technology initially sourced from the U.S., Aravind was able to produce its own lenses within an affordable price range of $2 to $10 each. Today they manufacture 2 million lenses a year and export them to over 120 countries (and have 7% of the global market share for intraocular lenses by volume). Their product portfolio has expanded to include suture needles, microsurgical blades, lasers, and eye drops.

So, what are the lessons we in the United States could learn here?


Top Five Political WTFs of 2010

Thom Hartmann presents his video selection for the top five political trends and moments in 2010 that made so little sense that they bordered (and at times crossed over) into the absurd.


Five Alternate Tips for Establishing Personal Presence

Dianna Booher has been writing about professional presence and communications for decades and has a number of bestselling titles under her belt.

Here she lists five lesser-known techniques that are easy to remember and yet make all the difference when establishing presence and influence with others:

1. Take a stand: Stand to the left side of a group when you deliver laugh lines and you’ll get a better response (as opposed to the right side, where you should deliver emotional stories and appeals).

2. Observe the one-sentence rule: Recognize the importance of summarizing your concept or idea down to its core essence. If you can't summarize your idea in a single sentence, you're going to have a significantly more challenging time trying to convince the folks in the boardroom.

3. Talk to the back row: Project to those farther away from you rather than keeping your eyes on the friendly faces down front when you speak to a group. Talk to those seated in the back row, last seat. Your brain will automatically adjust your energy level, voice, and body language to project so that you can engage those people at a distance. Those even closer will engage with you as well.

4. Pause before you launch.
Talking on trajectory makes you look nervous. Whether just leaving your seat to walk to the front of a meeting room, simply rising from your chair at the conference table, or joining a conversation when someone asks your opinion, pause before you begin will increase the impact and importance of what you say.

5. Stick to the facts. Prefer verbs and nouns to adjectives and adverbs. Verbs and nouns express facts (or what sounds like fact). Verbs motivate, persuade, and demand action. Adjectives and adverbs express opinions and therefore invite people to nitpick and argue.

Thoughts? Reactions? Other ideas?


Six Keys to True Prosperity

These are the six keys to a prosperous life, as outlined in Ethan Willis and Randy Garn's book, Prosper.

1. Locate Your Polaris Point. Everyone’s unique Polaris Point is their vision of what they want to become, to achieve, to contribute, to create. It also includes realistically determining the role money will play in those aspirations.

2. Live in Your Prosperity Zone
. When your earnings are aligned with your Polaris Point, that's when you're living in your unique Prosperity Zone. If you have a Polaris Point that your earnings cannot support, or if your earnings overwhelm your Polaris Point, then you are not in the Prosperity Zone. The Prosperity Zone is when your Polaris Point and earnings are in balance.

3. Earn from Your Core.
Sustainable prosperity flows from your unique abilities. Make an inventory of what really motivates you. What do you do that feels more like play than work? The more you leverage the energy that flows from that kind of passion, the bigger the competitive advantage you can deliver, and the more income you can make.

4. Start with What You Already Have.
You have hidden assets all around you to waiting to be discovered and put to use. The pursuit of prosperity is fueled by an awareness of the abundance you already have, not the abundance you believe you lack. The fullness of your plate when you start matters less than the fact that, however little your plate contains, you notice that your plate isn’t empty.

5. Commit to Your Prosperity Path. You have a prosperous life of your own creation and are now empowered by a clear direction (your personal Polaris Point). Apply your core abilities and resources, have metrics to measure your progress against, and make yourself accountable. Decide to live the life you really want.

6. Take Profound Action.
Here’s where you implement the prosperity plan that marries personal satisfaction with a sustainable income stream. Persistence is required in taking the next step and the step after that, on the long-distance path to prosperity. There are no get-rich-quick schemes, only that law that stipulates that as you sow, so shall you reap.


Five Ways True North Groups Can Save Leaders

Bill George and Doug Baker argue for the value of True North Groups in their new book of the same title. Leaders and others need a small group of people with whom we can have in-depth discussions and share intimately about the most important things in their lives -- both personal professional.

Here are five traditional pitfalls all leaders encounter and how True North Groups help them avoid such scenarios:

Pitfall #1: No one for you and other leaders to talk to about challenges and dilemmas. The missing link for many leaders is having a safe place where they can share their experiences, challenges, and frustrations, and get honest feedback.

True North Groups provide small, intimate peer groups where people talk openly about their issues in confidential settings. There are not very many places left where a leader can voice his or her concerns and issues without getting tangled up in corporate politics, disclosure issues, or similar problems, and yet all humans need to communicate, share, and even vent. True North groups provide the arena for such exchanges.

Pitfall #2: Getting on the slippery slope to unethical behavior. All leaders face ethical dilemmas and doing the right thing is often not as easy as it sounds. Because group members maintain each other's trust, a leader who feels that he or she is veering too close to an ethical precipice and get support and advice from others who have also been in the same space.

In a True North Group where people share their deepest feelings and greatest difficulties, group members feel comfortable in challenging you when they think you are losing your bearings or deviating from your beliefs and values. Because they know your life story, they are able to perceive how prior events in your life or your motivations may be influencing your decisions today.

Pitfall #3: Having blind spots that keep you and other leaders from seeing their impact on others.
Most leaders have blind spots – characteristics they are unaware of – that tend to get in the way of understanding how their leadership is impacting others. Effective leadership comes from a place of authenticity, which is the essential quality of leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence, or EQ. In our experience, we have not seen leaders fail for lack of IQ, but have observed many leaders fail who lacked EQ. The essence of EQ is having a high level of awareness of yourself and your impact on others.

True North Groups provide the feedback that enables leaders to understand their blind spots, open up hidden areas, and gain a deeper understanding of who they are. These groups offer a unique environment for people to develop self-awareness, self-compassion, authenticity and ultimately, self-actualization.

Pitfall #4: Trying to be someone different than who you are. An important part of leadership is accepting yourself -- your weaknesses as well as your strengths -- and having confidence that others will accept you for who you are. However, this is a lot easier said than done. Our natural inclination is to show strength and hide weaknesses -- even more so if you're in a leadership position.

The support and confidence the group will give you enables you to face difficult situations in your life and work and navigate them successfully. Many people report they discuss life experiences with their True North Group that they have shared with few people in their lives. Others report seeing their crucibles in entirely new ways. This can lead to a healthy reframing of one’s most difficult experiences. Revisiting painful and difficult times and exploring their dark sides can be a healing experience.

Pitfall #5: Not appreciating others for their differences and what can be learned from them. We are all prone to judgment of others based on their backgrounds and experiences because we tend to be wary of those who are different from us and don't readily trust them.

In a True North Group you learn to accept others, celebrate their differences, and learn from people whose life experiences differ from yours. This dynamic gives you the capacity for sharing yourself in intimate ways and for being more open with others. In learning about crucibles others have faced, you realize you are not alone in facing great challenges. Intimate sharing builds trust among group members and leads to higher levels of self-awareness and sensitivity to others.


Five Reasons I Had to Write This Book

Deepak Malhotra thought that the business bestseller "Who Moved My Cheese?" made some good points about the need to anticipate and adapt to change, but he also took issue with the book’s core message: accept that change is inevitable and beyond your control, don’t waste your time wondering why things are the way they are, keep your head down and start chasing after more cheese. So he wrote "I Moved Your Cheese", which offers an altogether different perspective—one that challenges the notion that we are simply mice in a maze, subject to the designs of others and destined to chase blindly after cheese.

Here are the five compelling reasons he felt he had to write this book:

Reason # 1: Because some of the greatest barriers to success are internal. In the face of established practices, traditional ideas, scarce resources and the powerful demands or expectations of others, we often underestimate our ability to control our own destiny and overcome the constraints we face -- or think we face.

Reason # 2: Because we need more people who will challenge the old way of doing things. We need to think twice before telling would-be innovators, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, and leaders that instead of wasting their time wondering why things are the way they are, they should simply accept their world as given.

Reason # 3: Because what is impossible to control today, may be possible to control tomorrow. Even in situations where things are beyond our control, we should do more than blindly accept our fate. We should still seek to understand why the change was forced on us, how we might exert greater control over our lives or business in the future, and what it would take to escape the kinds of mazes in which we are always subject the designs of others.

Reason # 4: Because we're often unaware that we are in the maze. Too often we are blindly chasing after the cheese, and not stopping to think whether the goals we are chasing are the correct ones. This is as true for students who are picking a major, as it is for graduates picking a career, or mid-career folks working towards the next promotion.

Reason #5: Because intellect and intent are often not enough. For the most difficult problems we face in business and in life, being smart, hard-working and well-intentioned is not sufficient. We need to challenge longstanding assumptions, see the old in new ways, and be willing to chart our own, unique course towards success.


Five Companies That Are Not What You Thought They Would Be

It's always easy to tell which companies are doing good work and behaving and which ones are not, right? Actually, it's not. Some companies are very good at covering up their misdeeds while others get lumped with some ugly accusations that never go away despite all that they do.

For this issue, the authors of Good Company list companies that are not what you thought they would be by assigning a “Good Company” grade of A to F to five major players in the Fortune 100. The grade is based on their status as good employers, good sellers, and good stewards of the environment and their communities.

Here are five of the more surprising companies and their grades:

1. Walmart -- the company that so many love to hate –- earns a C (rather than the F that many readers might have expected). Why? Partly because of its significant advances in going green on a humongous scale and its use of its core capabilities to tackle hunger.

2. CVS Caremark -- operator of thousands of neighborhood drugstores -- received a D. It racked up government penalties of over $38 million in recent years due to Medicaid prescription drug fraud and potential violations of federal privacy regulations. On top of that, it got lousy marks as an employer.

3. Disney –- the “happiest place on earth” —- (appropriately enough) earns the highest grade of A. It did so by getting the basics -- being a good employer, seller and steward -- and by abiding by the law and avoiding greedy behavior.

4. Hewlett-Packard -- seen for decades as a paragon of corporate virtue -- only earned a C. Dismal scores from its employees on HP as a place to work were among the negative categories that offset some of HP’s more positive attributes, including its high green/sustainability rankings.

5. Goldman Sachs -- for many the poster-boy for corporate greed -- earns a B. Although many readers may grind their teeth, saying that Goldman deserves an F, there is in fact a great deal they have done right over the years. But to thrive in the future, they are going to need to improve their performance to an A or risk a future of mediocrity or worse.

You can find details behind these grades – as well as the grades of other Fortune 100 companies – at the Good Company Index.

So what do you think? Did Bassi and co-authors get it right or wrong? Chime in below.


Eight Ways to See a Baseball Game

People tend to see things in a very "flat" way. However, there are in fact many ways to experience even the most basic activity, which means businesses can now offer customers a whole range of immersive encounters. Joe Pine and Kim Korn have explored what this multiverse offers in their new book Infinite Possibility.

For example, thanks to the multiverse and using their core theory of the eight key types of immersive models, Joe and Kim explain how there are actually eight ways to participate in a simple baseball game:

1. Reality (Space, Matter, Time): You are in the bleachers of your hometown baseball team, cheering them on.

2. Augmented Reality (No Space, No Matter, Time): While watching the game, you are checking your iPhone for stats on the players, information about the game, and checking in on FourSquare.

3. Alternate Reality (Space, No Matter, No Time): You are playing an online Rotisserie league based on real players’ performance in actual games, but translated into a web-based computer experience.

4. Warped Reality (Space, Matter, No Time):
You are attending an old-timer’s fantasy camp with retired players, and maybe even old uniforms from a time gone by. No aluminum bats here!

5. Virtuality (No Space, No Matter, No Time): Ah, here is a familiar category. Your Playstation video game is entirely virtual.

6. Augmented Virtuality:(No Space, Matter, No Time): This is a tricky one! You send your favorite Little League player a physical Hallmark greeting card that shows his favorite characters in 3D when he holds it up to his computer screen.

7. Physical Virtuality (No Space, Time, Matter): This realm brings the virtual to the physical. Design your favorite baseball stadium in LEGO’s on your computer — LEGO will send you a complete kit in the mail.

8. Mirrored Virtuality (Space, No Matter, No Time):
Major League Baseball Gameday allows you to review every throw and every hit from various camera angles in 3D. One game could be relived for hundreds of years if you wanted to see it all!

Five Reasons Why the Talent Leaves

Wendy Axelrod and Jeannie Coyle's new book explores how talent development can best be facilitated by the managers the talents work with every day. Developing talent is important, especially since simply retaining talent is enough of a challenge. Every day, organizations lose their highest-potential employees to things that could have been avoided. Here are five of the most common avoidable reasons why the talent leaves:

1. Ineffective Ways of Giving Feedback and Measuring Performance.
This is not about the contents of the feedback but the way in which the feedback is communicated. Many companies do not do a very effective job at giving feedback and even a positive interaction can leave the talent irritated. Feedback is usually non-existent or "breezed through" hurriedly giving the impression to the employee that the company doesn't really value them.

2. Wandering Priorities.
Most companies are great at setting up a strategic directive but lousy at sticking with it. The talent then ends up giving his or her all to something that has -- since being assigned -- become a lower-level priority for the organization (but no one told the talent that). That kind of frustration and feeling of disrespect will have 'em heading for the door.

3. Not Keeping Other Talents in the Organization. Top talent often measures itself against others, so when a talented individual is in a group with other talented individuals, it creates an energetic and fulfilling working environment. However, pairing top talent with moderate to weak performers not only slows down the talent but makes him or her question their value to the organization and how much growing and learning can be done within that particular workplace.

4. Corporate Bureaucracy. Often cited as one of the most common reasons people leave organizations, bureaucracy is tolerated by companies of all sizes and not just larger institutions. In order for talent to develop, it must be allowed to explore and expand in non-traditional ways ("freedom to grow"). If there's a strong bureaucratic vibe in the organization, the talent feels obstructed and blocked at every turn. He or she will immediately leave for another place where they have more room to move.

5. A Lack of Exciting Projects.
Everyone has a small measure of work that is administrative and perhaps dull, and talented individuals don't expect each day to be a exciting challenge. But often these individuals are never given anything that challenges them and gives them an opportunity to exercise and develop their talents. Sooner or later, boredom and the inability to do anything outside of the most mundane of duties will drive the talent out.

Thoughts? Responses? Ideas?


Five Lesser-Known Facts About Mother Teresa

She was an incredible leader and remains an inspiration to this day to the global order that she founded as well as common people in all walks of life. But, like all of us, she was human and had the same frailties and often had to make the same compromises that all of us do in order to get things done. Some have argued that Mother Teresa should not be granted sainthood, but many have also argued that it is what makes her human that makes her worthy of recognition. Decide what you will, here are five things about Mother Teresa you probably won't like to hear:

1. She was not always strong in her faith. Documents and private letters that have been found (many published in the edited collection of her writings called Come Be My Light) attest to several periods in her life when Mother Teresa questioned her faith and the power of God, stating at one point, "Deep down, there is nothing in me by emptiness and darkness."

2. She had a reputation for treating others in her order callously. Many former nuns that worked with Mother Teresa and her order have come forward to claim that there were many practices instituted by her holiness that were almost draconian. One of these nuns, Susan Shields, who worked with Mother Teresa for nine years, has written for decades trying to dispel "The Myth of the Mother." She wrote in an article that "In San Francisco, the sisters were given the use of a three-story convent, but they pushed the mattresses out the windows and removed all the sofas, chairs and curtains... the house was made to conform to a way of life intended to help the sisters become "holy." The heating remained off all winter in this exceedingly damp house. Several Sisters got TB during the time I lived there.”

3. She accepted money from crooks and thieves. Christopher Hitchens has written in his bestseller, The Missionary Position, that Mother Teresa accepted $500,000 from famed bilker Charles Keating. When it was revealed to her by Charles Turley, then the Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles, that Keating had stolen the money and was asked to return any portion of it that she could, she refused to comply or even respond. She also accepted $10,000 from John Roger, a fanatical and corrupt cult leader who claimed to be superior to Christ.

4. She underwent an exorcism because demonic possession was suspected.
In her later years, she became even more temperamental, reportedly flying into a rage for minor issues and behaving erratically. In fact, her mood became so erratic that she even underwent an exorcism at one point.

5. The millions of dollars Mother Teresa's charities took in remain unaccounted for. Several investigators including author and documentarian Aroup Chatterjee have discussed the economics behind how the charities operated and how the medical care that was dispensed to the needy was severely lacking and not representative of the millions of dollars that were being contributed by people worldwide. In the BBC 4 documentary, Hell's Angel, it is pointed out repeatedly that all sisters in the order lived in poverty in the same hovels as those they served and that medical care was severely lacking. But when questioned as to where the funds that were being funneled into the organization were going, no answer was forthcoming.

Misconceptions? Easily misinterpreted errors of assumption? Rumors? Or just evidence that like us all, Mother Teresa was a human being?


These Aren't Your Old-School Customers

Chip Bell and John Patterson's new book Wired and Dangerous explores how the customer relations field has changed rapidly with the advent of new technology and new options and how businesses need to update their ways of dealing with those customers or risk shutting down.

In this post, Chip and John list five ways in which customers today are different from customers yesterday -- and what this means for you:

1. Yesterday: Unhappy customers would write a letter to the CEO or ask to speak to the manager.

Today: They post a rant or complain on Yelp or their blog or Twitter or start a Facebook page against the business.

Why You Should Worry: The presence of social media and the internet means that this is no longer an issue between a customer and a company, it’s a public brawl and everyone is invited. Worse yet, people have the tendency to believe the customer, so you’re suddenly feeling threatened by a whole bunch of people you don’t even know.

2. Yesterday: Customers would raise issues and then wait a reasonable length of time for the business or company to address those issues

Today: Customers raise issues and want resolution or compensation immediately.

Why You Should Worry: We are now an instant gratification-based culture, which means that anything other than an immediate positive response runs the risk of being seen as stalling for time or worse yet, completely ignoring the customer. If you don’t have a strategy and process in place for immediately addressing such issues, you could end up in trouble.

3. Yesterday: Customers had three channels of communications with organizations: face to face, a phone call, and snail mail -- accessible only Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.

Today: Customers have unlimited channels of communication that includes a “party line” (social media) to all their friends available 24/7.

Why You Should Worry: Unless your company's channels are congruent and customer-centric, the customer will use his or her own channels to destroy your reputation before you even wake up the following morning!

4. Yesterday: Customers paid most of their attention to getting what they wanted or needed, not to the experience associated with that acquisition. If you offered a quality product or service at a fair price, you could stay in the game.

Today: Customers demand a great experience in addition to a high-value product or service -- and at a fair price. Also, they determine how good your experiential offer is by comparing their experiences with other businesses they interact with. This is why mom-and-pop shops are competing with Amazon.

Why You Should Worry: With customer service expectations increasing by 33% a year and with the many great service providers from whom they draw memorable experiences -— Zappos, Nordstroms, Disney, etc. -- if you are not constantly enhancing the quality of their experience, you will be left behind by those who are.

5. Yesterday: Customers were relatively subservient to a few established and often corporate sources of consumer advice -— they bought what Madison Avenue, MTV, and Hollywood told them to buy.

Today: Customers are king -— they are empowered and emboldened by their capacity to influence the marketplace through the Internet and social media. These customers also wield more power than their corporate counterparts -- the most carefully massaged piece of publicity for any product can be readily undone by an anonymous consumer's clumsy rant.

Why You Should Worry:
The idea that the customer as king is as flawed as the one that argues that the organization as king because neither approaches are sustainable today. Smart businesses build the principles of partnership into the design and delivery of service to customers so that both parties have a vested interest in the success of the product.


Four Principles to Access the Source of Innovation

At the heart of what Joseph Jaworski discovered during this fifteen-year journey as a way to understand and access the Source of wisdom and creativity – the place from which profound innovation flows – are these four principles:

1. There is an open and emergent quality to the universe; a group of simple components can suddenly re-emerge at a higher level of self-organization as a new entity with new properties.

An example of this is what I describe in Synchronicity about my experiences with the search-and-rescue team during the immediate aftermath of the Waco tornado. The team “automatically” operated at a higher level of self-organization; leadership shifted seamlessly “in the moment” and as required; and tasks were performed without “conscious awareness”.

2. The universe is a domain of undivided wholeness;
both the material world and consciousness are parts of the same undivided whole.

I learned about this during his conversation with the noted physicist David Bohm, who told me about Bell’s Theorem -- that if you separate the two particles in a paired two-particle system –- putting one particle in New York, say, and another in San Francisco –- then if you change the spin of one of these particles, the other particle will simultaneously change its own spin. Bohm said “The effect is a simple consequence of the oneness of apparently separate objects.” He added, “We are all one.”

3. There is a creative Source of infinite potential enfolded in the manifest universe; connection to this Source leads to the emergence of new realities.

Consider the discoveries of Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci or Jonas Salk. Like them, each of us has access to infinite wisdom and unlimited potential leading to the emergence of new realities -- discovery, innovation, renewal and transformation.

4. Humans can learn to draw from the infinite potential of the Source by choosing to follow a disciplined path toward self-realization and love, the most powerful energy in the universe. The words of philosopher Pierre Telihard de Chardin speak well to this principle. “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

Many people have experienced a connection with the Source, often when called upon to respond in times of crisis. In these moments of extreme spontaneity and intuitive insight, actions flow seemingly without any sort of conscious intervention -- without thinking, a person simply knows what to do.

Based upon your own understanding of these principles, and what it means to be “in the flow”, what are your individual experiences with the Source?


Five "Facts" About Teams That Aren't True

Harvard Professor of Psychology Richard Hackman has received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, and the Distinguished Educator and Distinguished Scholar Awards from the Academy of Management. Richard's latest book examines team dynamics.

Some teams have lots of time to mull things over before eventually deciding what they are going to do. Others do not have it so good: they have to solve hard problems in real time and cannot start over if things are not going well. That can be plenty hard -- and is made even harder by five common misperceptions about what actually shapes team performance.

Fact #1: Harmonious teams perform better.
They operate smoothly and don’t have to waste time on pointless debates about how to proceed.

Actually: Quite the opposite, research shows. Conflict and disagreement, when well-managed and focused on a team’s objectives, can generate more creative solutions than one sees in conflict-free groups. Conflict, so long as it is about the work itself, can be good for a team.

Fact #2: It’s good to mix it up by bringing in new members. Newcomers bring energy and new ideas to a team. Without them, members risk becoming complacent, inattentive to changes in the environment, and too forgiving of fellow members’ miscues and misbehavior.

Actually: The longer members stay together as an intact team, the better they do. As unreasonable as this may seem, the research evidence is unambiguous. Whether it is a basketball team or a string quartet, teams that stay together longer play better together.

Fact #3: Having the right people on a team is the key to success. Analyze the task to figure out the knowledge and skill that is needed and then pick the highest-level experts you can corral (instead of hobbling the team by staffing it with nice people).

Actually: Expertise by itself is insufficient. If a team is to be successful, all members need to have at least modest capability in working collaboratively with others. Besides, if needed expertise does not exist within the team, members always can seek it from outsiders.

Fact #4: The more information, the better. Teams that have too little data run the risk of making erroneous assumptions and heading off in the wrong direction.

Actually: Teams sometimes drown in data. Large quantities of information don’t always help clarify a murky situation. Indeed, more data sometimes actually makes it harder to figure things out. It’s not the amount of information that counts, it is the choice about what information the team gets and uses that can spell the difference between success and failure.

Fact #5: Face-to-face interaction is passé. Now that we have powerful technologies for communication and coordination, teams can do their work much more efficiently at a distance.

Actually: Distributed remote teams are at a considerable disadvantage. There really are benefits to sizing up your teammates face-to-face in real time. A number of organizations that rely heavily on distributed teams have found that it is well worth the time and expense to get members together when the team is launched, again around the midpoint of the team’s work, and yet again when the work has been completed.

Thoughts? Reactions? Comments?


Five Things To Walk Out Of (and Five Things To Walk On To)

Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze's latest work, Walk Out Walk On, takes you inside seven communities around the world where people walked out of limiting beliefs about change, leadership and their own potential, and walked on to experiment with new beliefs and practices that made it possible to solve seemingly intractable problems. The book focuses on seven common assumptions that, if challenged, can liberate people’s creativity and capacity. Five are offered here to stimulate your own thinking; see what they provoke from your own experience.

1. From Power to Play
Most leaders believe that people are not self-motivated, that without directive control, no work gets done. They use external means, both punishment and reward. Yet when people are engaged through imagination and play, creativity blossoms in just about everybody. Seemingly impossible work is accomplished, and we experience joy both in the process of working together and in the results we create.

Question: Have you experienced times when your imagination, playfulness and creativity blossomed? What conditions led to this?

2. From Efficiency to Resilience

Conventional attempts to solve problems of scarcity focus on efficiencies—attempting to do more with less by cutting budgets and staff, minimizing resources, optimizing outputs. Yet resilience is achieved through a wide variety of small local actions that create the capacity to adapt to unending challenges.

Question: Think of times you have been adversely affected by the efficiency mindset. What have you learned? What, in your experience, creates the capacity for resilience?

3. From Hero to Host

When a community stops waiting for a hero to save it, it discovers internal resources and solutions to solve otherwise intractable problems. Using collaborative processes that rely on everyone’s contribution, people create long-term solutions that they fully support.

Question: How often do you play the hero, wanting to help people by rescuing them? How often do you trust other people to come up with their own solutions?

4. From Transacting to Gifting
Today’s transactional culture promotes self-interest and scarcity; people strive to take as much as they can and accumulate more than they need. In a gift culture—common in most traditional societies—people know they’re interdependent. When we give to one another, we are gifting to ourselves. Generosity prevails and money loses its disruptive power.

Question: How are the demands of consumer culture impacting you, your family, your work? Have you experienced times when gifts of service or work were freely offered, no strings attached?

5. From Scaling Up to Scaling Across
Taking things to scale doesn’t happen vertically through one-size-fits-all replication strategies, although this is today’s dominant approach. Change happens as local experiments move horizontally through networks of relationship, scaling across communities and nations. People become inspired by one another’s discoveries and create their own initiatives; they also support one another as pioneers.

Question: Do you know of small local efforts that grew large not through replication, but by inspiring others to keep inventing and learning?

Thoughts? Reactions? Ideas?


A Nation United

Daniel Seddiqui challenged himself to hold fifty jobs in all fifty U.S. states within 50 weeks -- and succeeded! Despite the wide range of culture, jobs, attitudes, and social dynamics he encountered, Daniel noticed five traits of all Americans regardless of location:

Trait One: Pride in One’s Work

It doesn’t matter if they were miners, factory workers, or television reporters – each worker showed great pride and meaning in what he or she was doing. A cheesemaker felt his work contributed just as much, and was just as important as the work of a scientist. Everyone was truly dedicated to their work, and believed they were contributing to a better society.

Trait Two: Kindness to Strangers and Outsiders

Whether you're in the supposedly intolerant bible belt, the economically depressed rust belt, the free-flowing Big Easy or the supposedly rude Big Apple, everyone had the audacity and heart to care for a stranger in need as though I was their own friend. Regardless of where I was, people showed kindness and charity.

Trait Three: An Optimistic Outlook
No matter what predicament they face, Americans stay true to their diligent work ethic by continuing to keep high spirits and hope. Many times I encountered people who were struggling or going through rough patches, but in all cases, it was very evident that they believed firmly that their situation would improve.

Trait Four: Open-Mindedness
There's barely any place left in this nation that does not have an intermingling of several cultures -- either through racial diversity or immigrant populations. In all cases, I noticed that people had learned to live amongst each other and respect each others' practices and beliefs. I lived and worked side by side with African-Americans, Indians, Whites, Latinos, Asians -- even the Amish -- and I rarely heard or saw any judgments being passed on the basis of ethnicity, origin, or beliefs.

Trait Five: Respect for Innovativion
Everywhere I went, I saw people striving to improve, be more productive, and take risks. We consistently reinvent ourselves and use any and all resources to create new ways of living.

Not that different after all, are we?


Five Poor Excuses for Ignoring Your Past

Author John Schuster's new book is all about the power of your past and how it can be an effective learning tool -- in stark contrast to the current trend that dictates that only the "now" is important and the past should be discarded entirely. Why are people so eager to disregard their past? Well there are a number of supposedly good reasons, and here John lists five of them and explains why they really aren't such good reasons after all:

Reason One: Certain memories can be painful to recall.

Good Reason? It would seem so. No one enjoys pain, and if it happened a while back, why rehash it now?

Why It’s Wrong: Like it or not, that pain is with us today even if it’s invisible. Events in our life shape us, painful ones included. We devised strategies to cope with these negatives, and some may have worked well for years but are now in your way. That is why we have to look back at the negatives -— to affirm the good strategies we devised and refine them, and recast the painful memories that lead us into poor strategies. We need to find new lessons, ones that benefit rather than weaken us.

Reason Two: The past is dead. I much prefer to be in the now.

Good Reason? Possibly. The past is irrevocable, and can never be fully sorted out. It’s better just to concentrate on the moment, live your values, and move ahead step by step, knowing that the present is all you ever really have.

Why It’s Wrong:
Being in the now is an excellent practice, but it is just not nearly enough. Remember what Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It is never even past.” The past lives on in ways that are not helpful if we leave unfinished business there. So we cannot discount the past in service to the now. Try as we might to breathe and be present, we can’t even be fully in the now when our many positive gifts from the past stay unclaimed and the negatives remain to still be recast.

Reason Three: I am goal-oriented, progress-motivated, busy person. Reflection is not my strong suit.

Good Reason?: Yep. Having an action-based orientation favors all kinds of outcomes for me -— achieving goals, advancing my career. Slowing down to reflect is not in my make up.

Why it’s Wrong: We all have busy streaks when reflection is not going to happen, nor should it in those times. But in the Excited States of America, one of our cultural flaws is an addiction to speed always, everywhere. Reflecting on our pasts helps us stay goal-oriented, because it gets all of us behind the right goals chosen to match our uniqueness, not parts of us behind goals we acquired because we picked them up somewhere while we were busy being action-oriented.

Reason Four:
I had a great childhood and adolescence. Why dig into it and make more work for myself?

Good Reason? Figures...I'm well-adjusted and I don’t need therapy. I am about the most normal person I know.

Why it’s Wrong:
Many of us had great childhoods, but there is still work to do. Sometimes we flat out forget the gifts of our past, and don’t define ourselves around these gifts and lessons. We can romanticize and sentimentalize our pasts and not see the really difficult fixes that we had to work through. This keeps us on our surface and away from our depth.

Reason Five: I was immature/impulsive in my past, and I had no control over some of the things that happened. I know this now, so what’s to learn?

Good Reason?
Why not? Who hasn’t chalked up a memory to inexperience or immaturity, and since we think that now we’re mature and we survived and even thrived to this point, what’s the reason for going back?

Why It’s Wrong: Sure, we are succeeding in some ways, and we all do things that are immature and later regret it. On top of that, things happened to us beyond our control. But how we acted on impulse when we’re younger actually tells us a lot about our own passions and weaknesses and what is important to us now and what isn’t. Think of these moments as those periods in your life where you were truly honest with yourself and see what you can learn about yourself from them. Also, remember that the things that were out of your control can lead to subtle or not so subtle strategies of victimizing yourself or demonizing others.

Good enough reasons for ya?


This Ain't Your Mama's Green Marketing

Green marketing has certainly changed a lot over the last several years, and Jacquie Ottman knows this because she has been working in this arena since 1989 (when "being green" just meant you lacked experience in a particular field). Jacquie wants businesses and companies to keep in mind five new lessons for green marketing with authenticity and impact:

Lesson One: A single customer can bring down your entire green strategy.

Disgruntled customers don’t patiently write a letter to the CEO these days. We live in a wired world where individual consumers have incredible reach to markets through their blogs and tweets. All it takes is for one influencer to notice a problem or issue and bring it up to others. From there, it spreads virally across firewalls and nations. And remember, greenwashing is a very tough accusation to come back from.

Lesson Two: Green is entirely mainstream now.

At one point it seemed that only a niche market really cared about environmental sustainability and you could usually catch them by looking for Birkenstocks and vegan recipes. But now, everyone — including suburban families, corporate heads, and government departments -- have all gone green. You are no longer selling green to a small cross-section of the public, you are selling green to everyone.

Lesson Three: Price, performance, and convenience no longer guide consumer purchasing.

Nowadays, values guide consumer purchasing. Historically, consumers bought solely on price, performance, and convenience, but today they look at how products are sourced, manufactured, packaged, disposed of. Even such social aspects as how factory and farm workers are treated all matter.

Lesson Four: Companies need to tell the whole story

BP, ExxonMobil, and SIGG learned this lesson the hard way. Today's brands gain trust by practicing radical transparency, disclosing the good and the bad. Consumers are smart enough to know that some waste is inevitable in any production process, they just want companies to be honest about it and constantly be working to reduce it.

Lesson Five: Today's consumers look at the entire life-cycle of a product.

A product's life used to begin the moment it was purchased and end the moment it was consumed, broken, or discarded. However, modern consumers want businesses to have accountability for how a product was created and overseen even before it hits store shelves, and in the case of many non-perishables, how it will be broken down at the end of its life-cycle to minimize waste.

Your thoughts, reactions, or observations?