Remembering Steve Jobs

My first direct experience with a computer was in using an Apple IIC plus in my dad’s den.

I was not even 10 years old, but playing games on that computer would occupy entire weekends! When my neighbor got an Apple IIGS with a color monitor I was really in heaven – wasting even more time  in his basement playing games such as Bard’s Tale:).

It was these PCs that made me interested in technology at young age – and really opened up my imagination to a whole new world of possibilities for what I could be when I grew up.

Fast forward 20+ years and I’ve been working at Microsoft for over a decade, but have also continued to use and enjoy Apple products over the years and have incredible respect for Steve Jobs, and how he was able to make his visions real and bring so many remarkable to products to market.

He will truly be missed.

Don’t Be Busy

The most successful people I know don’t act like they are busy.

They actually are incredibly busy by most people’s standards, they just don’t come off that way.

When you talk with them you have their full attention. They listen to you. They walk in a quick but not hurried fashion. They speak clearly and briefly. They don’t talk about the things they have to do or how stressed they are. They get things done. They don’t waste time doing things that don’t matter. You never will hear them talk about how they don’t have enough time or have too much going on.

On the flip side, I know a lot of people, who achieved far less success, that always talk about how busy they are. How they don’t have time to exercise, plan a much needed vacation or take care of errands around the house. These people always seem to have a tough break and come up short of their big goals. They seem to be too busy to focus on what it important. They are a whirling tornado of activity but the results don’t match the hurried pace.

Which camp do you fit in?

Try not using “being busy” as an excuse for a good 30 days. Just pretend that you have all the time and energy in the world to do what you need to do. All you need to do is commit. Then, see what happens.

Powerful Words

It doesn’t a lot of words to make a big impact.

A few powerful words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s final speech.

Trust and leadership

If you want to lead and wonder what it takes for people to trust you and be willing to follow your direction, demonstrate that you trust them. You’ll be amazed at what people will do to live up to your absolute trust in their capabilities.

Step Out of the Box

A green Lamborghini parked outside my house. Note to self, if I ever decide to get a crazy expensive car, DO NOT get this color!

Update: A well-informed reader – Mike –  let me know that the car in the photo above is highly unqiue – one of the only ones in the country at this time – and it does not have a govenor in it. Also, the use of govenors are primarily for environmental and other reasons, as opposed to simply keep the cars from outrunning police. They probably could outrun the authorities anyway which is why police use helicopters and other methods to keep our roads safe. I’m leaving the post below un-edited, but thanks to Mike for these added insights! 

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Really fast cars have these things called governors. They are devices that control (and in some cases limit) the maximum speed of a vehicle. It’s what keeps a Lambo from outrunning the police. Our bodies have internal governors too. They keep us from taking ridiculous risks. From pushing ourselves too far. From taking actions we might later regret. From doing things that could sacrifice our lives, friendships, livelihood, etc.  

The problem with our internal governors, is that they quickly and frequently get out of alignment. If you were a car, you could wheel yourself into a shop for a tune-up. Unfortunately, resetting your internal governors is not that easy.  

As we go through life we end up hearing other people saying we can’t or shouldn’t do certain things. Or we try things and fail. Or we see others try things and fail. Or we see people not even trying and therefore assume that things are impossible.  

This kind of reality causes us to set our own governors at ridiculously low levels. We think we can never get out bodies in shape. Never do 50 push ups. Never get that better job. Never get that better relationship. Never make it through six “wheels” (Urdhva Dhanurasana) in yoga class! The longer we let these lies persist, the more they sink in.  

Every now and then it is imperative that we give ourselves a tune-up and see that the boundaries we set are fake and often just plain ridiculous. Try something new. Push your physical body. Try something again (for the second, third, fourth time if need be). Set a crazy goal (or a BHAG in Lululemon terms).  

Do whatever it takes to step out of the prison of your self-imposed comfort zone, aka “the box.” Bust out the box and see what you are really capable of.

Create a Movement

Creating a movement is not easy. It requires that you do things that others seem as unnatural and maybe even weird. People will say you should stop doing whatever it is. They may think you are crazy and even laugh a little. Most living things feel safer as a member of a crowd, not out on their own. We are no different.

How are we supposed to create any positive change if we always remain part of a crowd? The answer is simple but definitely not easy to put into practice. This  short video by Derek Sivers breaks it down very well, with a story about a shirt-less dancing guy.

The lessons:

  1. A leader needs the guts to stand-alone and look ridiculous.
  2. A movement must be simple and easy to follow.
  3. A leader embraces followers as an equal, it’s about the movement not the leader.
  4. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership.
  5. New followers emulate followers and not the leader. Movements must be public and transparent.

The best way to create a movement doesn’t require that you create one on your own. If all everyone did was create their own movements, there would be no movements! Instead, be an early follower. Find something you believe in, and have the courage to support a movement that is already underway, no matter how obscure it may seem at first.

Leadership in Everyday Life

"Snow Dancer" - me in Natarajasana aka "Dancer Pose" during a hike to a snow-covered alpine lake in the Cascade Mountains near Seattle, WA (May 2010)

Leadership is one of the most misunderstood and puzzling things. Last week I was with a group of team leaders at work discussing leadership. I felt that this is something we should challenge people do more of. Someone made the comment that “Ravi…you know that we can’t have everyone lead. We don’t have enough stuff for people to lead. If everyone was leading, we wouldn’t get work done and people would be fighting over projects to lead.” It was as if the world only has so much room for leaders. I find this notion silly. The world needs more leaders. The world DESPERATELY needs more leaders. The reason we have the problems we see in the world (e.g. rampant disease, poverty, war) is that too few people choose to step up, speak out and act in a way that helps others and inspires others to do the same.

In most situations I’d say that a small fraction of people have the desire to step into leadership roles and fewer still take the steps needed to rise to the occasion. I’ll take a wild guess and say that even in a hyper-competitive environment like a top-tier university or leading corporate environment…fewer than 10% of people (and even this is an upper bound) take advantage of regular opportunities to display leadership. Most just coast by and assume someone else will lead them or make the decision for them.

The problem starts with the reality that most people are actually confused with what leadership is to begin with. Leadership is not about managing people or being in a position of authority – like a CEO or some corporate managing director. In fact, leadership is most powerfully displayed when one acts without authority and leads people who DO NOT HAVE TO work for them. The most effective and memorable leaders in history did not actually have people who worked for them (e.g. Gandhi, Dr. King, Rosa Parks, etc.). They displayed leadership in their thoughts, words and actions and this congruence created the spark that rose others to act in kind.

Another problem is that people get tricked up with how to display leadership. They think it is about picking the right project or schmoozing with the right people. In reality, leadership often happens with seemingly small actions and decisions. Leadership happens when you break a deadlock over where to go for dinner with your friends. Leadership happens when you make the decision to take the right fork in the trail (instead of going straight) while out on a hike with friends or family. Leadership happens when you take the initiative to drive your family or friends to a new restaurant, park or museum. Leadership happens when you choose to try busting out a handstand in the middle of a yoga class – even if it means you might fall over – instead of just hanging out in a standing split or some other “safe” pose. Leadership is when you speak up during a meeting to voice your opinion on an important issue. Leadership is also listening actively to others and showing that you respect their insights as much as your own.

The world needs more leaders, not less. This isn’t a game of musical chairs with limited opportunities to lead. I would love to have the amazing problem of seeing too many people stepping out of their comfort zone, leading their families – friends – co-workers – loved ones into the future.

If you want to start leading, right now take a few minutes and brainstorm a dozen little things you can do to show leadership in your everyday life this week. Here are a few examples:

  • Offer to drive co-workers to lunch
  • Try a new pose in yoga class (or go further than you ever have before)
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while
  • Hold the door open for someone, and smile while you do it
  • Give a sincere compliment to someone you don’t know
  • Speak up in class or during meeting to voice your opinion
  • Take advantage of an opportunity to present your ideas to co-workers or classmates
  • Arrange fun weekend plans for you and your friends/family

Circle three things on the list that really speak to you, and do them RIGHT AWAY.

Start leading in seemingly small ways. Do this on a daily basis and as often as your can. It is critically important. It develops your internal leadership muscle so that when larger and more meaningful opportunities to lead appear, you’ll immediately step out of your comfort zone and take them on. Start small and watch some major change happening over the longer term. Also remember that leadership is a transferable action – that is to say, by taking action you’ll inspire other to do the same. By choosing to speak up in class, you’ll inspire other students to do the same. By taking on a more challenging yoga pose, you’ll inspire others by showing them what is possible. Don’t hesitate, do it now.

Actions Speak Loudly

One of my favorites sayings (not sure who to attribute it to):

“Who you are speaks so loudly, I can hardly hear a word you are saying”

When you have nothing to prove and are acting out of sheer joy, interest, kindness and support – you end up making a far bigger impact than you could ever try to make. Think about that the next time you are trying to create a change at your place of work, home or in a relationship.

(note: I edited the quote after I published this….had the first part wrong)

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

What you (or a customer, or a partner, etc.) do is far more powerful than what you say. We know in marketing that the best form of marketing is a referral from someone who has actually used and can vouch for a product. In family situations, kids learn best not by being told what to do, but by watching their parents and siblings. I witnessed this first-hand by observing my niece (who is almost 2) learn new words and skills just by watching others!

In whatever you do, if you want to be at cause – that is to say, if you want to create a change in any part of your workplace or you personal life – take action and let those actions speak for themselves. People will also be more receptive to a new idea if they aren’t sold on it. Best let them learn from your example.

How To Win Friends And Influence People (Part III)

Listening to the audio book for How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Read Part 1 and Part 2 for insights from the earlier portions of the book. Here are some insights from this evening’s listening:

  • See things always from another person’s point of view – always, try as hard as you can to do this
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Appeal to people’s nobler motives
  • Use showmanship to get attention – movies do it, TV does it, window displays do it – and it works
  • You can dramatize ideas in business or any other part of life – works great when dealing with adults and kids! Dramatize facts to make a point in a business setting. Use props if necessary to get your point across
  • The way to get things done is to stimulate competition – in a healthy and productive way, throw down a challenge and see what happens!
  • Work is the most motivating force for any worker, not money, benefits or anything else – quality and interesting work is the single biggest tool to keep people interested in their job
  • Let other people do a great deal of the talking in any conversation
  • It’s always easier to listen to criticism after you have given someone some praise – never just criticize, always see the positive aspects and comment on them first – them provide your thoughtful critique
  • Providing criticism after praise is a technique used by many world leaders past and present (Lincoln, Coolidge, McKinley, etc.) in motivating staff an leading without making people feel bad
  • Beginning with praise is like a dentist that begins with Novocaine!
  • There is a way to redirect/correct/criticism without upsetting people – make others feel important (praise) while correcting
  • People judge us by our “letters” – small errors, like spelling errors, make a big impression
  • Humbling oneself and praising another can turn a staunch adversary into a close friend
  • Admitting one’s own mistakes can motivate others to change their behavior for the better. For example, by quitting smoking – parents will set a positive example that children and friends will notice (and potentially follow)
  • A good leader talks about their own mistakes before criticizing others

How To Win Friends – Part II

Listening to “How to Win Friends and Influence People ” by Dale Carnegie again. Here are some stream of conscious nuggets I’m picking up while listening. Read Part I for more nuggets.

  • The best way to win an argument, is to avoid it.
  • Quit telling people they are wrong, after all, how do you really know? You might be the one who is wrong. In other words, get used to admitting that you, in fact, might be wrong. It’s a disarming approach when dealing with people and shows respect for others opinions. Admitting you might be wrong will never get you into trouble.
  • The word “My” has incredible force and impact. Use it carefully.
  • Agree with your adversary quickly! Don’t argue with a customer, spouse or enemy. Use diplomacy.
  • Never say to someone else “you’re wrong”.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically!
  • A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of “gaul”.
  • The more yes’s you can induce from others early in a conversation – the positive momentum you can achieve toward a desired outcome. Saying yes is a powerful thing.
  • Let others do a great deal of talking. Don’t interrupt others. Listen patiently and sincerely.
  • Encourage others to express their ideas fully.

How To Win Friends

Listening to “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie (again). There are thousands of books on self-help and business leadership out there but this is definitely the one that matters. I like listening to the audio book version. It forces me to take in every word whereas in print form I end up reading quickly ahead.

A few insights from listening so far:

  • The ability to properly deal with people is by far the biggest factor in becoming a successful leader.
  • People respond more favorably to praise then criticism.
  • It is far easier to make friends by being genuinely interested in others, than it is to try to get others to be genuinely interested in you.
  • To get someone to pay attention to you, focus on what they care about NOT what you care about. Start from that perspective and they will be motivated to hear what you have to say.
  • Fake it ’till you make it. If you smile even when you aren’t happy, you will begin to feel cheerful.
  • There is only one sure way to find happiness, and that is through controlling your thoughts. It is not what you are doing that makes you happy, it is all about your mental attitude.
  • Do not fear being misunderstood and do not fear your enemies – keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do.
  • All things come through desire, we become the things in which our hearts are fixed.
  • Names are important, if you are genuinely interested in people – you’ll have an easier time remembering. People are more interested in their own name than in all the other names put together.

If you haven’t read or listened to it yet – do it!

Embracing Uncertainty

There is a direct correlation between the amount of uncertainty that you are able to let into your life and accept, and the quality of your overall life experiences. The best things that I have ever experienced in my life were born from situations that were to a large extent highly uncertain. A few example….there was a huge amount of uncertainty around:

  • how I would finish my first marathon
  • how I would finish my first Ironman triathlon (and make it to the start line period!)
  • how I would swim across Puget Sound (3.5 miles in 50 degree water!)
  • how I would do on my honors chemistry final in college
  • how I would complete numerous challenging work projects
  • how I would fare in that longshot job interview
  • how I would find my way back the trailhead after getting lost in the woods for a bit
  • how I would navigate the streets and cultures of those foreign countries
  • how I would have the courage to teach my first yoga class
  • how I would manage my finances in a challenging economy
  • how I would fare in throwing a party for a bunch of friends
  • how I would get everything I need to get done in an incredibly short period of time

The list could go on and on.

Life is full of uncertainty, but sometimes it is exactly when you want to quit that you should stay and push through. Uncertainty is not a bad thing, it is reality. The better you are able to handle these situations, the more new and expanded possibilities will open up in your life – and the more fulfilled you will feel.

A Few Good Reads

Darri left a comment to my last post about “The Dip” asking what some of my favorite books are. This post isn’t about my all-time favorite books, but rather about books that I’ve read recently and have enjoyed. Here are five that I particularly like right now.

The Dip. I just wrote about it and I’m going through my own exercise right now to figure out what things in my life are worth slogging through the dip for, and which things I should cut loose from. A short and very good book that applies to personal development and business. It’s all about being deliberate in doing certain things well (and pushing through “the dip” that happens when times get tough), and quitting those things that aren’t bound to be productive to your life.

Made to Stick. I read this book as part of a marketing leadership development I’m in at work. It’s all about storytelling. While geared for business professionals, the book applies equally to how we talk about and present ourselves every day to family, friends or co-workers. The book is an easy read and there are quite a few case studies that bring the text to life.

Think and Grow Rich. This is a classic but I’ve put off reading it for many years. It’s the foundation for many other personal development books and systems that have come about over the years. Napolean Hill studied the success characteristics from the world’s most successful people for decades on behalf of his benefactor, Andrew Carnegie. It was written years ago but is highly relevant. Highly recommended.

Tribes. Another Seth Godin book, and also very short but very good (it is really hard to write short books, I commend Seth for doing this!). This book is all about communities, and how we are ALL empowered to lead a community (if we so choose). Be it a community group, church group, meetup group, peer group or any other community….the world needs leaders now. Are you up for the challenge? Best of all, you can download the audio version of the book for FREE from audible!

Journey to the Heart. This is a book of daily reflections/meditations that I use frequently when teaching my yoga classes. The readings are powerful and very well put.

Ultramarathon Man. I haven’t read this book <yet> but it is next on my list. Dean Karnazes likes to run…to the point of frequently running ultramarathons lasting over 100 miles (or longer) over rugged terrain. He also completed 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days last year (this is covered in his most recent book – “50/50”). Some people like to call him crazy, but I think we all can learn something from his focus, dedication and sheer tenacity.

What books have you read recently and really enjoyed? Please leave a note in the comments, I’m always looking for good book recommendations!

Lessons in Life From America’s Next President

I’m usually not a big fan of Men’s Health magazine, but this month there is a great article full of life lessons from inspiring people

Lance Armstrong, Michael Pollan (author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma) and even Barack Obama are featured! The more I read about Barack the more I like him and look forward to the change he is bound to bring to this country and the world. You can check out the portion of the article about Barack here, based on an interview he did back in August.

The article also has a link to download (for $5) a pdf with more content from the interview including lessons about leadership, health and parenting. I haven’t checked out this download yet…if you have, leave a comment and let me know how it is!

Stimulus Response

I am a mouse on a wheel. It might be a shiny, diamond-studded wheel that spins all nice and smooth, but it is still a wheel. I’m a stimulus/response machine. I don’t see this as an inherently bad thing. It is what it is. It’s this behavior that has helped me succeed in many things. It helps to multi-task at work. It helps me to juggle multiple to-do’s at home. It helps me just put the blinders on and get things done even when those things might not be fun or overly exciting (like training hard or doing the laundry).

Part of this change has to do with my new role as a manager. I am no longer defining my success at work in terms of what I do, but in terms of what my team can do. I am having to deal with many more varied projects and problems than I have ever had to do in the past. Like it or not, since I spend so much time at or thinking about work; this work-based stimulus response behavior pervades the rest of my life. It is not good or bad, it is what it is.

However, I’m starting to see a dramatic contrast. I just returned from a whirlwind 8 day trip to China, Korea and Taiwan (for work). Talk about stimulus-response overload! Now, in the throes of holiday season, most of my team and peers are on vacation. E-mail has flowed to a trickle. I haven’t had a phone call in days. My stimuli are all gone! Oh no, what to do! It’s actually taken me a bit of time (a day or so) to make the switch from dancing monkey (stimulus response addict) to normal human being.

As a “normal human being”, I feel much more calm; but also less excited about stuff. I am able to think long term, but am actually not nearly as motivated to get a bunch of near-term (easy) stuff done. I am more looking forward to going to work in the morning (less pressure) but a little more bored when I get there.

So yes, there is a change. It’s not good or bad. It is what it is.

Motivation: What It Means and How To Get It!

This article is a summary from a live group discussion (moderated by Ravi Raman) during the April 14th Seattle Personal Development POWERGROUP meeting.

Motivation is not some magic gift reserved only for the exceptional and accomplished few. It is something that each and every one of us can harness to get more done, while enjoying the process. In fact, achieving ANY goal, or completing any task requires some level of motivation.

What is Motivation?

Defined; motivation means: “the PSYCHOLOGICAL feature that arouses an organism to ACTION toward a desired GOAL.”

The letters in capitals are VERY IMPORTANT to internalize.

Motivation is PSYCHOLOGICAL, which means that it is something that comes from within you. It is not some mysterious force that comes and goes as it pleases. It is something that can be understand and indeed CREATED at will.

The results of being motivated are ACTIONS. Action is movement and it is through this movement that actual progress is made. Lastly, all this progress is made toward a desired GOAL. This last part is crucial. Without a clear goal and purpose, it is hard, if not impossible to get motivated.

So it stands that becoming a motivated individual is completely within YOUR CONTROL. It is really a state of mind, that is manifested through the body (via action) toward a specific purpose (goal). Sound simple enough?

The Antithesis of Motivation is Procrastination

Getting motivated on a consistent basis is harder than it sounds. We frequently fall victim to procrastination.

Why do we procrastinate? Ultimately, as dictated through human needs psychology, it comes down to FEAR. This is not inherently bad, but it is somethingthat must be understood. Our brains have evolved in such a way as to ensure that we are safe and protected at all times. Thank goodness for that.

However, while this hard-wiring was great at helping us avoid getting mauled by a saber-toothed tiger thousands of years ago, it is not helpful in pushing you to try new things and drive through fear in a more civilized and modern society. Our SOCIETY has evovled MUCH FASTER than our BIOLOGY. If you want to success in a modern world, you need to be able to cope with this.

Luckily, there are many tools out there to help you.

Continue reading Motivation: What It Means and How To Get It!