Integrity – Internal Grit

Is it cheating if everyone is doing it?  Is fairness just a level playing field?  Are the win and profit at all costs mentality exemplified by the BioGenesis 13 and Johnny Football our new standard?

In the past few weeks I’ve been writing about win/win solutions and dovetailed outcomes for achieving our goals.  This week the sports and news pages are filling up again with the counter argument.  The win at all costs culture and narcissism of those who feel above the rules and entitled to get their just rewards right now.  I won’t rehash details, just go to ESPN or the Zone and read until you have to take a puke break.

Much of the commentary about Johnny Manziel has included questions about whether the rules about amateur status and the NCAA profit off the images of student athletes is fair.  So many baseball players are now coming out to condemn a practice of cheating that they either condoned through their silence or under the guise of their collective bargaining agreements.  Unfortunately, it comes down to power and money, time and again.

Integrity comes from doing what is right, not following or hiding behind a rule book.  Integrity is an internal process.  It is literally lining up the inner and the outer so they are congruent.  It’s not morality.  It’s not compliance.  It is honoring the truth and acting in accordance.

Unfortunately, the honest, fair, patient, equanimous, compassionate, inclusive and generous path rarely leads to bling.  Experience tells me it does lead to a good night’s sleep and the ability to look in the mirror without one of the aforementioned puke breaks.

It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

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Mental Ecology – Clarification

As I read over my post from last Thursday on the filters we need for our minds, one that lets thoughts flow through without our holding on to them and on that restricts the inane and useless thoughts that flow out our mouth, I realized I may not have been clear enough.

When I say, we all have less than laudable thoughts about other people in terms of race, gender, size, or whatever and that we have to make sure that as civilized people we don’t say those things out loud I am not condoning the hateful thoughts as long as they don’t become hateful speech.  I am not saying it’s ok to be a private racist, just don’t get caught.  I am saying that as we are learning to let thoughts flow through our minds and out without holding onto and adopting them as our own, let’s be careful they are coming in one ear and out the other, not in one ear and out our mouths.

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De-Cluttering Ideas

My wife and I are moving and while reading up on kitchen designs, she shared the following article on de-cluttering with me.

This also dovetails with the discussion on Friday about Mental Ecology.  One way to have less ‘stuff’ to process though is to have less stuff.

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Mental Ecology – Part 2

Common ecological practices include the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  They also include clean and renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal and others.

So in terms of our internal environment and harnessing our personal energy towards effective and productive uses; how can we apply these green principles?

To me reduce is closely tied to de-cluttering our internal and external environment.  Internally, how do we prune out the negative self talk, conditioning and images as well as our limiting beliefs about our own ability. How do we shift our focus from the challenges and obstacles to the opportunities and resources at our disposal.  Externally, two words: Stop Hoarding.  Take all the stuff clogging up your office and home and either find another person who wants or needs them, donate them if they are still useful or toss them if they are not.  That stack of old Life magazines you think will one day be worth a fortune on eBay would better serve humanity in post-consumer recycled paper products.  You know who you are! (Full disclosure, I moved a box of 1960’s Life magazines to at least three new homes before finally getting rid of them and I kept boxes of Wired Magazines from issue #2 on for close to ten years until they overwhelmed my attic.)

What about Reuse?  As I think about it, what comes to mind is collaboration.  Some of us have the ‘not invented here’ syndrome or the ‘lone wolf’ attitude.  We won’t ask for assistance because we either think that doing so shows some sort of weakness or we are tied into the whole image of the doer, the Alpha and accomplishment only feels good to us if we ‘do it ourselves’.  We also are so tied up by our own beliefs and biases that we won’t accept as valuable anything that doesn’t match what we already believe.  We have systems of belief that do come from our own experience (the Cog Sci term is schema), but we compare any new piece of information to what we already believe and we discard or literally filter out any new data that doesn’t match.  In the realm of Mental Ecology, we open ourselves up to the ideas from outside our own experience and to the input and assistance of others so together We get more done than I could ever accomplish completely on my own.

My take on Recycling is Externally=Do It; Internally=Stop It!  If you are recycling through the same thoughts over and over, capture those thoughts the first time.  Decide if there is an action or project associated.  If it’s a project, define the true desired outcome in as full as possible a manner as you can and then chunk it down to actionable steps (verbs) and track those actions until you are done.

In terms of renewable energy, diet and exercise are crucial.  So is your system of regularly reviewing so that you acknowledge all your good work and catch thoughts and actions that need to get out of your head and into your system. Both of those will free up natural energy from the most renewable source there is.  Ourselves.


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Mental Ecology

You are responsible for what you hold in your mind, not for what goes through it.

– John-Roger, D.S.S.

“I will jump that fence and fight every n***** here,”

Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles

Both of these seemingly unrelated tidbits entered my field of vision this morning. The first from a daily inspiration email I subscribe to called “Loving Each Day”; the second in the NY Times online edition.

The second, (for which Mr. Cooper has apologized profusely and we can take him at his word that he is ashamed of himself for his racist outburst), illustrates that we are responsible not only for what we hold in our mind, but also what we allow to come out of our mouth.

Every self-conscious and honest human being has to admit we see the world racially, socially, in terms of gender, class, education, caste, popularity and myriad other forms of stratification, categorization and pigeon-holing and bias.  I am not sure if those mental constructs are innate or learned.  I know for sure they are there.  We are bombarded endlessly with the words and thoughts of others.  They go through our minds.  In the age of 24/7 reality TV, hate news and the social media soup in which we tread water; our exposure level can be toxic to our mental health.  But we have filters in place.  Maybe based on the above quotes we have to realize that one filter is a valve that allows all kinds of useless negative thinking to go through our heads; in one ear and out the other.  The second filter has to be on our mouths.  It has to be a valve allowing that which is positive, constructive, healing, supportive and uplifting through easily; allowing the neutral through in moderate doses and holding back the useless, negative, destructive, hateful stuff back like an impenetrable wall.

My message here sounds like preaching, I know, but the application in our business lives is just as pertinent.

We need to improve our interactions with team members, direct reports, clients, suppliers, supervisors, etc. How can we use our filters to ensure that our interactions are positive? Part of this is according respect to everyone.  Part is learning to communicate clearly and neutrally. Part goes back to what I wrote about previously in terms of striving for win/win outcomes.  Part of it comes from developing enough internal confidence and guidance so we don’t find ourselves in reactive, defensive or overly competitive postures where our fight or flight mechanisms overcome the filters of civility and ultimately of effectiveness.

We need to improve our interactions with ourselves.  How can we use the one way filter to allow our negative self talk, odious external conditioning and every other form of useless or harmful stimuli that come into our field of consciousness to pass right back out.  This is really a form of metal ecology and leads to reduced stress, stronger bonds with others, greater personal effectiveness and ultimately a sense of health, wellbeing, freedom and joy.

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The tools are not the practice

future-electronics-how-gadgets-change-660I love gadgets and gear.  I love leather notebooks, specialized note pads and calendars.  I love aluminum and matte black metal and every form of iThing ever conceived.

I took my first really impactful time management course in 1988.  Part of the package for the two-day training was the Time Design system, a book filled with custom appointment and activity pages, ruled and grid paper, long range planing calendars that folded out, project planning pages etc.  It had its own special slim highlighter for marking off completed actions and bought a groovy Lamy pen/pencil (in matte black of course).  I would have bought an Apple Newton when it first came out but it really had no useful application to the productivity methods I employ.  I was an early adopter of the Palm.  So early it was still a product of US Robotics.  I wanted to take my productivity system digital and tried my best to port it to the Palm Pilot and then Trio, eventually with success when the software and MS Outlook integration was robust enough.  Now, as I have documented in this blog, I am completely moved into an iPad, iPhone world with integration to Google apps.

Guess what?  It’s all a sideshow.  The tools are not the practice.  Capturing all of my commitments (appointments on a calendar, projects and actions in complete and regularly reviewed process), keeping a focus on my outcomes and goals, keeping track of my contacts, having a good system for storing reference material, notes and documents, processing all the incoming stimuli (emails, texts, phone calls, letters, conversations, thoughts, reading, news, inspirations), having a method of deciding what to do with those stimuli and everything that flows from the above are the practice.  The tools are servants to the practice not masters.

My mat is not my yoga practice, my racquet is not my tennis game, my guitar is not my music.  That being said, good gear can enhance a good practice and fun, groovy gear can increase the motivation to engage with it and therefore the practice more deeply, regularly,etc.  Conversely, low quality, inadequate gear can be an impediment to practice (downward dog on a slippery mat is a fool’s errand) so by all means get the gear that gets you in gear.  But don’t make the absence of gear the reason you don’t get clear on your goals and engaged in your ‘stuff’ (to-do’s, calendars, projects).

By the way, getting a process, customizing to your specific needs and finding the right gear for you is exactly what my two-day, one on one coaching is all about.  If you are in the New York area and interested, you might want to try it out. After all,  a good coach can be a huge time saver in getting to the next level of practice.  See my services page for more info. 

The image above came from this article on gadgets.

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Project management v. Project focus

Project management is the classical GANTT charting, dependency coordinating, resource leveling activities of getting a project done.

Project focus is having a clear picture of all of your committed outcomes so that at any moment you can be fully engaged in the activity of your life without feeling like you ought to be working on something else.

The first is clear and crisp planning. The second is the flexibly that comes from clarity. Together they are the foundation effectiveness.

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Google Journal and 100DS

I found the above and was intrigued.  Run yourself through the slide show.  I am not sure I agree with the methodology, but I am going to challenge myself to try it out and report on my experience here on the Productive Practice blog.

The Google gadget is in development and may never be a real product, but the 100 Day System is very much real and seems to be the true value add anyway.  They are doing a crowdfunding.  There is a link on the last slide and I encourage you to check it out.

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Constant dripping wears off a stone – Ken Matsuzaki

I just read a short piece in the current New Yorker Magazine about Tokyo resident and Cardozo Law School grad Ken Matsuzaki.  He finally passed the NYS Bar exam after taking it for the seventeenth time since 2005.  It would be easy to see his story as an exercise in futility.  It would be easy to see it as the culmination of one man’s Sisyphean struggle to attain a personal goal.  It would be easy to turn it into a screed on the byzantine system of state licensing and accreditation.

I am focused on two letters.  The leading ‘dr’ of the word dripping.  If you were to ask me come up with a plan to remove a stone, I’d be more likely to start chipping than dripping.  My style would be more attack.  I am not naturally patient.  Now I could easily summon a series of bromides on patience like ‘slow and steady wins the race’, ‘the faith of a mustard seed’.  Right here on this blog I have advocated the gradual approach.  My very first post included the value of tackling a goal through instituting microscopic changes.  I have echoed the words of my mentors like John Roger and David Allen; ‘small things done consistently have the greatest impact’.  But even my examples of gradualism are still grounded in action not patience.  Now clearly Mr. Matsuzaki’s quest involved action.  According to the article he studied, took review courses, travelled to New York City, Albany and ultimately won his prize in Buffalo.  He wasn’t just waiting around for someone to hand him entrance to the NY Bar.

I’m just wondering where in my life dripping is a better strategy than chipping. 

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Quote of the Day

In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision– the Dalai Lama

Action follows thought.  Remember my earlier posts about vectors and influence.  Our vision is the guidance system for our actions. But it’s not like an arrow that you aim, release and hope for the best.  It’s like an airplane in flight, getting constant course correction from the air traffic control system.  Once your ‘arrow’ is off the bow and in flight to its target, constant focus on the vision of the successful outcome steers us to the bullseye.  I like that the verbs in the quote above are carry and develop.  To me develop means it continues to evolve.  It’s not a one and done deal.  Persistence, repetition, practice are all part of the development.  Carry give me the sense that I am involved the whole way.  Not throw or shoot or launch and then out of my control but carry to the finish, protect, lift, guide and deliver.  That’s how we get from vision, through action to goal.

As I put it; from purpose to product.

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