In episode 46 of How To Matter, I discuss finding the sweet spot between accommodating to others and taking care of yourself. The article below is the handout that goes along with the tip in the episode.
“By helping yourself, you are helping humankind. By helping humankind, you are helping yourself. That’s the law of all spiritual progress.” — Christopher Isherwood
Perhaps helping humankind may be a bit beyond your immediate focus; but be that as it may, be flexible and accommodating to the needs, preferences, and individual situations of other people. Here, emphasis is on “accommodating.” You are flexible enough to help meet the needs of other people or at least to not prevent those needs being met. Further, the preferences of other people are considered to the extent that they don’t preclude satisfying your needs and interests. The point is that room is made for others and your priorities so long as this does not prevent your long-term success.
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” — William Shakespeare
Simply be unwilling to argue. You know that people who argue with anyone, anywhere, at any time are attempting to manipulate and control others by confusing them, wearing them down, and by emotionally and intellectually overpowering them. Alternatively, you consciously present your thoughts, perceptions, intentions, or point of view and stop. You listen and consider what the other person is saying, adjust your ideas and plans as you think is appropriate, but then stop. If the other person wants to pursue the issue, they must do so without your further participation.
In this episode of How To Matter, my focus is on Fault Finders, those frustrating types who drive us up the wall. You can get a free .pdf edition of The Frustration Factor at This Link.
The excerpt below is the handout for the mini workshop in this episode of How To Matter.
Faultfinders do not have much faith in people
Management and psychology texts argue that people will do as well as they can under the specific circumstances. They only need to accept the underlying values, understand the problem, and receive support and encouragement. Faultfinders do not buy into that. It is only necessary for them to look around to see the absurdity in the people-are-good-and-want-to-do-the-right-thing hypothesis. These players can look at almost any behavior, activity, or project and point out things that should have worked out better or faster. They can point to people who should have been smarter or sharper. They also call attention to events or circumstances that someone should have handled more smoothly or efficiently.
They always do better, they believe, so it is reasonable for them to expect others to do the same. Faultfinders reason thusly:
• If things were done right the first time, we would not have to waste our time straightening out messes other people are causing
• There is no excuse for that - whatever that happens to be
• If you can't do the job, we'll find someone who can - and that will be easy to do
The trick is to Faultfind about something, anything, and then criticize someone, anyone. The result is that the spotlight never gets turned on the player. If the heat does turn on him, he only needs to escalate his criticism and self-righteous indignation.
In episode 43 of How To Matter, I talk about an unpleasant experience with a surgeon and expanded from there to discuss the value and risks associated with accommodating to other people and special circumstances. The article below is the handout for the mini workshop.
“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” — Janis Joplin
Adjust to people and circumstances without compromising your values, beliefs, personal style, position, or self-perceived status. You don’t expect others to adjust to or accommodate to you, unnecessarily, inappropriately, or unilaterally. You remain who you are regardless of who is present or the specific situation but intentionally adjust your behavior and demeanor so that others can perceive and relate to you in positive and useful ways. In this way, you avoid any extraneous emotional or social clutter, thus maximizing the opportunity available with each person and in each situation.
In this episode of How To Matter, I share a story about when my oldest daughter gave me some stellar advice. She was seven at the time. I admit I do not always follow the great advice even now but it still is generally the way to go.
If we are not going to go with my daughter’s excellent strategy for problem solving, I suggest that the best alternative is to simplify.
In episode 41 of the How To Matter podcast, I explore luck and seashells. There are different kinds of luck and different kinds of lucky people. It is easy to be one of the lucky people who play the lottery and take very low probability risks. You aren’t likely to win very often; but if you do win, you might really hit the jackpot.
There are also those who depend on smart luck, like my grandfather. If you want to know about smart luck, episode 41 is definitely the next podcast you should consume.
In this episode of How To Matter, I explore how love and power do and do not work well together. The handout below shows Carl Jung’s perspective and in the podcast, I consider how valid that perspective is and how we may want to manage love and power in our relationships.
“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” — Carl Jung
Don’t try to take charge of anything or anyone. Sure, you are assertive and comfortable with your position and authority and don’t hesitate exercising that authority appropriately and responsibly. The point here is that you don’t use power junkie strategies including manipulation, power games, and expanding your locus of control at the involuntary expense of others.
Do you gain more control and influence over time? Yes you do. The remarkable point is that this expanding locus of control just seems to happen without any active intent of yours. You simply end up in charge.
It seems likely that this is a product of intuitive processes that recognize and exploit opportunities to facilitate the success of other people. Your being in charge isn’t a function of power or control. It’s, rather, a function of your being in charge becoming an extrinsic but essential aspect of other people’s success. They just would not be as successful without you.
This episode of How To Matter asks whose advice we should follow, who has something to tell us that is worth taking seriously. More importantly, the episode explores how we process the advice, suggestions and “should and shouldn’ts” we are confronted with most every day and most everywhere we go.
There is no end to the people and sources that only want our attention, our cooperation and our going along with their perspective, point of view, their idea of what’s best for us. How we manage all that advice matters; it makes a difference in how or whether we matter, whether we make a difference that matters.
Simon says, “It is never too late for you to succeed or too soon to fail.”
If you think you are too late, too old, too tired, or too busy to succeed, you are only making excuses, blowing smoke, playing mind games with yourself. I gave it my best effort and don’t have any more to give,” does not cut it either. That is just one more version of poor me and lets you know it is time for a serious attitude adjustment. You still have plenty of time to succeed but do not have any time left to fail. The only thing in your way is you. Get your get-up-and-go up and going today.
• It is not too late to succeed but is far too soon to quit.
Along your path to success, you will find three types of people. Which group you join is up to you.
• People who succeed
• People who watch others succeed
• People who pretend success does not matter
Your choice is clear-cut. Unless you commit to joining the people who succeed, you fully qualify for one of the other two groups. It does not matter whether you want to join the group; you are a member. The only thing to decide is whether you want to pretend success does not matter. Whatever your decision;
• You have plenty of time to succeed.
• Watching others succeed is a waste of time.
• Pretending success does not matter takes forever.
The article below is the text for the podcast but not the key theme. It is merely a handout for the workshop.
“Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” — Edwin H. Friedman
Friedman’s definition of leadership is fairly typical of those one finds in the literature. As one reads more generally about leadership and leaders, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that those who think about these sorts of things are pretty much blowing in the wind. Well, perhaps one should only speak for her or himself. Maybe the other folks are totally grounded and on the right track, but that’s doubtful.
The problem is that most writers keep trying to understand leadership and leaders by looking at presumed leaders and then struggling to figure out what distinguishes them and their behavior from everyone else. The result is a hodgepodge of ideas and concepts that numbs the mind.
If one spends some time examining the characteristics and behavior that various experts say differentiate leaders from the rest of the folks, the most common element seems to be membership in one of four groups; CEO of a large corporation, the head of a government such as the President, the head coach of a college or professional sports team, or a high ranking member of the military (probably a CO). Go figure.
Next, membership in the groups is limited to association with winning enterprises. If you are a CEO, your corporation has to have made a lot of money. If you are the Head of State, your government should not have lost a war or screwed up the economy too badly. The Head Coach needs a winning record and probably needs to have won at least one championship. Of course, the military guru needs to have been the victor.
If you fit into one of the groups, and few do, you are nearly assured of being designated as a leader and thus have whatever it takes in the leadership department. As best one can tell, most any trait or characteristic that you have in common with a majority of other people in the leader groups is fodder for the experts on leadership. There are well over a hundred characteristics and behaviors associated with leaders and leadership. Had you organized the list and went through a careful pick-and-choose process, you likely could have easily come up with yet another theory of leadership and shared that with everyone.
It does seem that charisma is a particularly leader-like characteristic, although the jury is still out about whether it is actually necessary. The problem seems to be that there is serious uncertainty about what it is, who has it, and if it is a real leadership factor or just a personal quality shared by a few people, leaders and non-leaders alike. There is general agreement, though, that if you have charisma or have a way to get some, get and keep all you can. It’s good stuff to have.
There is a lot written about lesser leaders, particularly within large organizations. They are not big time leaders but are sort of junior leaders or leaders-in-training. They are to be found on teams and within divisions of the larger organization. It’s sort of like being in the leadership minor leagues. There is not much likelihood that you can or will move up to the big league but you can work hard and can always hope.
Wonder if “leadership” is actually a spurious concept? Everyone knows a few extremely talented people who are unusually successful at what they do. If you were to identify a hundred or a thousand such super stars, you could then remove everyone whose activity and success are individual and unrelated to directing or guiding the work of others. An artist or other similar individual would be an example. Those left are highly talented, very successful, and associated with others whose success is attributed, in part, to the person directing or guiding the work. You would have a group of extraordinarily talented and successful people who direct or guide the work of others in some type of collective endeavor.
There are, then, the individual activity super stars and the collective activity super stars. The latter group have been designated as leaders merely because they are very talented and successful with in the context of a collective activity including directing and guiding others.
What is a leader? Anyone who is unusually talented and successful within the context of a collective activity where they, among other things, direct and guide others. If you want to study leadership, then, figure out why some people are more talented than others and why some people are more successful than others.
The truth may be that “leadership” is but a myth perpetuated over time and accepted without any clear evidence that it really exists as a separate and distinguishable phenomenon. Maybe what passes as leadership is nothing more or less than serious talent combined with luck and circumstance. Talent at what? That depends on what the enterprise is and what skills are most useful and valued in that arena; but if you want to be a leader you must first do what you can and need to do to become especially talented. If you reach that goal, also take care to have a good measure of luck and find yourself in the right circumstance. You too can then become a leader, especially if you also happen to have a good share of charisma.
I received an e-mail from David, a listener in Washington who mentioned my references to doing what we do with style, all the time on purpose. David wondered if there was some bigger point to this than simply including the notion now and then. This brief podcast is my way of responding to David. I hope you find it of value too.
“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” — Cal Le Mon
Don’t let people take advantage of you. The issue here is twofold. First, an unfortunate element of human nature is that letting people take advantage of you encourages them to repeat the behavior in the future. The more people take advantage of you, the more people will take advantage of you.
Second, being taken advantage of evokes anger, frustration, resentment, and related energy draining emotions and feelings. Along with being unpleasant, these emotions and feelings are unproductive and divert attention and energy from cognitive processes and especially from intuitive processes. The manifest cost of being taken advantage of is apparent but the hidden cost to one’s intuitive capacity is even more disabling. For you, the bill associated with letting people take advantage is quite simply too high.
“The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.” — James Allen
Project a calm, conciliatory demeanor, avoiding any tendency to be harsh or abrasive, even when confronted by animosity or hostility from others. At the same time, present an aura of firmness, control, and self-confidence. You are self-contained, neither intruding into the personal space of others nor permitting others to intrude uninvited into yours, thereby letting you process reality without interference or emotional clutter.
In the How To Matter podcast, I discuss the psychology of failure and we consider who is and who is not a quitter.
“A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.” — Elmer G. Letterman
The psychology of success and failure is complex but not particularly hard to understand. It starts with personal responsibility. Unless you accept the responsibility for failure, you can’t take the credit for success. Either you are the agent of your life outcomes or the victim of people who are pushing you down. What Letterman didn’t say is that, if you blame others for pushing you down, people other than you deserve the praise for pushing you ahead.
Separating yourself from what you do comes next. As William D. Brown put it, “Failure is an event, never a person.” Your success and failure aren’t who you are. They are merely what you do. S.I. Hayakawa expanded on the same theme, “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, ‘I have failed three times,’ and what happens when he says, ‘I am a failure.’” The key is in how you manage life’s events, not in the events themselves. Robert Allen expressed it like this, “There is no failure. Only feedback.”
Now consider what you do with the feedback life provides. Napoleon Hill observed, “The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.” It’s not enough to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and climb back on that horse that threw you. You need a better plan for staying in the saddle. Sure, getting up and starting over is tough. Yes, that damn horse may throw you again. Indeed, your new plan may not work any better than the old one; but it’s like Beverly Sills said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”
Thomas Edison managed the disappointment this way, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work;” and Samuel Beckett had a similar persistent optimism, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” With role models like Edison and Beckett, you can hardly go wrong, so long as you keep trying. As Charles F. Kettering put it, “One fails forward toward success.”
George E. Woodberry knew the essence of success, “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” Continuing effort is seldom elegant or easy; but Elbert Hubbard’s simple point may be all you actually need to know, “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” With that said, Mary Pickford gets the last word on the psychology of success and failure, “Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
In the podcast I talk about new opportunities, picking your best shot, and sharing. The reference to the cliff comes from the extra bonus I added at the end of the How To Matter podcast. You can read the extra bonus below;
but I really hope you choose to click play and listen to the podcast. I ask those who listen to help me make the podcast more helpful. Perhaps you will agree to help.
“Don’t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps.” — David Lloyd George
It sure sounds like good advice. One should not be too timid or play it too safe. Sometimes you need to take a chance but notice that it’s recommended only when it’s “indicated.” Therein lies the rub. How do you tell when it’s indicated? Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you; but you may want to double check to be sure the attack is imminent before you pursue hand to paw combat with the bear. If you detect angry bear breath, it’s likely indicated.
That clarifies the “indicated” part of the advice but what about the “Don’t be afraid” part? It’s not at all obvious why an absence of fear is either important or required. Suggesting that one should or can confront life’s angry bears without a good measure of fear and trepidation is absurd. Were David Lloyd George here today to discuss the point, a line from Rudyard Kipling would be apropos, “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”
That leaves only the issue of not being able to cross a chasm in two small steps. It sounds like one is being encouraged to leap and pray. That’s like jumping off a cliff and hoping you can fly. Maybe this is good advice but only if that angry bear is actually snapping at your heel. If not, you might take time to build a bridge, consider climbing down the cliff and back up the other side, or perhaps finding a trail around the chasm. Whether the cost of staying where you are is worth the risk of falling in is also likely worth a moment of careful contemplation. As Alexander Pope admonished, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
The conclusion is that the advice embedded in the quote is pithy but suspect. It implies that reluctance to take “a big step” reflects cowardice and maybe even a serious lack of character. Neither is true. George’s advice is certainly food for serious thought but should only be consumed with a large grain of salt.
In the podcast, I discuss 6 ways to matter today, using the 6 points below to guide the discussion. Are the 6 points true for you today and every day? Listen to the podcast to get the details on How To Matter, using the 6 points as your success strategy.
1. COOPERATION I am consistently helpful to others.
2. LOYALTY I hang in there in a positive way with the ups and downs in my relationships with people.
3. CARING I am consistently involved and interested in others.
4. SHARING I spend extra time every day talking with at least one person I don’t typically interact with.
5. RESPECT I listen patiently and carefully whenever someone is talking, telling me about something, or trying to express their ideas or feelings.
6. TRUST I do not get into blaming, accusing, or threatening other people.
“Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy.” – Aristotle
As you see, Aristotle is a typical philosopher. He definitely has a way of elevating the obvious to an amazing level of complexity. You may have thought that something or someone ticks you off; you don’t like it; you get angry; and that’s all there is to that. Silly you!
Along with getting angry, you need to be sure you get it just right. That means the right person, the right degree, the right time, the right purpose, and the right way; and if that weren’t enough, you are reminded that it isn’t easy. Not easy? With all of those restrictions, it may not even be worth bothering with. You may decide that you are way too busy to be angry.
How would that work? First, you need to be clear about what made you angry. Next, you need to determine who did or didn’t do whatever made you angry. That is the right person, the only one you get to be angry with.
Having determined with whom to be angry, you can’t just get angry. You need to decide just how angry you can reasonably get about whatever happened. You determine the degree of anger that is appropriate, based on your analysis.
So far, so good. You know who to get angry with and just how angry you can get. Can you simply go ahead and be angry? Absolutely not. According to Aristotle, there is a time for anger which seems to imply that there are times that you can’t get angry. You need to be sure this is the right time. If not, you will just have to wait for the right time to come. It’s clear that anger isn’t for the impatient.
Well, you have identified the right person and know just how angry you can be. You are sure it’s the right time; so, do you do your getting angry thing? Not yet. You might think that getting angry is its own justification but you would be wrong. You don’t get angry just because you are angry. You need to have a purpose. Will any purpose do? No, you need to have the right purpose. You don’t know what that means? You don’t know what the right purpose is? Sorry, you are out of luck. You can’t get angry until you figure that out. It’s the right purpose or no getting angry today for you.
You have worked through the prerequisites to getting angry so do you get angry now? You can, with one more restriction. You have to determine the right way to be angry. There are apparently approved protocols for being angry and you need to select the right protocol, all things considered; and there are a lot of factors to consider. You may do well to contract it out to an expert. That way you will reduce the likelihood of your screwing up this getting angry stuff. Actually, you should probably just leave getting angry to the professionals.
Are you a leader or striving to become a leader? If so, it is important to identify your leadership style and to be aware of why you prefer a particular style. As becomes clear, there are alternative and distinct styles and each has its strengths and limitations. The better you understand your style, the more effective you are as you exploit the strengths of your style while compensating for its limitations.
Top dog leadership: If this is your style, you value a high level of personal control over and direct management of your followers. You work best with very cooperative followers and have low tolerance for non-compliance. You run a tight ship. Your followers typically defer to your perspective and are eager to do things your way. They tend to compete for your approval and may prioritize getting your blessing over getting the job done.
Lead dog leadership: You are a visionary who sets the organizational course. You reject use of power and control, placing your faith in the good will and principled behavior of your followers. You favor followers who function well with minimal supervision and direction and who naturally see the validity of and value in following your vision. Your style is an excellent fit for kindred spirits but is less compatible for those who may occasionally question your vision or who desire more structure and guidance. Your followers may tend to separate into the consonant majority and the small but dissonant minority.
Task leadership: Your strength is in getting the job done and depends on having qualified followers who are ready to work. Your followers are expected to bring the necessary expertise to each task and efficiently handle their piece of the project. This works especially well for followers who are expert at what they do and neither need or want direct supervision or involvement beyond their immediate tasks. It works less well for followers whose expertise may not be an exact fit with the current requirement, who value understanding how what they do fits in with the success of the larger organization, or who value social contact and interaction. It also may be less effective in the event the various elements of the enterprise experience minor to major disruption or variance from expectation.
Technical leadership: You know what needs done and how to do it. As the resident expert, your followers need only follow your instruction and direction. Your style is a particularly good fit for inexperienced followers who are eager to improve their skills and demonstrate their value to the organization. It also works well for more experienced followers who are comfortable deferring to superior knowledge and expertise. It may work less well for followers who value more autonomy and want to become experts in their own right, for those who value independence.
Motivational leadership: Although you may not be especially charismatic, even a small measure of charisma adds to followers’ attraction to you and to their desire to align. Your verbal and interpersonal presence are compelling and interject energy and “want to” as your followers coordinate their energy, interests, and aspirations with yours. This works well for motivating less engaged followers but may pull weaker and less centered followers into blindly following, with a minimal sense of consequences or personal responsibility.
Values leadership: Your strength is in showing followers why what they and you do is important, why it matters. This works well for followers whose personal views and priorities are already near alignment with yours. You have a knack for encouraging followers deeper into the fold. Alternatively, followers who are more diverse shy away from your leadership and over time, your organization tends to become more and more homogenized.
Although a few leaders may be restricted to one or more of the six styles, most blend all, depending on the situation or particular circumstance. Even so, leaders typically find their comfort zone limited to one or perhaps two styles. They consciously shift outside their comfort zones temporarily but cannot sustain the shift. Without high and continuous self-awareness, they drift toward one dimensional leadership. This becomes especially pronounced during periods of organizational disruption, higher than usual personal stress, or when confronted with atypical or unfamiliar situations or circumstances.
• What is your preferred style, your comfort zone?
• What is the primary disadvantage or limitation of your preferred style?
• How do you detect a mismatch between your preferred style and the immediate situation?
• How do you assure you appropriately adjust your style to the current circumstance?
• Why would great people choose to follow you?
Disclaimer: I found this in one of those folders we all have on our computers but seldom visit. I am not sure whether I wrote it or appropriated it from someone else. If I did write it, good for me. If not, I wish I had. If I saved it from another writer’s work, I cannot find the citation. At any rate, I think it is both thoughtful and interesting and am sharing it without attribution to me or anyone else. If you know the correct source, please let me know and I will update the post to include the citation.
Press Play to hear the podcast. It will give you a better perspective on the leadership styles. Also, consider subscribing so you don’t miss any future episodes.
In this episode of How To Matter, I focus on those folks who start questions and other things they want to say with, “This may be stupid….” From there, the discussion moves on to those people who like to say that anything bad or unpleasant that happens has a hidden positive value. maybe the experience teaches them a lesson or perhaps makes them stronger. As you may already know, I do have a thought or two about that. The episode concludes with the perspective of three people we likely have heard from before.
It’s fun to be a winner; but losing may have it’s up side too. For example, Walt Disney said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” What do you think about that? Was Walt right or was he just trying to rationalize those broken teeth?
Woody Hayes evidently agreed with the cartoon king, “There’s nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.” As tempting as it is to side with Walt and Woody, Dr. Seuss had a far better soul cleansing strategy, “I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
Sure, your best choice is to press Play and listen so you can judge for yourself.
Proactive leaders are cautious without becoming paralyzed by the potential downside of action. They pursue their goals continuously but incrementally, testing/evaluating progress toward the goal. This approach assures movement toward the goal without exposing the organization to unnecessary and avoidable jeopardy. They do not play it safe but do play it cautiously.
Proactive leaders focus most of their time and energy on organizational stability and goal attainment. They minimize time and energy absorbed by worrying about unlikely contingencies and maintaining the status quo.
Proactive leaders make decisions and take action thoughtfully but quickly. They do not delay or postpone decisions or actions, try to avoid or defer doing what needs done, and they do not hesitate or proceed reluctantly. Their actions and reactions are not impulsive or ill-considered. They are, instead, decisive and timely.
What does this have to do with getting on your pony and riding? To learn the secret, you will need to click the play button and listen to the podcast. As you do that, consider clicking one of the subscribe buttons so you have the How To Matter podcast on your favorite podcast player. That way you are sure not to miss future episodes.